My grandfather is famous in my family for just giving people STUFF –especially to grandkids. A handful of my childhood memories consist of what I thought were treasures from my papa: old pennies out of print, lost pendants of gold-plated bronze, sparkly stones with no chain attached, random hunks of translucent sea salt—ICE CREAM. But the most beloved of these, which I still have, is a porcelain mantle clock; the reason for my fascination with clocks today.
Time Measurer: The Ultimate Paradox?
Time became standardized as of the late 1870s and after transportation created time zones that literally changed the world. Thus, mantle clocks, like that of the adamantine wooden clocks, gained popularity by the 20th century. The clock my grandfather gave me wasn’t an adamantine model, but instead donned a white porcelain surface with painted flowers, stood upright about 10 inches on legs of a French design, had a white, gold-trimmed face and black hour hands. A few pieces broken off, but otherwise very pretty.
The puzzling part to me, when I first got the clock, was the strange holes on the front of it. Since I also owned a music box, I figured I needed something like a key; I just didn’t know what type. Not that it came with one, but…
I now know that the key my clock most likely needs is a basic one with a simple butterfly-shaped handle to help wind it. Most clocks, like the one I have, need to be wound regularly. Some more than others. Usually these antique clocks have a pendulum inside to help keep the time. Until this point, I assumed a pendulum was a long slender object that not only swung to keep time, but also included the string that swung them. Not a huge deal. A random thought, rather. Nevertheless, the picture in my head associated with the word pendulum, never really specified a weight. That’s all it really is, as it turns out. What suspends the weight doesn’t appear all that significant, but actually how long the “suspension” and or the pendulum is affect the accuracy of the clock. Gravity plays a huge role in how functional a mechanical clock is, whether it’s small enough to sit above a fireplace or colossal enough to house a huge bell like that of the Elizabeth tower!
A Battle of Precision
Speaking of accuracy, my pursuit of knowledge about mechanical clocks soon leads me to the name of quite a controversial figure of his day: Mister John Harrison. This year marks a moment when Harrison finally gets the recognition he deserves. The man is finally going down positively in history as being the inventor of two of the first precision pendulum clocks in the world: one being the Harrison Clock with a movement made entirely from wood and the maritime chronometer. Once the Longitude Act kicks into gear in 1714, craftsmen and engineers scramble for a way to best find a ship’s position at sea.
John challenged he can achieve this feat with clocks. To be more accurate, one needed a clock 50 times more accurate than the average clock at this time. The marine chronometer, or clock, he invented now continues to run with hundred-percent accuracy after 300 years! By the nineteenth century, Harrison got into watch-making.
COOL Sat-Nav trivia I NEVER imagined I’d get during my rabbit-hole binge on grandfather clocks and neogothic design! Thank yooou, John Harrison! ^///^ The Global Positional System or GPS apparently works from converging three different points of time relative to a person’s position. When those three points intersect, the resulting triangle of space the three points create shows an area where a person most likely is –in the world! So, if I got this right: that must mean that whatever Harrison–and a lot of ancients for that matter–started, people have since then taken that locating concept, once solely used for ships and travelers, and took it from land to sky, literally via satellite. The key factor being time! That’s pretty dang wicked.
WANNA LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC?
- Leed Museums – BBC World History
- UK Parliament Architecture
- Cool Animation! – The Great Clock of London
- The Clock Depot
- John Harrison’s Maritime Chronometer
- Tick Tock Tony
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