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Time’s Tongue and Hands

Time’s Tongue and Hands

The First Public Clocks in the United States

Chapter:
(p.24) Chapter 1 Time’s Tongue and Hands
Source:
Marking Modern Times
Author(s):
Alexis McCrossen
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226015057.003.0002

This chapter examines the history of public timekeepers in the United States, with particular attention given to the city of Philadelphia, where the reliance on bells to mark public time began to give way to modern timekeeping mechanisms and practices. Time could be signaled by a horn, a drum, or any instrument, but in American towns, time has been signaled by a bell since the colonial period. During the nineteenth century, hour bells rang throughout America, alarms punctuated backhouses and even bedrooms, gongs and drums signaled the action in factories and fields. Even the Catholic church bells invited the Angelus to call devotees to pray.

Keywords:   time, Philadelphia, timekeeping, timekeepers, United States

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