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Noon, November 18, 1883

Noon, November 18, 1883

The Abolition of Local Time, the Debut of a National Standard

(p.89) Chapter 4 Noon, November 18, 1883
Marking Modern Times
Alexis McCrossen
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the events surrounding the debut of national standard time and the eventual abolition of local time. In November 1882, John W. Bell, a wealthy investor and tinkerer, received U.S. Patent 267, 824 for a pair of coupled watch hands, which were designed to allow the wearer to keep both local time and standard time. There were several attempts to do this throughout the mid-1800s, but it was during Bell's time that there was a concern with the standardization of time. The process of standardizing time took almost fifty years, as it relied on strenuous ideological and technological efforts to create an understanding of mechanical time as a social convention rather than as a reflection of a natural fact. Although the standardization of time was spearheaded by the railroad sectors, the support from the nation's public clocks, time distribution systems, and pocket watches, made the move happen and assured its longevity.

Keywords:   time, standardization, public clocks, time distribution systems, pocket watches

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