Chapter One of Keeping Watch: A History of American Time

By Michael O'Malley. Reproduced here from the unedited manuscript

In 1826 New Haven's town fathers paid Eli Terry, Connecticut's most celebrated clock maker, $200 to install a clock in the town hall. They wanted a proud symbol of their commitment to order, regular habits and the virtue of conserving time, and at first the clock served them well. But soon they noticed a growing disagreement with their other source of public time, the Yale College clock. Gradually Terry's clock fell farther and farther behind its rival--five, ten, then fifteen minutes. Perhaps it only needed adjusting. Then it slowly began catching up, raising hopes that it might settle down into steady work as it matured. But instead with each passing day it moved ahead of Yale's timepiece. Finally, almost fifteen minutes faster, Terry's perverse clock began sinking back into its old slothful habits, only to once again start gaining on the faithful college clock, week by week. Had Terry saddled the city fathers with an incompetent timekeeper, or some reckless whimsy?

It seemed unlikely--Terry's reputation for Yankee cleverness and resolute sobriety had made him famous well beyond Connecticut. Yet there stood the finished clock, proud in its lofty place on the town hall and just as proud in its seemingly bald-faced error. But was Terry's clock wrong at all? Perhaps Yale's clock, faithful for many years, had begun showing its age and running erratically. What if Terry's clock revealed the truth, and Yale's timekeeper only now confessed old habits of duplicity? Then who could say what time it really was?

A letter in the New Haven Columbian Register admitted that the two clocks had become "a subject of much observation and enquiry." But the writer insisted that their disagreement, which "might seem to proceed from negligence," in fact came from two completely different ways of arriving at a definition of time. Yale's clock, designed by the late and well respected Simeon Jocelyn, followed the sun. Terry's clock offered mean time, an average of the sun's daily variation.1 The letter set off a flurry of heated correspondence, and indeed the difference seems as confusing now as it did then, because Terry's clock posed a difficult but particularly timely question--not "what time is it," but "what is time?"

A bustling market town like New Haven demanded solid answers to both questions. Yale's President Timothy Dwight boasted proudly of New Haven's particular "industry and economy." Busy citizens leavened their business acumen with the college's theological tradition and growing scientific prestige--in 1826 Yale planned on soon establishing one of the first permanent astronomical observatories in America. Native industry, fed by the freshening stream of learning and banked by Protestant religious piety, made his fellows the equal of any Americans in "intelligence, refinement, morals and religion," Dwight happily concluded. He reflected with pleasure on the town's "peace and good order," its freedom from crime and strife, and anticipated a prosperous, peaceful and well-governed future for his city.

But he also lamented the rapid growth of a class of "laborers," generally "either shiftless, diseased, or vicious" who lacked the sense of order and time-discipline Dwight found so laudable. Their presence cast a darkening cloud over New Haven's industrial future. Dwight's praise of his fellow citizens linked the wise use of time to industrious self-discipline and orderly progress. Yet his sharp criticism of the laboring class, with its apparent lack of industry and indifference to the future, hinted at alternative visions of time and its use, of conflicts to come over both the nature of time and its role in ordering civic affairs. A few years after Dwight's remarks, Eli Terry's clock gave those conflicts substance.[2]

Understanding New Haven's problem requires a brief explanation of the principles of timekeeping. Without really thinking about it, Terry's customers measured time in two different ways. Their simplest measure depended on the sun. When Sol reached the highest point in his passage across the sky, any sundial or even a simple post stuck in the ground read "noon." Anyone could see that, or read the hours on a sundial. But the earth both circles the sun elliptically and tilts on its axis. More observant Yankees noticed that the sun's apparent position in the sky varied during the year--noon passed at different points, sometimes higher in the sky, sometimes lower. Astronomers call this annoying habit the sun's declination. The variation made no difference if the sun was the only measure of time. When the sundial showed "noon," it was noon--God created the sun to give light and measure time, after all, at the very Genesis of Time itself, and so noon was noon when the sun said so.[3] For obvious reasons, this was called apparent time.

But once clocks entered the scene things got more complicated. Ordinary clockwork cannot follow the sun's irregular movement. Instead, most clocks tell only mean time, a convenient average of the sun's apparent variation. Any ordinary, mean time clock set to solar noon on a given day soon begins to drift away from the sun. At its extremes, an ordinary clock read up to sixteen minutes fast or fifteen minutes slow of the sundial four times a year.[*] Clockmakers had known about the difference between clock and sun time for centuries. They even had a name for it--"the equation of time"--and had devised a few special mechanisms that reproduced the sun's movement. But a clock that showed this "declination" demanded special skills to make and maintain, and cost a lot of money. The vast majority of ordinary clocks told mean time alone, as they always had and still do. When clock and sun varied, most people assumed the clock was wrong, and simply reset it to agree with time by the sun.

Yet the difference between clock and sun was exactly what New Haven confronted, because unbeknownst to most of the town, Jocelyn's Yale College clock had "an apparatus attached to it, invented by himself, which produces a daily variation from [mean time] exactly equal to the variation of the sun."[4] The late Jocelyn's clock, lo and behold, was an apparent time clock. It reinforced the astronomy lessons at the college by demonstrating the solar principles of timekeeping, and kept Yale running with the sun. But now it rested in awkward intimacy with an ordinary, mean time clock, with which it would agree only four times a year.

This two-timing arrangement upset New Haven clock-watchers. The two clocks questioned the nature of time itself--was it celestial movements or the mechanical timepiece? Signing himself "True Time," one reader of New Haven's Connecticut Journal attacked Terry's mechanism. "To have a clock in a town to tell the public what the time is not is certainly a novel scheme," he declared sarcastically. "It is said that the clock gives mean time," he continued. "But why mean time? Mean time is not true time, nor is true time mean time. A public clock, which tells the truth four times only in a year, is something very much like a public nuisance," he concluded.[5] "True Time" demanded to know why the sun--the source of "true" time--had been abandoned for a capricious approximation. Seemingly unaware that almost all clocks could only show mean time, "True Time" echoed a common ambiguity and confusion about time's relationship to clocks.

Clocks were still relatively rare in 1826. Most people, if they owned a clock at all, kept one of Terry's fifteen dollar "pillar and scroll" shelf models on their mantle. Terry had begun experimenting with interchangeable parts around 1800. By 1826 he had worked out the problems of mass production and was growing wealthy and famous by making and selling ordinary mean-time clocks to farmers for miles around. Attractive and affordable, Terry's wooden clocks were not particularly accurate--two or three minutes variation in a week was optimistic at best. There were also tower clocks, typically situated, like New Haven's, in a church or town hall. These were more accurate, but not by that much; and not always conveniently located either. The wealthy owned watches, but these also tended to vary, and different timepieces rarely agreed. "Twenty gentlemen in company," almanac maker Nathaniel Low had claimed in 1786, "will hardly be able, by the help of their thirty-guinea watches, to guess within two hours of the true time of night...whilst the poor peasant, who never saw a watch, will tell the time to a fraction by the rising and setting of the moon," Low boasted, "which he learns from his almanack."[6] Forty years later clocks were a little more common, but for rural people especially the only reliable indicator of time remained the heavens--the moon and sun's hours of rising and setting as published in the almanac, or the sun's passage shown on a sundial.

"True Time's" letter makes sense, then, if understood by light of the solar timepiece. But it inspired several replies. One "J" explained the difference between mean and apparent time and pointed out "True Time's mistaken belief that ordinary clocks told apparent time. He insisted that "the public must decide on the comparative utility of these clocks." While suggesting that Jocelyn's apparent time clock might help the faculty at Yale, who conducted their classes by daylight and were concerned to teach astronomy, "J" conceded that most people would simply check their timepieces against a sundial or noon mark occasionally, as they always had. Rather than posing a challenge to New Haven's good order, he explained, the two clock faces merely demonstrated the scientific principles of timekeeping.

A second, anonymous reply to "True Time," unconcerned by astronomical niceties, insisted that "all the business of our life--our meals--our labors--our hours of rest--everything requires that the day should be divided into equal and uniform portions." It mattered not what standard prevailed, the writer insisted pragmatically, so long as all agreed to use it. Most ordinary clocks and watches could show only mean time--"surely," he reasoned, "the public at large ought not to have all their operations deranged, or their timepieces injured, by attempts to follow the variations of apparent time."[7] But "True Time," even more incensed, dashed off a second letter for the next week's edition.

"Astronomers," he retorted, "have always calculated almanacs, not for mean but for apparent [solar] time." A clock like Terry's waged "constant war" with the almanac, in fact rendering the almanac nearly useless. "The rising and setting of the sun, of the moon, of the stars...and most other celestial appearances are given in every ephemeris in apparent time," he continued, and "all these times are deranged by a clock regulated like the town clock of New Haven." Terry's clock, rumbled "True Time," constituted "an evil of no small magnitude."[8]

The controversy continued over the following months. One correspondent sarcastically wondered if progress might someday enable men to "regulate the sun by the clock." Until that day, he insisted, "we had better be content to go the old way," and, following the college, "regulate our clocks by the sun." He charged that "the citizens of New Haven have been taxed to pay for a clock which gives us false notions of time. Have they not been imposed upon?" If Terry's clock "cannot be so regulated as to keep true time," then "the sooner it is silenced the better. We believe this to be the opinion of MANY," went the conclusion.[9]

In Terry's defense, a reply lamented that "MANY's" remarks had "given uneasiness" to "that worthy artist." It offered the startling claim that Terry's clock "is so constructed as to keep either mean or apparent time, and also the difference between them." The citizens of New Haven could choose either way of keeping time, "for the clock will do as bid by them." As a young man Terry had in fact patented an apparent time clock in 1797--the second patent ever issued by the United States. The clock had special gearing and two minute hands of different colors, one for mean and one for apparent time. It had never made him a dime, and so perhaps an inventor's pride had led him to revive the clock for New Haven. At any rate, Terry's champion concluded that when the facts about the new clock "are well known, I trust they will be satisfactory not only to `many' but to ALL."[10]

But what time would they choose? A final letter, from "A Citizen of the United States," offered a carefully worded description of the difference between apparent and mean time. Although "Citizen" pointed out that in European cities especially, mean time had proven a great convenience, he admitted that New Haven might choose either system. The town's decision remains a mystery, as the correspondence stops here. If Terry's clock could indeed show apparent time, then most likely New Haven kept its public clocks in line with the sun. The clocks could then be regulated by an almanac, or by astronomical observation.[11]

The whole affair might strike the modern reader as silly, but in 1826 there was more to this little incident than the time of day--"True Time" and his opponents debated the nature and source of time itself. The clocks had juxtaposed several concurrent ways of thinking about time. By pitting clock time, a man-made approximation, against the "true" standard of time as revealed in the heavens, and throwing business affairs into disorder, the two clocks dramatized a profound philosophical difference over what time was, who could control it, and how it might be used.

Conflicts like this undoubtedly occurred all over America in the 1820s, because the antebellum decades witnessed a small crisis in the authority of time. As clocks became more and more common, and more and more popular as tools for social organization, Americans began asking these questions more often. Was time a natural phenomenon, rooted in religion and the agricultural traditions of centuries? Or was time an object of rational inquiry, subject to mastery by inquisitive scientists? Or was time simply a convenience, an arbitrary number useful for doing business? Historians have documented a transition in antebellum America, as an older system of public and private relations, characterized variously as "paternalism" or "republicanism," gave way to new organizations of authority and power. Industrialization and immigration shifted accustomed class relations; new technologies of communication and transportation disrupted market patterns and local economies. The same social and economic pressures that lead to religious revivals, to utopian communities, to temperance movements, to reformations in the system of prisons, asylums and schools, brought with them reorganizations in the systems of time governing labor and public life.[12]

In America at the dawn of the industrial revolution, nature gave evidence of time's passage. The sun's transit, the moon's phases, the passing seasons--all these indicated time and offered a model for using it wisely. In a very real sense "nature" and "time" meant the same thing. Even the earliest settlers knew about clocks and watches. But they understood mechanical timepieces as mere representations or symbols of time, not as the embodiment of time itself. Where individuals and communities had clocks or watches, they set them to the local sun--each city, town, village and farm kept its own local time. As the natural world revealed it, time offered Americans lessons in hard work, diligence, thrift, cooperation, rationality and moral virtue. In almanacs, schoolbooks and in the patterns of farm work itself, natural phenomena reinforced God's authority and men and women's duty to labor hard and use time, following nature's model, in His service. But the industrial revolution challenged these assumptions. By the 1830's, a sense of time rooted in nature confronted a seemingly arbitrary time based in commerce, revealing itself in machine movements and the linear progress of invention.

In an agrarian society making the transition to industry, timekeepers posed a difficult and even threatening dilemma. Clocks were first invented to tell time, to give a more reliable indication, on cloudy days or at night, of the passage of a quantity belonging to God. The very first mechanical clocks, not surprisingly, simply rang bells to signal the pious monk's hours for prayer. But in the act of telling time the clock tended to become the thing it represented--clocks became not imitations or transcripts of time, but time itself. There was nothing particularly new about clocks governing human movements. In Europe clock bells had been organizing town and village life for generations, and the constant tension between "natural" and "mechanical" time they fostered mirrored the conflict of secular and religious authority.[13] But the mass production of clocks--that was new. So too was the factory system, and the rapid communication and travel it both demanded and encouraged. Nature offered one model for social organization, but as the industrial revolution progressed--bringing with it thousands of Terry's Yankee clocks--the time-telling machine began imposing its own imperatives on life and work.

 

How did you tell time before the clock? The first and most obvious answer was the sun. Even on cloudy days the sun's passage marked the lapse of time, and on clear days the shadows it cast translated into hours on a sundial or a noon mark inscribed on a wall. In a world less concerned with precise timekeeping, the shadows of trees, rocks or buildings served the same purpose. Hourglasses measured periods of duration and often timed the minister's sermon, the parishioners perhaps groaning inwardly as the more zealous preachers announced that they would "take another glass." A few tower clocks stood in eighteenth century America, and the wealthier colonists owned clocks of varying quality, but for people away from major towns the sun, moon and stars provided the only consistent standard.[14]

On the farm labor provided its own measures of time. Cows demanded milking twice a day, other animals had to be fed, watered or sheared; planting, pruning, harvesting--each month, each day brought a round of specific tasks conducted "in their season." Anthropologists, who call this system "task orientation," often view the "natural" time of preindustrial societies as more relaxed, more humane, more respectful of individual autonomy. But for American farm families at least, it is simply wrong to automatically view "task orientation," both in the home and out, as uniformly somehow freer or more leisurely. Farm and house work, spurred by Protestant theology and Biblical warnings against idle hands, demanded constant effort. Simply because no mechanical clocks oversaw their activities does not mean that Americans ignored time's passage--in fact time often presented itself in terms of a sacred duty. Esther Burr, daughter of Jonathan Edwards, frequently complained about the daily grind of her domestic labors. "But I must submit," she wrote in her journal, "my time is not my own but God's."[15]

Two beliefs inform Burr's lament--one about the origin of time, meaning its belonging to God, and the other about the ways time should be used, in her case meaning pious submission to a wearying routine. That she believed time could be possessed is significant in itself: that she believed God's possession of time required her to work hard in obedience to His paternal authority is even more so. We usually understand time in terms of how we use it--the organization of life, the distribution of work and leisure. But this approach obscures the abstract idea of time we use to make our decisions. "Time" must have an origin; it must be considered to have come from somewhere. These origins give time its authority, determining how it should be used. Max Weber's classic analysis suggested that time's origination in God led Calvinists especially to reorganize work and life, as Esther Burr did, around the new imperatives of the Protestant Ethic. Burr needed to "redeem the time," to give evidence of her respect for God's gift--time--by scrupulously saving and using it with piety and care.

What is there of freedom in her obligation to ceaselessly work at turning God's time to profit? What is relaxed about farm and housework's constant round of labor and repair? Where is leisure in a religious creed demanding scrupulous self-improvement even in "leisure" time? Obviously Burr represents an extreme. Lazy people coexist with busy people in any society, and for every example of industry an example of sloth sits idly by in the shade, laughing. The point here is not to document the amount of work done by any given set of people in a given hour, but rather to explore time's authority--where it comes from, how it is understood, and from this how it can be used to order life. There is a difference between preindustrial time and the understanding of time that replaced it. But the sheer amount of work accomplished measures the difference poorly at best. Often what may look like fundamental differences in attitudes about time in fact have more to do with the kind of work undertaken or the industriousness of the individual.[16]

The difference between Esther Burr's sense of time and our own lies in the symbols and abstractions we use to represent time in public and private life. She found the authority for using her time in God, and saw time revealed in nature; we might find the authority for our decisions about using time in a notion of "efficiency," under the spur of the clock. No precise point of transition from "traditional" to "modern" understandings of time can be fixed--different conceptions of time often coexist simultaneously in the same society. But understanding the transition between the two requires exploring the idea of time--and the role of the clock--in daily life.

 

Western European cultures have traditionally understood time both as a circle--a series of repeated natural events like sunrise and sunset or the passing seasons--and as an arrow, shot by God at the dawn of time and stopping only God knows where. Linear and cyclical time have always coexisted, and still coexist, in our thinking, just as any given society may contain different and even contradictory ideas about time. We depict time, for example, as both a dial, with its endlessly repeated sequence of twelve hours, and as years, totaling an ever-higher number towards an uncertain future. Linear time may mean technological and industrial "progress" into that future; it may also recall the inevitability of death and decay. Cyclical time often accompanies the idea of balance in nature, but it just as often recalls the repetitive, clock-like movements of machinery. Our time, in a sense, is like a hoop rolling down a road. In different phases of history and culture we emphasize different aspects of time's duality.17

Colonial and antebellum Americans paid remarkably strict and close attention to time's passage and the obligations it imposed. Almanacs were by far the most popular books in the colonies and remained so well after the revolution. American almanacs emphasized the cyclical quality of time, by offering a yearly review of seasonal tasks. But they also served as guides for understanding, interpreting and managing time correctly as it rolled along towards God's eternity. The second book published in America was an almanac, at Cambridge in 1638 or 39, and the Cambridge press dominated the field for its first thirty five years. Products of Puritan Harvard, these early "Philomath" or astronomical almanacs concentrated on explaining the phenomena of the heavens in terms of God's providence, willfully overlooking any contradiction between science and religion that might suggest itself. Typically they combined the two, supplying the times of the holy Sabbath and helping clarify the mysteries of God as revealed in the heavens and the natural world.18

Almanac maker Samuel Atkins, traveling through Maryland in 1686, declared that the people "scarcely knew how the time passed, nor that they hardly knew the day of rest, or the Lord's Day, when it was, for want of...an Almanack." Without a guide to time reckoning Marylanders simply could not organize their days properly, he claimed. "On the other side," Atkins continued, "having met with Ingenious persons, that have been lovers of the Mathematical Arts, some of which have wanted an Ephemeris to make some Practice thereon," he decided to offer his own almanac "to these my Country men."[19] Atkins' solar and lunar time tables merged Christian piety, science, and the practice of farming. As a guide to holy days his almanacs enabled people to orient themselves within God's time and respect sacred law--to observe the "correct" times for work and worship--while his precise measurement of the heavens' movements satisfied and encouraged scientific fascination with God's creation.

After about 1680 almanacs began to reflect less concern with theological orthodoxy and more with worldly affairs. These newer almanacs increasingly blended Copernican science with the flavors of deism, as the following poem from "Abraham Weatherwise's" 1759 Almanac demonstrates:

On A WATCH

Could but our Tempers move like this Machine,

Not urged by Passion, nor delay'd by Spleen;

But true to Nature's regulating pow'er,

By virtuous Acts distinguish'd every Hour;

Then Health and Joy would follow as they ought,

The Laws of Motion, and the Laws of Thought:

Sweet Health, to pass the Laws of Moments o'er,

And everlasting Joy, when Time shall be no more.

"Weatherwise" borrowed from an Enlightenment tradition which used the watch as analogue to God's creation. The movements of the heavens indicated time, as did the watch; they operated according to fixed and discernible principles, like the watch, and the poem suggests that we model our behavior after these movements. The regularity of the physical world as it marks time should be our pattern, and since we can discover laws within its motions, it follows that there must be laws governing our "Tempers," "Laws of Motion" as well as "Laws of Thought". The well tempered farm, like the well tempered society, imitated the regular and clock-like movements of nature, the source and measure of time.20

But the clock, in this passages, never represents the source of time. Rather, it serves only as an embodiment of human understanding--of our ability to comprehend nature and natural laws, and through them the passage of time. The watch is "true to nature's regulating power:" nature, not the mechanical device, is the model for the organization of society, and time, in this typical instance, is a by-product of nature. Nature's regular and predictable movements provide clues to the mind of God and thus to the proper management of time as He intended it. Almanacs charted these natural movements--which were understood by readers as Time itself--and helped interpret them.

Although Colonial almanacs included much more, solar and lunar time tables, together called the ephemeris, were their main attraction. The ephemeris usually offered the precise hours and minutes of the sun's rising, the moon's southing, high and low tides, eclipses, and the movements of the major stars. Typically they devoted one page to each month, and combined the times and dates of celestial appearances with astrological symbols for interpreting them, weather forecasts, historical information, and miscellaneous advice to farmers.

The celestial rationalism evident in the poem quoted above blended easily with what we would call superstition. Eighteenth century almanacs usually included a drawing, called the "anatomy" or "the man of signs," of the human body marked by the signs of the zodiac. Each zodiacal symbol controlled or affected a specific part of the body. By consulting the anatomy one could learn the best time for bleeding a diseased arm or leg, or conceiving a child. Even more commonly, the stars offered advice on farming--when to plant, wean animals, mend fences, and so on. Cotton Mather, for example, believed that timber cut in the waning moon of August would never suffer from worms. Like occultism and folk astrology, the practice of reading the stars for advice on farming continued well into the twentieth century.21

The almanac offered a guide to the stars, helping users understand and manage their lives by situating them in time. Within its pages astrology and astronomy, theology and husbandry, medicine and science combined to schedule work. Readers went to the almanac's time tables for help in managing these different categories of knowledge--on the one hand to discover what time it was at that moment, and on the other to discover the most appropriate time for doing some task. The connection of time to nature, and thus to God, that almanacs reinforced points to an American obsession with time, its measurement, and its proper use.

The most successful almanacs made time management their explicit focus, and of these Robert Bailey Thomas' Old Farmer's Almanac, by the early nineteenth century, had become the model for imitators all over the country. Thomas added practical and homely advice to the ephemeris while downplaying astrology and homeopathy somewhat. His "Farmer's Calender" specialized in cautionary messages--for the first week of October 1800 the calender urged: "Winter apples should now be gathered up, as the frost hurts them much...harvest your Indian corn without delay--the birds and squirrels I am confident will."[22] Thomas reminded dilatory readers that each task had its season, and its season was short. But much of the material Thomas printed, like the pages reproduced in part below, now seems nearly indecipherable--such common familiarity with the sun and sky has largely passed away.

Tables like these suggested that a prosperous, orderly and well-tempered life could be gained by following nature, by running life according to the clock in the sky. They make little distinction between different kinds of events--Bonaparte's death in 1821 (bottom panel, line six) has the same significance as the quadrature of the Sun and the planet Uranus ( ). Though dropping the "man of signs," this most successful of almanacs continued charting the heaven's effects on the human body--column nine of the "Astronomical Calculations" above, for example, indicates the moon's effect on heart, belly, reins (ribs) and "secrets" respectively. These astrological remnants reinforced the idea of men and women's connection to cosmological mechanism, suggesting that just as in a watch each part affects the other, so we too are affected equally by the parts of the physical world.

And by connecting seasonal labor to celestial motion, the almanacs made it possible to regulate work and find the best way to do it--if the signs were read correctly, or nature's example was understood properly. But again, this "natural" time should not be mistaken for a more leisurely approach to work. "System, Mr. Hasty, system," the almanac warned in 1832. "Your plans for the whole season should be well laid out and adjusted, in doing which, you should take some account of foul weather as well as fair."[23] The Old Farmer's Almanac supplied the system, using nature as its regulating authority. The quotation above ended by reminding the farmer that time is money, and that "system"--organizing time by natural signs--helped enormously in straining the most value from hired help.

American alamancs, by the 1830's, reflect a transition in thinking about the ends of work--natural examples begin emphasizing work for money rather than work for work's own sake. Samuel Atkins' pious and scientific fascination with the stars, quoted above, merged with the profit motive in the almanacs of these years. But though the Farmer's Almanac of the 1830's reflected a close connection to market economies--it included tables of interest, mileage between principal cities, and the hours of County, State, and Federal courts--it insisted on nature as the pattern for success in life and the guide to time usage. The "farmer's calender" reproduced above reinforced the point by comparing the farm family to a hive of busy bees--while the flowers bloom, the inhabitants of the farm-hive, "the laborers," are up in motion. While the sun, moon and stars marked time the prosperous farm family looked to nature for living models of diligence, thrift and hard work.

"Pretty bee, will you come and play with me?" asked "the Idle Boy" in an early McGuffey's Reader. But the serious-minded bee replied "no, I must not be idle, I must go and gather honey." Rebuffed, the idle boy asked a dog, bird and a horse in turn, but each was righteously busy. "What, is nobody idle?", the boy asked in a moment of revelation. "Then little boys must not be idle." So he "made haste, and went to school, and learned his lesson very well."[24]

Like almanacs, nineteenth century schoolbooks linked time to nature and farm work. But they nagged even more about the morality of working hard--"the industry of the ant and the bee and the fecklessness of the grasshopper are ever present."[25] Primers and readers emphasized the sin of wasting time, hinting at disasters waiting in ambush for all those who stopped to smell the roses. "Little girl," McGuffey's Readers warned, "never be a moment too late. It will soon end in trouble or crime."[26]

What sort of crime was idleness? "Time," wrote educator Lyman Cobb in 1843, "we ought to consider as a sort of sacred trust committed to us by God; of which we are now the depositories, and are to render an account at the last." Cobb offered a variation on the old Puritan phrase "improve the time." Time was a loan from God, an investment made in men and women, and God expected some return, some increase in spiritual (or worldly) profit. Such a gift could neither be wasted nor taken lightly; it required the same regular ordering seen in God's example, nature. "Where no plan is laid," Cobb continued, "where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits neither distribution nor review." Idleness, and failure to adopt nature's model, profaned God's intentions and opened the door to chaos.

Cobb's little homily suggested that "system," or the organization of time, on the one hand insured God's favor, and on the other, made the individual's time both usable and useful to society--subject to "distribution and review." "The orderly arrangement of time," Cobb continued, "is like a ray of light, which darts itself through all affairs."[27] Temporal discipline, Cobb implied, is the road along which knowledge travels, and his essay suggested that organized time served as the die that stamped good citizens out of formless material. The ubiquitous textbook example of the bee and the ant, both social insects, reinforced this message of organization and control. Rigorous organization of individual time made for an organized and rational society. And as an organizing principle, time rooted in orderly nature illuminated the dark corners of society and put the loafing minions of "chaos" to useful work.

The idea of organized time as an illuminating principle recurred frequently when time was related to nature, and especially the sun. "Behold the sun in his splendor moving over you by day; and the moon at night," suggested one 1810 reader. "Contemplate a steady and powerful Hand, bringing round spring and summer, autumn and winter, in regular course." The sun and moon gave evidence of God in action, and illuminated God's plan for men and women. "Can you believe," the lesson asked, "that you were brought hither for no purpose, but to immerse yourselves in gross and brutal, or at best, in trifling pleasures?"[28] The march of time, revealed by blazing sunlight in the glory of nature, encouraged imitation by God's foot soldiers on earth.

In its emphasis on system and relentless hard work this rhetoric may now remind us less of a grand march than a lockstep--it sounds a bit like "scientific management," the late nineteenth century credo that treated workers like parts in a clock/machine. But in these lessons, time came from nature, not clocks. Time's authority demanded systematic work, but the authority submitted to, the steady and powerful hand, belonged to God. The use of time remained tied to local, natural imperatives. Cyclical nature embodied time, not clocks, and nature recalled the power of tradition and the moral virtue of a productive, well ordered society of farmers. One reader, as late as 1857, still explained the "division of time" in terms of the seasons and their labor rather than as hours, minutes, or seconds. "In September, October, and November the produce of the fields is gathered. The farmer cuts his grain...It is put in the barn and threshed." The lesson ended by pointing out that it is now more than 1850 years since He [Christ] came on earth."[29] One thousand eight hundred and fifty years in the unfolding of God's design, ticked off in the circle of passing seasons--time, God, nature, moral virtue and economic prosperity were inextricably linked.

Schoolbooks ignored the lilies of the field, never known for their industry, in favor of the tireless bee or ant's example of diligence and frugal, orderly social organization. "Nature [was] never neutral" in children's texts.30 In its relentless glorification of hard work, the "natural time" these readers and almanacs set forth hardly seems leisurely. But the lessons alone, of course, fail to tell us how hard antebellum Americans actually worked or would work. Most reflect the religious and class biases of the New Englanders who wrote them. Schoolbook homilies on the busy bee may have amounted to little more than a nagging buzz in the ears on "Saint Monday," the artisan's traditional leisurely day of recovery from weekend revels. But schoolbooks and almanacs do tell us about how differently time was once understood.

The crucial issue, again, is time's perceived source. Time belonged to God--and God demanded hard work--but time revealed itself in nature, which showed in turn how it should be used. "Time is measured by clocks and watches, dials and glasses," Noah Webster admitted. But "the light of the sun makes the day, and the shade of the earth makes the night...the day time is for labor, the night for sleep and repose." "Children," he added for good measure, "should go to bed early."[31] Natural cycles still modeled the child's habits in this passage. But Webster's description hints at a crucial transition to come--a transition from time rooted in nature to time originating in the clock itself. To explore this transition, we need to first examine the ambiguous place of clocks in antebellum American culture.

 

Settlers brought clocks with them to the colonies as far back as 1638. Boston had a town clock, and a man assigned to tend it, in 1668, and clockmakers plied their trade in Philadelphia in the 1680's. There were probably clockmakers in every colony by 1700. Advertisements for tower clocks appeared in Boston's first newspaper, and tower clocks themselves in Connecticut in 1727.32 These earliest tower and house clocks were relatively crude affairs, technologically primitive by the standards of Europe. But though no substantial domestic watch industry appeared before the Civil War, American clock production soon rivaled Europe's in quantity at least. It would be interesting to know who wanted these early clocks, how they were paid for, and who owned them, but very little research on the subject exists. The best estimates to date suggest that by 1700, roughly one white adult in fifty kept a clock, and one in thirty two a watch, and that among this minority merchants, professionals, innkeepers and shopkeepers predominated. Artisans were twice as likely as farmers to have the means of telling time, and on an average "almost half of the men who lived in major cities had a timepiece of some kind."[33]

In the city a different kind of time prevailed. Since the Middle Ages and probably earlier, city life had made special demands on peoples' time.[34] The hours of markets needed attending to, artisans and merchants needed to assemble at a given time, courts and government offices had their schedules of operation; plays and festivals had to begin at a certain time. On the surface, this busy round looks like the city life of today. But the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries paid considerably less attention to punctuality and saving time than ourselves. Some evidence, for example, suggests that colonial businessmen worked at a far more leisurely tempo than today's. The starting times for plays, public festivals or political meetings remained loosely defined--and loosely observed, by our standards--until the late nineteenth century. And antebellum workers cheerfully ignored the more structured hours of clock time whenever they could get away with it.[35]

But life in cities and larger towns did make unique demands on people. It involved them in each other's lives and work, requiring agreement about when to meet. And since work and leisure in the city often continued year round, rain or shine, only mechanical timekeepers allowed business as usual on cloudy days, or at night. In most communities a town clock, the sort of prominent tower clock New Haven's city fathers had envisioned for their town, filled the bill. In New England town clocks usually appeared first on churches, paid for by public subscription. Such clocks, placed on the steeple, connected clock time to God while tying social organization to religious authority--founded solidly on the Bible and the church, these clocks stood above the dirty business of industry and commerce. Later, as town clocks appeared on public buildings other than churches, they symbolized order and the impartial regulation of daily life.

Despite their use as public timekeepers and their technological sophistication, these sort of town clocks rarely acquired the negative connotations attached to other equally complex machines, like the railroad or cotton loom. They conveyed a time sanctified by religion and tradition and thus "natural." As late as the 1840's the town clock's summons to Sunday service remained a set piece in pastoral writing, recalling the orderly, Godly life of the rural past. A good example appeared in Hawthorne's 1844 American Notebooks, when the retiring author described a locomotive's rude desecration of the woods. Before the locomotive arrived to disturb his revery, Hawthorne listed a variety of the soft and pleasant sounds he heard in the woods, including the striking of the village clock. The ringing village clock, in fact a bravura technological achievement and a symbol of social regulation, is passed over as part of the pastoral scene that precedes the train's arrival--akin to the natural sounds of farm labor and totally unlike the hellish locomotive. More than simple timekeepers, in this pastoral guise mechanical clocks represented the principles of natural law and their applicability to a virtuous, orderly local government.[36]

An age that often compared God to a watchmaker and the universe to a clock, like "Abraham Weatherwise" in his almanac, regarded clockmakers as much more than artisans, and attached far more than local importance to their work. The trade required a great deal of mathematics and astronomy, and the best American clockmakers claimed equality with philosophers and scientists. David Rittenhouse, the foremost example, rivaled Franklin as a leading thinker among his peers. Besides establishing the first astronomical observatory in America; Rittenhouse also produced elaborate, extraordinarily well-crafted clocks depicting the movements of the moon, stars and planets along with hours, minutes, and seconds. His crowning mechanical achievement was an orrery, or clockwork model of the solar system, made for the University of Pennsylvania. The orrery inspired Jefferson to claim that Rittenhouse "has not indeed made a world, but by imitation approached nearer its Maker than any man who has lived from the creation to this day."[37] The orrery emphasized, like almanacs and schoolbooks, time's cyclical aspect, and the orderly beauty of nature's movements.

Rittenhouse created a machine that imitated and displayed natural law--his clock revealed not just the time of day but time's celestial cycle itself, as well as it could be understood. Inspired in part by the model of a clockwork universe, American political thinkers interpreted these celestial movements as a pattern for government. Federalist political theorists often compared the Constitution to a clock/machine, "a machine that would go of itself," like the deist's perfect watch. Like the seasons, or the mechanical forces that governed planetary movement, the Constitution was supposed by some to be "timeless," a permanent restraint on democracy's inevitable and universally assumed tendency to decline into tyranny over linear time. With its system of "checks and balances" on the mechanical forces of human nature, "the Federal Constitution was...a pendulum clock in perfect balance." As a rational machine based on scientific principles, the Constitution "governed" natural political forces like the safety devices on a steam engine.38 Just as the village clock preserved the orderly virtue of the pastoral village, so the clockwork model promised to order politics and preserve stability.

But two potential interpretations of the clock/machine vie for supremacy in this understanding of the Constitution. One locates political authority in imitation of natural law, while the other implies supplanting natural law with human ingenuity--as Rittenhouse's machine makes him literally god-like, so too the achievement of the convention brings the delegates, as creators themselves, closer to God. Thus the Constitution represents not just stability, but perfectibility, the virtue of progress and enlightened reform. The two interpretations echo the tension between cyclical and linear time, between stasis and progress. The Constitution could be seen as a regulating machine, maintaining regularity and stability. But it might also be seen as a sort of throttle on the speed of progress. If government, like Rittenhouse's orrery, could be brought ever closer to perfection, then there need be no end to human tinkering with government, society and technology--no end to "progress."

The tension inherent in these two interpretations, and the idea of time that informed them, reappeared in the conflict between Jefferson and Hamilton and their respective political camps. On the farm, Jefferson passionately maintained, life followed nature and the seasonal cycle. Natural law governed farming, assuring its virtue. A society of Jefferson's "yeoman farmers," almanacs in hand, was a "naturally" virtuous society. Associating industry with corruption and dependence, Jefferson hoped, not without skepticism, that the agrarian republic might preserve itself intact by expanding geographically across western space, rather than through time in the ore-car of industrial progress. It is true that Jefferson, an inventor himself, admitted no objection to home manufactures and local, cottage industry. Such small scale manifestations of technological cleverness stayed within the framework of cyclical time and natural imperatives. But he feared the centralizing tendencies of large scale manufacturing and the inevitable formation of a laboring class to support it--England's Manchester slums haunted his dreams. Jefferson's generation interpreted the "fall" of classical Greece and Rome as the collapse of agrarian democratic virtue. For Jefferson, progress through time presaged American democracy's senility and eventual death.[39]

But where Jefferson saw possibilities for decline Hamilton dreamt of progress. Democracies may have collapsed repeatedly in the past, but the Enlightenment hinted at the eventual perfection of philosophy and technology--in a climate of political stability, America's future held fantastic promises of industrial progress and wealth. Hamilton hoped to follow the path of time's arrow and set the new States on course into an industrial future. Jefferson's system "sustained a vision of social and economic development across space, whereas the other system [Hamilton's] supported an alternative vision of development through time."[40]

Supporters of Hamilton's program of manufactures, as Leo Marx has pointed out, were forced to drape their arguments in pastoral sheep's clothing--Tench Coxe, for example, used Rittenhouse's orrery to promote machine power and industry. Coxe "enlisted the immense prestige of Newtonian mechanics in support of his economic program" while directing society forward into industrial development. He tried to claim that textile machinery, like the orrery, embodied natural laws. In this sense the very perfection of Rittenhouse's orrery, like the natural laws embodied in of the Constitution, could lay fears about the corrupting power of machinery to rest. Having discovered the principles of rational government and learned how to reproduce them, society was free to advance into the Hamiltonian future of industrial improvements.[41]

The career of John Fitch, inventor of the steamboat, offers another example of the tension between cyclical and linear time and the ambiguity inherent in the clockwork metaphor. Fitch, a Connecticut Yankee, began his career as a clockmaker's apprentice. The craft gained him familiarity with metals, tools and the techniques of working them, as well as insight into the harmonious movements and principles of Newtonian mechanics. But his pious, Puritan master's disregard for profit, pleasure and advancement, his insistence on limiting both mechanical innovation and business opportunity, left Fitch frustrated. Rejecting both theological orthodoxy and the clockmaker's trade, Fitch embraced a flabby deism as he turned his attention toward the steam engine. The steam engine satisfied his mechanical predilections while deist philosophy, assuring the rationality of his actions and his machines, allowed him to vault the restricting theology of his forebears and set his course into the linear time of the industrial future.[42] Fitch's famous invention mirrored changing ideas about time and clocks--it converted the cyclical, clock-like motion of the steam engine's parts into linear progress through the water and through time. Only by rethinking his understandings of cyclical and linear time--and turning his clockmaker's skills to more innovative ends--could Fitch free himself from tradition and liberate his mechanical creativity.

Mass produced, affordable clocks and watches exacerbated the tension between industrial, linear time and the cyclical time of nature. When tied to nature, as in Rittenhouse's orrery and the pastoral village clock, clocks represented cyclical time. They recalled the governing mechanisms God had established and His children discovered in natural law. A clock regulated by the almanac, as "True Time" recommended, humbly imitated God's time. On the other hand, mechanical clocks kept working when the shy or modest sun draped himself in clouds. Their value in organizing city life and labor suggested that mechanical creations had improved on nature's timepiece. The progress of industry and commerce itself depended on clocks and clock time. If a mechanic, out of earshot of the town clock, needed to leave home for work by noon, owning a clock made his task easier on a cloudy or rainy day. If men worked under him, the good fortune of owning a watch gave him power, since he could now call the hours of work and rest if no other clock stood nearby. The watch itself, in the latter instance, becomes the authority for time, and its owner derives power from ownership. Life in the cities and market towns demanded man-made, mechanical sources of time, sources of time that could be possessed and controlled.

If the almanacs and schoolbooks quoted previously established time's connection to nature, these city clocks threatened to overturn nature and substitute human authority for God's. Recalling the incident in New Haven that began this chapter, we can see why "True Time" was so agitated. As machines, clocks could stand for either cyclical or linear time. On the one hand, clock metaphors helped make the universe both comprehensible and reassuring while offering a model for the justly organized society--in its pastoral guise the clock illustrated cyclical time and the ideals of Jeffersonian republicanism. On the other hand, clocks also represented human cleverness, commercial improvement and progress--the Hamiltonian vision of an industrial future. "True Time" called Terry's clock "an evil of no small magnitude" because by exploring the nature of time it echoed lasting debates over the foundations of political and moral authority. Was society to be regulated by nature and God, or by the clock, with its associations of industry and the ideal of progress?

Industrial progress demanded clocks, and ironically the first application of interchangeable parts to manufacturing came at Eli Terry's Connecticut clock factory. Terry had served a traditional apprenticeship and then run a small shop making tall-case clocks for several years. But in 1806 he began producing clocks on a larger scale, converting an old textile mill to a clock factory and using a small water power to turn gear-cutting engines. By 1822, after a series of production and design innovations, Terry had perfected his most lasting and lucrative product, the "pillar and scroll" shelf clock made almost entirely of wood. Its relatively small size made it easy for peddlers to carry while its simple, attractive design made it easy to sell and its familiar materials easy to repair. The clock "completely revolutionized the whole business," and set the standard for an industry.43

Most clockmakers had waited for a customer's order, then laboriously crafted a clock by hand. Terry assumed the market already existed--he either guessed that demand for clocks was increasing or assumed aggressive sales would move more clocks, or perhaps both. The "pillar and scroll" clock quickly became associated with the archetypical fast-talking Yankee peddler, the glib salesman of wooden nutmegs.[44] Terry's great success initiated a long period of intense competition, innovation, and "progress" in the design and marketing of clocks. Though he filed a barrage of patents, Terry's clock was widely copied. Clockmaking boomed in Connecticut, and in 1836, the peak year, more than 80,000 Terry-styled clocks sold for ten dollars or less.45

Terry's clocks, and later, the cheaper brass clocks Chauncey Jerome and others sold for as little as $1.50, brought mechanical timekeeping within the easy reach of mechanics, farmers, artisans and laborers for the first time. They sold extremely well in every state. One traveler claimed in the 1840's that "in Kentucky, in Illinois, in Missouri, and here in every dell in Arkansas," and even "in cabins where there was not a chair to sit on, there was sure to be a Connecticut clock."[46] By 1835 Yankee clocks were so popular in the South that a number of States, hoping to promote manufactures at home, raised the clock peddler's license fees to discourage their sale. Chauncey Jerome's firm responded by shipping disassembled clocks to Richmond, Virginia and Hamburg, South Carolina. Assembled on southern soil, Jerome's popular clocks satisfied the demand for local manufactures.47

Associating clocks as we do with punctuality and industrial labor, we tend to assume such popularity reflects the spread of commercial markets and industrial capitalism--the linear time of industry. But a closer look at the clocks suggests that such an interpretation is too simple. Their design, for example, tended towards the austere, mimicking traditional furniture designs and eschewing the whimsical, consumerist frivolity that would characterize clock styles after the Civil War. One of Jerome's most popular designs, the "Gothic" shelf clock, looked remarkably like a New England church. Simple and even grave in appearance, Terry's clocks called attention to the seriousness of time.

Most Terry clocks included a small painting, called a "tablet," beneath the face. The tablets often depicted a mill or factory, and indeed the clocks were used to regulate manufacturing.48 But they more typically depicted farm life, the rural village or conventional landscape, firmly connecting time to nature and the pastoral. The pendulum, clearly visible through the opening in the tablet, recalled the pulse of time in nature's cycle and the balanced mechanism of the natural world as it operated in daily life. Such a clock advertised its owner's piety and respect for God's time.

While the ticking clock may have been connected to cyclical nature in Terry's designs, a substantial body of American folklore linked clocks with mortality and the linear brevity of life. Their striking, coming unexpectedly, was said to denote death. A mysterious ticking, heard where no clock stood, was commonly referred to as the "wall clock" or "death watch." Recalling "the ticking of an old-fashioned clock, reckoning time towards eternity," this superstition appears as a portent of death in the folklore of at least thirteen states.49 A suddenly silent clock indicated death or at least very bad luck. "A clock stops when someone dies...when there is a death in the family...If a clock suddenly stops, it's a sure sign of death."[50] The clock, in these examples, embodies God's time--a silent clock showed that death had brought someone's time to a halt.

Altering the time, or allowing a clock to run down, was therefore dangerous: "never turn a clock counterclockwise...a run-down clock is a sure sign of death." Other proverbs held that broken clocks should be buried or stored well out of sight, and that one should "never keep a clock that does not run...it is bad luck to keep a clock that is not running."[51] The uneasiness stemmed from the fact that though they measured God's time, clocks were also easily susceptible to human control. Adjustable at the owner's whim, they threatened to present an alternative source for time, a secular time made and controlled by men and women. Time's measurement, and its authority, were not to be trivialized--keeping a broken clock suggested a indifference to God and God's time, much as gambling flaunted God's control over earthly events.

The repeated appearance of a belief that "it's bad luck to have two clocks running in the same room...two clocks running in the same house" further attests to this anxiety. "Never leave two clocks ticking in the same room at the same time, very bad luck," one folklorist's informant claimed. "My Grandmother would not do that for anything, for she said it was a sure sign of death."[52] No two clocks can be made to keep the same time, so having two clocks in the same room, like having two public clocks in the same town, called the authority of both into doubt. Worse, it called the nature of time itself to question.

Mechanical timekeepers, when they appeared in schoolbooks, poetry and popular literature, usually recalled time on this grand scale--clocks were not portrayed as machines for telling the time of day, but as mechanical embodiments of mortality, symbols of eternity and the brevity of life. The old-fashioned tall case or "Grandfather" clock most often filled this role, creaking its doleful message of regret in countless poems. Longfellow's "The Old Clock On the Stairs," included frequently in children's texts, is typical of the genre:

Somewhat back from the village street

Stands the old fashioned County seat.

Across its ancient porticoe

Tall poplar-trees their shadows throw;

And from its station in the hall

An ancient timepiece says to all--

Forever--Never!

Never--Forever!

 

Half-way up the stairs it stands,

And points and beckons with its hands

From its case of massive oak

Like a monk, who under his cloak,

Crosses himself, and sighs, alas!

With sorrowful voice to all who pass--

Forever--Never!

Never--Forever!

 

Longfellow connected the clock to the New England past he helped create, to the preindustrial rural ideal--the same pastoral vision that appeared on the tablets of Terry's clocks. He also tied it to religion and unknowable mysteries--hence the reference to the monk. But time's face turns grim:

In that mansion used to be

Free-hearted Hospitality;

His great fires up the chimney roared;

The stranger feasted at his board;

But, like the skeleton at the feast;

That warning timepiece never ceased--

Forever--Never!

Never--Forever!

Longfellow mined this vein for several more verses, his mood growing ever darker till relieved at last by the final lines, which as usual in these poems resolved by hinting at reunion in eternity.[53]

The somber Grandfather clock spread its pall of gloom on every happy occasion, inflicting itself again and again in children's textbooks. McGuffey's Third Reader described how "in the old, old hall the old clock stands, And round and round move the steady hands." As a little girl stood before it, trying to decipher its meaning, McGuffey supplied it: "Tick, tock, tick! Time passes away."[54] When clocks were absent time itself, in the abstract or personified as grey-bearded Father Time, filled the same role. "What is Time?" inquired a poem in one reader. "I asked a dying sinner, ere the tide of life had left his veins: `Time,' he replied; `I've lost it! Ah, the treasure!' and he died."[55] Typically baleful if not particularly eloquent, this sinner's last words, or at least his sentiments, might characterize a whole generation's thinking about time. Such gloomy musings filled childrens' schoolbooks and popular magazines. Why were they so popular?

The idea of time as both a devouring entity and a scarce, precious commodity dated back at least as far as the Renaissance. But these poems also typified the characteristic morbid sentimentality of antebellum culture, the overwrought yearning and nostalgia for better days that Mark Twain later satirized in Huckleberry Finn's Emmeline Grangerford--the "Shall I Never See Thee More Alas" school.[56] Exaggerated sentimentality offered a counter to the harsher realities of Jacksonian commerce, and these poems reminded their readers that wordly accomplishments were fleeting. They also tended to reinforce filiopiety--Grandfather clocks, Father Time--the poems connected authority to older male figures, whose experience and memory of better and presumably more virtuous days made their judgements on modern times all the more wise.

But in these poems the paternal clock, paradoxically, also tolls its own death knell. The genre's popularity reflects the decline of traditional paternal authority that characterized the 1830's and 40's. As the factory system overtook more traditional methods of craft production, it dissolved the paternal relationship between the boss or owner and his employees. Under factory production instead of working for someone they knew personally, even intimately, employees toiled for a distant stranger whose authority worked its way down a chain of managers and foremen. In these poems older paternal authority is dead or dying. And the sense of time associated with that authority--old-fashioned clocks, pastoralism and the cycle of life--threatens to give way before a new order. Death, and happiness under the ultimate paternal authority of God, is the consolation the poems offer for paternalism's decline.57 With the decline of patriarchal authority came a change in the idea of time and clocks, that went with it.

In terms of clock imagery, Longfellow's poem makes an interesting comparison with a common children's lesson, "The Discontented Pendulum." Early one morning, went the tale, an old farm clock suddenly stopped moving. Fed up with mindlessly swinging back and forth in the dark and jealous of the dial's better working conditions, the pendulum had quit. Alarmed, "Mistress Dial" reminded the pendulum that his work, though dreary in the aggregate, amounted to no great effort at each swing, and that all the other parts had their work to do as well, even if theirs did seem more pleasant. Chagrined, the pendulum went back to work. "As if with one consent, the wheels began to turn, the hands began to move," the clock struck, and the farmer got up. The moral of this story was obvious--keep your nose to the grindstone and know your place in the social machinery. Notice that the clock, not the sun or the industrious chirping birds, wakes the farmer up.[58]

The dual role of clocks and time in American culture reveals itself in a comparison of the clocks in the two stories. In Longfellow's poem the clock insists on the inevitability of decline and mourns the passing of the old order. In the second the busy, bustling "mistress dial" regulates the new. In Longfellow's poem and the genre it represents, clocks symbolized the natural, cyclical time of the disappearing past. They reminded their readers, through the imagery of the clock, that death was the ultimate, inescapable judgement on human folly. In "The Discontented Pendulum" the clock served as the model for social organization, not because it mimicked nature, or symbolized some gloomy abstraction, but because it reproduced social hierarchies working together harmoniously--the story described the clock-like movements of industry as a positive virtue.

In the story clocks, not nature or patriarchal authority, regulate life and labor. It was in this sense that Henry Clay enthused: "who has not been delighted with the clock-work movements of a large cotton factory?"[59] Clay's comment, and the story of the disgruntled pendulum, point out the clock's growing role, its increased authority, in ordering daily life and work.

In the 1830s clock time was entering the work place through the factory system. In the first years of factory work textile mills, for example, operated only in sunlight. True, most mills listed precise hours of opening and closing. We have examples of these schedules, and in their typographical finality they make it seem to the modern observer as if the worker's days were strictly counted out in numbers on the clock face. But in fact those hours of work depended on fluctuations in consumer demand and, most notably, available sunlight. Factory schedules invariably changed with the passing seasons, since artificial light was both expensive and dangerous. "The period of labor is not uniform; in some cases from sun to sun," one workman claimed. "It is most common to work as long as they can see."[60] The connection between hours of work and the sun suggested that early factory labor mirrored the cyclical time of farm work to some extent. In many instances that may have been the case--mill timetables may only present us with an ideal, as fluctuations in available daylight and demand for goods affected the hours of labor.61

But as clocks grew more common, artificial light became more practical, and regional trade networks regularized, factories began adopting more rigid hours. The gradual imposition of clock time through the factory system constituted one of the central conflicts of industrialization. Workers struggled hard to preserve some control over the pace and hours of their labor, instead of conceding their schedule to clocks, and the process of resistance and accommodation to factory time has been well documented.[62] But these men and women's objections to the conditions and extent of work--meaning the number of hours demanded, time allotted for meals, work conditions etc.--should not be automatically mistaken for opposition to regulation by the clock. Resistance to factory time itself is different from the quest for shorter hours, and resistance to clock authority is different from objections to work schedules themselves. There are many examples of workers resisting the boss's demands. Examples of workers debating the nature of time itself are less common, but no less interesting.

With the proliferation of factories and the consolidation of the factory system, clock time became increasingly common in daily labor. Defining that time--especially defining time as factory bells--gave owners an edge over their employees. Factory bells could be made to ring at will, and their sounding might easily be delayed to wring an extra half hour's work out of employees who had no reliable way of measuring time themselves. As accustomed paternal relations between labor and management deteriorated, workers began feeling the lack of a reliable standard of time.

In 1832 the New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and other Workingmen reported with outrage that in Hope Factory, Rhode Island, the time for shutting the factory gates at night was "eight o'clock, by the factory time, which is from twenty to twenty five minutes behind the true time," and that in Nashua and Dunstable, New Hampshire, "That the factory time [was] twenty five minutes behind the true solar time." At the Arkwright and Harris Mills in Coventry, Rhode Island, the report continued, "labor ceases at eight o'clock at night, factory time." In Pawtucket, the state of things was found to be similar, "with the exception that, within a few weeks, public opinion has had the effect to reduce the factory time to the true solar standard."[63] Obviously, the mill owners were cheating, hiding behind impressive-looking clocks while they tampered with time for their own advantage. Investing the authority of time in clocks gave them an edge, while their workers insisted on connecting time to the impartial sun.

Controlling and defining time translated directly into economic and political power. Workers in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a mining town, discovered another way clocks might cheat them in a 1843 election dispute. Officially the Pottsville polls closed at seven, but numerous witnesses saw civic-minded voters exercising the franchise till at least eight twenty. Or so it seemed--"it is well known," claimed the Pottsville Miner's Journal, "that we have no exact or certain standard of time in this borough; it is notorious," insisted the editor, that watches and clocks in Pottsville varied by differences "frequently being as much as one hour." An election inspector, using a chronometer regulated in Philadelphia not three days earlier, insisted that the polls had closed at seven. But Philadelphia's time was not Pottsville's, and the losing side mounted a drive to declare the election invalid.[64]

The hearings that followed revealed the multiple sources of time the town used, and the confusion--and political opportunism--that resulted. Several local witnesses deferred to "Heywood and Snyder's Foundry bell," as their source of time. The bell's prominence made it a common point of reference, but at least one local resident admitted that he routinely set his watch "fifteen minutes slower than that bell" because "I was under the impression that the bell was too fast." One watchless voter testified "I went down to Geisse [a local jeweler]...and at his clock it was twenty minutes past eight." "Henry Giesse's clock," he added, "is always ten or fifteen minutes slower than the [foundry] bell." A watchmaker concurred: Heywood and Snyder's bell was "one quarter of an hour faster" than the sundial he used to regulate his shop. The bartender at the local hotel reported yet another time, about nine p.m.; on their "best regulated clock," while Nathaniel Mills insisted that "by my clock the election closed at a quarter after seven."[65] Who owned the most reliable watch? Whose clock told the correct time? In Pottsville, with no agreed upon standard, it was impossible to tell.

These men objected to being victimized by an arbitrary standard of time--a time derived from clocks they couldn't verify or control. Since watches were still too expensive for most people, the sun offered an indisputable standard honored by tradition and religious authority, free from the owner's influence. In 1832 the Pawtucket Chronicle had praised a plan to put a tower clock in the Congregational Church, since "all are aware of the vexatious confusion occasioned by the difference of time in the ringing of the factory bells...which can only be remedied by creating a clock that will always give the time of day." The clock, paid for by subscription and blessed by location in the Church, was to provide an impartial standard based on local sun time, and keep the mill owners from cheating.[66] Tying a clockwork regulator, like the Pawtucket clock, to the rational, impartial and objective traditions of celestial mechanics--having it show sun time--made it seem benevolent and impartial rather than harmful or oppressive.

And indeed as artifacts, viewed independently of who controlled them, clocks and watches offered a stunning example of human genius and skill. "What a miracle of art," Edward Everett exclaimed to the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association in 1837, "that a man can teach a few wheels, and a piece of elastic steel, to out-calculate himself; to give him a rational answer to one of the most important questions that a being traveling toward eternity can ask!" "What a miracle," Everett repeated, "that a man can put within this little machine a spirit that measures the flight of time with greater accuracy than the unassisted intellect of the profoundest philosophy." Addressing the Massachusetts mechanics on the usefulness of mechanical arts, Everett praised the watch's capacity to serve as a model for rationality and the organization of the mechanic's time. "By means of a watch," Everett enthused, "punctuality in all his duties--which in its perfection, is one of the incommunicable attributes of Deity--is brought within the reach of man."[67] Everett made the watch holy. He reconnected timekeeping machines to heavenly mechanical principles and the rationally ordered society.

Everett's platitudinous address to the Mechanics Association posited a pettifogging deity who listed flawless, clock-like punctuality first among his virtues. It reflected a social need for docile, well disciplined employees, but it also reflected the further spread of clock time into everyday life. Thanks to cheap, mass produced timekeepers, the clock time that confronted labor in the work place found its complement in clock-based regulation of the private sphere and the household labor as well.

Home advice manuals of the 1830's focused on systematizing the household economy. Lydia Maria Child's The American Frugal Housewife reminded its readers on page one that "Time is Money," and urged them to "gather up all the fragments of time as well as materials."[68] William Alcott's popular handbook The Young Housekeeper began its advice on "having a plan" by recalling the clockwork universe. "Order is heaven's first law," Alcott wrote, "and should be the first law of that which properly managed would, of all places below the sun, most nearly resemble heaven."[69] Alcott recapitulated the clichés of celestial mechanics, but his home resembled heaven because its members, in following heaven's law, had internalized the clock's authority, not natural examples.

Alcott offered detailed advice on waking at regular times. "There is no difficulty in waking at a desired hour of the morning, when one has a strong motive for it," he wrote, but in such cases one sleeps uneasily. Alcott suggested that "there should be some ingenious contrivance, to awaken the housekeeper at first--perhaps an alarm clock...till the habit is effectively formed; after which, she will find little difficulty in awakening." Alcott offered the clock as a model of regularity, order and self-government, and suggested that the machine be fully incorporated into the unconscious. Having internalized clock time, the virtuously punctual could rest easy.70

The result, he believed, would secure regular and precise habits at home and in public life. "The hour for breakfast," he asserted, "should also be assigned, and when thus fixed, should not be delayed except on special occasions." It was better in all respects, he continued, "to sit down a few minutes before the time, than even one minute or one half minute later;--better for the body, better for the mind, and better for the whole character." Let these moments be fixed, Alcott continued, "and except in emergencies, as in the arrival of a friend or the occurrence of an accident, let [them] seldom if ever be departed from."[71] Alcott's devotion to punctuality and regularity was so fierce, so religious, that a friend's arrival caused a household emergency.

These domestic management guides point to the continuing evolution of new, clock-based systems of social order. Lydia Maria Child's admonition to "gather up fragments of time as well as money" hardly differs from Esther Burr's submission to God in labor, or the almanac's promptings to save time. But Alcott's handy alarm clock allowed a woman to organize the entire household on a machine-inspired model of regularity--the clock governs both the home and the woman who oversees it. Recalling "Mistress Dial" of the "discontented pendulum," Alcott's women readers could use the clock to systematize the small hierarchical machinery of the home, in turn preparing their families for regulation in the larger machinery of the public workplace. These advice manuals represent, like the factory bells, the growing power of clocks and clock time.

 

But conflicting beliefs about time's source--natural or mechanical--and its character, cyclical or linear--continued to haunt American culture and politics. The writers of the American Renaissance in particular greatly feared a social time transformed permanently by industry. "For a great many years past," wrote Hawthorne in 1838, "there has been a wood-cut on the cover of the Farmer's Almanac, pretending to be a portrait of Father Time." Hawthorne referred to the traditional depiction of Time as a quasi-deity, a winged figure with an hourglass and scythe. These days, in 1838, Hawthorne continued, Father Time "has exchanged his hourglass for a gold patent lever watch, which he carries in his vest pocket; and as for his scythe, he has either thrown it aside altogether, or converted its handle into a cane." Hawthorne made Time a prosperous and respectable figure, a man about town strolling the avenues in the latest clothes. If Time's transformation mirrored the farmer's conversion to city life, it also suggested the changed understanding of time. Father Time still cuts down the living in Hawthorne's story, but in 1838 he moves to the bustling pace of city life, with a watch to guide him.72 Hawthorne offered an ironic commentary on the clock's ascendence in everyday affairs.

Hawthorne's "The Artist of the Beautiful" opens with the artist, Owen Warland, laboring unhappily as a town clockmaker. Endowed with a genius for intricate mechanism, Warland hates the unimaginative work of clockmaking and labors to create beautiful, living "spiritualized mechanisms." "If a family clock was entrusted to him for repair," Hawthorne mused, "one of those tall, ancient clocks that have grown nearly allied to human nature, by measuring out the lifetime of many generations," Warland would install some mechanical whimsy of his own design--hands that spun rapidly about, figures that danced to chimes that rang too many times. "Several freaks of this kind," Hawthorne continued, "quite destroyed [his] credit with that steady and matter of fact class of people who hold that time is not to be trifled with, whether considered as the medium of advancement and prosperity in this world, or preparation for the next."

In the passage above, from 1844, Hawthorne pointed out two contemporary interpretations of the meaning of time and made Warland, the rebellious artist, violate both by taking neither seriously. Warland's spirit, however, is too delicate for sustained rebellion. Repeatedly crushed by the cold-hearted sneering of his former master in the clockmaking trade, a sagacious Yankee interested only in practicality and production, Warland for a time keeps regular hours and even succeeds in repairing and regulating the town clock. "The town in general thanked Owen for the punctuality of dinner time," but Warland's refined creative ambitions return to haunt him. He stops keeping regular hours, he "wastes the daylight" in walks and begins working feverishly at night. He triumphs in the end, making peace with himself and realizing the Enlightenment dream of living mechanisms, but only after completely throwing off the compulsion to regular hours, practical work, and clock time, and freeing himself finally from the need to "progress" in invention. In the end, the real achievement is not Warland's mechanical invention or his concession to social regularity but his own spiritual self-realization.[73]

In 1839's "The Devil in the Belfry," another attack on clock time, Edgar Allen Poe described a small Dutch town, "Vondervotteimittis," literally patterned after a clock. As the story begins a tall clock tower stands in the center of a valley, and around it "extends a continuous row of sixty little houses." "Every house has a small garden before it, with a circular path, a sundial, and twenty four cabbages." The town looks like a clock, and the clock hold the authority for the organization of both time and space. According to the story, all the inhabitants of the town and even their animals wear watches; they all "wonder what time it is" all the time. At noon every day all action stops as the worthy burghers count along with the strokes of the bell. But one day their orderly lives are disrupted when a small figure appears on the horizon, in the form of a fiddler dressed in black and having "not the remotest idea in the world of such a thing as keeping time." The fiddler ascends to the belfry, begins playing madly, and this time at noon the clock strikes thirteen times, plunging both the townspeople and their machines into chaos.74

Poe satirized the authority of clocks, linking them to middle class complacency and obsession with order. In "Vondervotteimittis" political authority, the ordering authority for the town, stems from the master clock. Its satellite clocks in each house, like their owners, are enslaved to it.75 Poe pursued the connection between political authority and time more subtly in "The Pit and the Pendulum," written in 1843. Here Time's traditional scythe is transformed into a giant clock pendulum with a razor edge. The benign pendulum of Terry's clocks becomes for the narrator, bound to a table in the center of the pit, an instrument of torture in the hands of an invisible political enemy. The time remaining to the victim is tied directly to the swings of the clock pendulum, and not to Time in the abstract.76

Poe and Hawthorne, as Romantics, loathed the oppressive power of clock time, its mechanical regulation of life and thought. They expressed resentment and even rage at a familiar bind--unable to support themselves in a trade, writing, that demanded flexibility, freedom, and time for contemplation, they located the source of their oppression in clocks and their unceasing regularity. Both reacted specifically to industrial society and its new controlling device, the mechanical timekeeper. Recognizing time located in mechanical sources as an expression of political, economic and social power, they interpreted their society's beliefs about time as moral issues involving personal freedom.

Objections to clock time in industry and self-government transcended Hawthorne and Poe's narrow literary circle. The Sabbatarian movement of the 1840's also connected time usage to morality, and recognized tyranny in the ticking clock. The question of how to observe the Sabbath was a major bone of contention for American Protestants throughout the nineteenth century. Mormonism and Seventh-Day Adventism both emerged from the Sabbatarian debates, and at heart the movement was a debate over time and how it should be defined. Sabbatarian reformers saw factory work as unpleasant and often exploitive, yet necessary and potentially good. They objected to its apparent Godlessness, and wanted some way of restoring Christian belief to the humming mills. Sabbatarian activists agitated for the suspension of all labor and commerce, by law, on the Sabbath. Sundays, they felt, should properly be spent at home, in thanks to God and quiet meditation on the state of one's soul. Such Sunday laws would bring God back to the industrial week.

"Those who demanded strict Sabbath observance," according to one historian of American religion, "insisted that the principle of a day's rest in seven was planted in the very order of nature and in the original constitution of humanity." Recalling the almanac and the virtue of natural law, the Sabbatarians posited a natural, internal "moral clock" in need of rewinding every seven days.77 "The Lord's day," wrote one Sabbatarian, "is not merely the day of religious duty and rest, but the restoring, the awakening day--the day of recovery and reformation." Like other Sabbatarians, he imagined a "higher" sense of time God had built into the machinery of the soul. "If the Sabbath be desecrated," he continued, man's "whole spiritual prosperity and existence are endangered."[78]

Not just spiritual prosperity but financial prosperity as well suffered, for the two were linked. Sabbatarians recognized clock time's ascendency in public life and labor--they knew the factory system was here to stay. But they hoped, by setting Sundays aside from industrial hue and cry, to prevent industrial time from completely overcoming the "natural time" of the soul. Sunday laws, they claimed, would help employers by rejuvenating tired workers and ministering to their moral health, and help laborers by mandating at least one day's rest per week. Keeping the trains from running on Sunday, Sabbatarians hoped, would bring the working classes back into the wholesome sphere of home and church on the holy day, restoring some semblance of God's time to the weekly work schedule. Ironically, William Alcott's example, quoted previously, suggested that home now offered little relief.[79]

But what the Sabbatarians saw as a way to ease the laborer's burden, and regulate his or her moral health, their more extreme opponents rejected as an accommodation with industrial time. Most opponents of Sabbath laws argued that the strict Sabbath observances violated the separation of church and state, threatened individual liberty, or "paganised" Christianity by imitating Jewish customs. More radical Anti-Sabbatarians loathed Sunday legislation as a dangerous and misleading endorsement of industrial time and the evils it caused.

Convening to protest Sabbath laws in 1848, a group of men and women including William Lloyd Garrison, Francis Jackson, Bronson Alcott, Theodore Parker and Lucretia Mott attacked Sabbath legislation as a false friend of the laborer and a tool of oppressive power. Garrison exhorted the working classes to "claim more and take more rest...strike at the exercise of that power...which is eating up your hard-won substance, and keeping you in shameful vassalage." Do this, he continued, "and you shall redeem all days from servile toil, and enjoy a perpetual Sabbath." Garrison urged industrial laborers to resist the employer's division and control of their time.[80]

Even more explicitly, the Anti-Sabbatarians objected to imposing clock time on Christian practice. One delegate claimed "Our Sabbatarian friends have a queer way of setting the right and the wrong of actions." According to them, "if you want to know whether it is right to walk out, and take the air on Boston Common, look at the clock!"

If the finger points to a particular hour, it is very

sinful; if it points to another hour, it is perfectly right!

If you want to know whether it is right to read a

newspaper, or write a letter, to post a letter, or to

carry a letter, ask, not whether the act is right or wrong,

but ask, what time of day it is, and what day of the

week it is! Consult the calender and the clock.81

Directly attacking clock time and its new role in society, the speaker deplored the clock's place as the arbiter of personal morality and the governor of civil affairs. In his view the once private, unbounded world of ethics and religious feeling now lay exposed, like the narrator in "The Pit and the Pendulum," subject to mechanical regulators unrestrained by religious authority or natural law.

The Sabbath debate revealed the degree to which changing conceptions of time and its source were working to rearrange time in both the public and private spheres. It focused on that new but scarce industrial phenomenon, leisure time--how was it to be spent? Sabbatarians, who accommodated themselves to industry, wanted to shut down industry's most visible symbol, the railroad, every Sunday, to take brief refuge from clock time in the peaceful, "natural" world of the home. Their opponents, who hated industrial excesses and linked them to slavery, hoped by controlling industry to smash the clock and return society, and social time, to its natural origins.

One of the most coherent and sophisticated attempts to comprehend and define social time came from the daughter of a Sabbatarian activist, Catherine Beecher. Regularity and loathing for wasted time formed the core of her 1841 best-seller, A Treatise on Domestic Economy. Like Esther Burr, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Beecher saw work as a duty to God. Her chapter "On Economy of Time and Expenses" reminded her readers "Christianity teaches that for all the time afforded us, we must give account to God; and that we have no right to waste a single hour." Though she recognized recreation as necessary to health and insisted that play receive its just allotment of time, she urged that women not squander their time in trivial pursuits. Temporal virtue required unstinting watchfulness and discipline, and play remained useful only to the extent that it promoted useful work:

A woman is under obligations to so arrange the

hours and pursuits of her family; as to promote systematic

and habitual industry; and if, by late breakfasts, irregular

hours for meals, and other hinderances of this kind, she

interferes with, or refrains from promoting regular industry

in others, she is accountable to God for all the waste of time consequent on her negligence.82

Superficially, Beecher's admonitions resembled the promptings in household manuals like Alcott's and Child's. But Beecher specifically rejected clock time in favor of a virtuous temporal rigor drawn from the Bible.

Women's example for organizing their days, she concluded in a long discourse on the "right apportionment" of time, must be the demands in time and property God asked of the ancient Hebrews. "In making this apportionment, [of time]" she continued, "we are bound by the same rules as relate to the use of property." Beecher's connection of time to property acknowledged time's role in labor and commerce, but also recalled women's position in society--Beecher implied time was women's only real property, since material property typically belonged to men. Beecher wrote to improve the sad state of society as she saw it. Women, as examples of kindly diligence and temporal thrift, were to quietly promote the moral organization of society using the same model of time she suggested for the home.[83]

Beecher emphasized hard work and saving time. But she rooted her conception of time in nature, rather than in clocks--"it thus appears," she wrote on the length of the work day, "that the laws of our political condition, the laws of the natural world, and the constitution of our bodies, alike demand that we rise with the light of day...and retire when this light is withdrawn." Beecher revived the cyclical aspect of "natural" time, but she relocated it squarely in the home, not the public workplace. In Beecher's interpretation of nature's pattern for time usage, women's subservience to man, God, and natural rhythms became a weapon for the ethical reform of society through efficient, diligent, morally justified work in the production of good citizens. The home would serve as the virtuous, rationally ordered nest in which fledgling members of industrial society would learn the right principles for organizing their time.[84]

The immense popularity of Beecher's manual attests to both the applicability of her ideas and the growing division between private and public time. Beecher attempted to reestablish time's authority through religion and natural law, and thereby to make order out of the new ideas of time that prevailed outside the home and now knocked insistently on home's front door. Like "mistress dial" of "The Discontented Pendulum," she sought authority to regulate society, but she hoped her elaborate theological justification for time usage would transcend the secular self-interest that characterized other definitions of time, and put time on a less arbitrary basis. She used her emphasis on work to empower women--in the home, women controlled the pace of their labors and decided what tasks to do. In setting the terms of their labor they answered to God, not to factory schedules and clock bells.

Beecher consciously limited her ideas to the home, retreating from the challenges industrial time posed, or rather meeting them only halfway. Her Biblically justified time made sense for many women and men, and helped establish a split between home time and public time that persisted long after her book went out of print. Beecher made home the place of "natural" time, morally virtuous hard work and religious feeling, in opposition to the uniform, standardized public clocks, based on astronomical observation and telegraphed time signals, that were emerging as an alternative for regulating public time even as she wrote.[85]

 

Seeking, like Beecher, a reliable, uniform, justifiable and objective standard of time, the 1851 timetable of the Lowell mills specified exactly when the yard gates opened and closed, the times for meals, and exactly how long work began after each bell: "WORK COMMENCES, at Ten minutes after last morning bell, and at Ten minutes after bell which 'rings in' from meals." "In all cases," it continued, "the first stroke of the bell is considered as marking the time." The timetable also specified "the Standard time being that of the meridian of Lowell, as shown by the regulator clock of JOSEPH RAYNES, 43 Central street," so no confusion could result. The Lowell mills allied themselves with astronomy and science to invest their factory bells with an unimpeachable authority.

Based on the meridian of Lowell and the sun, Raynes' clock minimized the possibility of cheating and insured that in Lowell, noon by the sun and noon by the clock would seem nearly the same. Adopted as the standard of the mills, the clock lent an aura of impartiality and natural law to the work schedule. Earlier, the Lowell owners had relied on paternal supervision to insure the morality of the work that went on there--"The supervisor's mind," it was claimed, "regulates all, his character inspires all; his plans...control all."[86] Supervision of the workers home lives combined with a pastoral setting and the ostensibly temporary nature of the work to "republicanize" the factory town.

But native New England women fled Lowell's exploitative conditions in the 1840's, and Irish immigrants began taking their places at the machines, immigrants with less love for the hard lessons of McGuffey's Readers.[87] For the mill owners, astronomically regulated time shored up the Protestant ethic with "natural law" while putting unruly immigrants on a more fixed schedule. Even better, the new standard time linked the mills and their owners to national scientific movements, especially astronomy, that by the 1850's were being increasingly associated with the economic, moral and physical progress of the nation.

By synthesizing science, commerce and mechanical timekeeping, the mill owners "moralized" their regulation of labor time, putting it on a reputedly objective and scientific basis--in this new scheme Raynes' clock, regulated astronomically and hence rational, replaced the human supervisor as the authority governing work. Over the next three decades, astronomy emerged as the regulating principle and source of public time, partially resolving, as Catherine Beecher had for the home, the confusions over time that plagued industrializing America. Rapid communications by telegraph, faster travel by railroad, stage and steamboat, interstate and interregional commerce all demanded a uniform standard of time. By 1860 astronomical time, telegraphed time signals and regional standard time had risen to fill the void. In the process, these innovations established new authorities for time, and new models for self government and social regulation.