Clocks, watches and personal time pieces have been around for hundreds of years in various forms. Mostly in the possession of those that could afford them. American industrialization during the 19th century required a uniformity and precision in time keeping that earlier generations did not have the need for. During the latter half of the 19th century, there were trains to catch, meetings to keep and labor was paid by the hour.
The era of the public clock began in cities before the Civil War and picked up pace around 1880 when the United States instituted National Standard Time which was adjusted to Greenwich Time for global uniformity. Prior to this standardization, time was kept locally. Street clocks were installed at major intersections and public squares all over the country, some by municipalities and others sponsored by private companies as advertising.
One of the leading manufacturers of street clocks was Edward Howard (1813-1940) who founded E. Howard & Co. Clock and Watch Company in Boston in the 1840s. All of the clocks were made in Roxbury until the 1930s, when manufacturing moved to Waltham. It is reported that approximately 348 Street Clocks were manufactured by E. Howard & Co between 1887 and 1905, with the first one located on Brattle Street. A variety of styles were designed, most with two faces and some with four. The clock movements were originally in the base of the clock and driven by weights, but some have since been switched to electric motor driven mechanisms.
Take a look around and see if the street clocks you come across were made by E. Howard & Co. If you would like to learn more about some of Boston’s Howard Clocks, the 1893 Boston Landmarks Study Report designated five street clocks throughout Boston.
Contact Department: Landmarks Commission
Publish Date: Fri, 11/20/2020 – 4:46pm