Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Westclox alarm clock

This old alarm clock is in working condition.


Alarm ClockHistory

The first mechanical clocks were made in the 14th century, and were large monumental clocks. Household clocks were in use by 1620 and some of them had alarm mechanisms. The alarm is simple in concept, typically having a cam that rotates every 12 hours. It has a notch into which a lever can fall, releasing a train of gears that drives a hammer, which repeatedly hits a bell until it runs down or is shut off (many alarms have no shutoff control).

The earliest alarm clock I found reference to is a German iron wall clock with a bronze bell, probably made in Nuremberg in the 15th century. This clock is 19 inches tall and of open framework construction. It needed to hang high on the wall to make room for the driving weight to fall. Other alarm clocks from the 1500's are in existence. See “The Clockwork Universe, German Clocks and Automata 1550 - 1650,” Maurice and Mayr, 1980, Smithsonian, Neale Watson Academic Publications, New York.

The book “Early English Clocks” by Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Antique Collectors Club, 1982, documents some early alarm clocks. An example is a lantern clock ca. 1620 that has an alarm set disc on front of the dial. One longcase (grandfather) clock ca. 1690 is documented, as is a 30 hour hanging timepiece alarm by Joseph Knibb.

English clockmakers emigrated to the United States in the 18th century and no doubt carried the idea of the alarm clock with them. It has been incorrectly stated that Levi Hutchins of Concord, New Hampshire invented the first alarm clock in 1787. His alarm clock was predated by the German and English ones mentioned above.

Simon Willard of Grafton, Massachusetts, made alarm time timepieces sometimes called “lighthouse clocks” in the 1820's. Some of the American wooden works shelf clocks of the 1820's - 30's have alarms, as do many brass movement shelf clocks after 1840.

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