Howard Regulator

Most nineteenth century American clocks were cheaply made for the mass market and domestic use. But a few firms made finely finished precision clocks for applications where accuracy was vital: determining the time of scientific observations, for example, or regulating other clocks and watches. One such firm was E. Howard and Company of Boston, specialists in quality clocks, watches and scales since 1842.
This high-quality clock, made by the firm in 1874, distributed Philadelphia time for the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company in that city. Subscribers to the firm’s service of telegraphed gold prices and stock quotations could also receive a time service to set their clocks. Fitted to the mechanical movement of this Howard timepiece are assemblies that interrupt an electric telegraph circuit to indicate every half minute, full minute, five minutes and the hour.
Before 1883, towns across the nation set their own times by observing the position of the sun, so there were hundreds of local times. Instead of Eastern Standard Time, for example, there was Philadelphia Standard Time or Charleston Standard Time. Beginning in the 1850s, railroads operated on regional times, each set to an agreed-upon, arbitrary standard time. By the 1880s, there were about fifty such regional railroad times.
In November 1883, most North American railroads voluntarily agreed to adopt a standardized railway time based on zones, a system from which the time zones in use today originated.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
associated date
associated institution
Allegheny Observatory
Gold and Stock Telegraph Company
associated person
Bentley, Henry
E. Howard & Co.
Physical Description
glass (case material)
glass (door material)
mahogany (case material)
walnut, burr (case material)
carved (case production method/technique)
carved (pedestal production method/technique)
reverse-painted (dial production method/technique)
silvered (beat scale production method/technique)
silvered (case production method/technique)
veneered (case production method/technique)
regulator: 79 in x 36 in x 17 in; 200.66 cm x 91.44 cm x 43.18 cm
location of prior holder
United States: New York
associated place
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Western Union Corp.
Additional Media

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