International Dial Time Recorder Clock

Showing up for work punctually, at an official time, became expected behavior toward the end of the 19th century, as more and more people worked for others rather than for themselves. Not just the work force's punctuality was at issue. Cost accounting and analysis--recording and scrutinizing expenses for labor, materials and overhead--were getting more attention than ever before. Time was money.
In the 1890s, timekeepers-- clerks who kept track of employees' hours in handwritten logs --found that machines were beginning to replace them, especially in workplaces with large numbers of employees. Thanks to the influence of the advocates of scientific management, nearly every industrial workplace had a time clock, after about 1910. So did many offices. By the early twentieth century the International Time Recording Company supplied an entire line of timekeeping devices, including master clocks, several types of time clocks, and time stamps. Founded in 1900, the firm continuously expanded its product line, underwent several reorganizations and name changes, and emerged in 1924 as the International Business Machine Corporation, familiar today as IBM.
One of the firm's most popular products was the dial time recorder, a clock that could furnish a daily or weekly record of up to 150 employees. Based on the 1888 patent of physician Alexander Dey, the dial time recorder was essentially a spring-driven clock with a cast-iron wheel affixed to its dial side. The rim of the wheel was perforated with numbered holes. As employees pressed a rotating pointer into the hole at their assigned number, the machine recorded the time on a preprinted sheet and rang a bell with each punch. A two-color ribbon printed all regular time in green and all tardiness, early departures, and overtime in red.
This International dial time recorder hung in a factory in the garment district of New York City.
Object Name
Date made
ca 1912
Physical Description
wood (case material)
overall: 18 in x 67 1/4 in x 41 1/2 in; 45.72 cm x 170.815 cm x 105.41 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Computers & Business Machines
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Artifact Walls
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Michael Rothbaum

Visitor Comments

7/18/2013 3:48:18 PM
I saw one of these yesterday (29/6/08) in a pub (The Malt Shovel) in Northampton, where it was installed as merely an interesting 'objet d'art'. As it was totally unannotated, two friends and I (all engineers) pored over it for some considerable time trying to work out what it was. I am pleased to say that my guess of 'some kind of clocking-in machine' was pretty close! It appeared to be fairly intact - still with its ink ribbon! - and identical to that in the picture. The landlord said he'd picked it up from another Northamptonshire pub in a closing-down clearance sale, but had no idea where it had come from. The area was once famous as the centre of boot and show manufacturing and there were hundreds of factories until the 1950s, so one of them is the most likely guess. Fascinating stuff!
4/16/2016 8:59:57 PM
Denny Hall
I have one of these clocks now. I am trying to dig up information on it. It's a super nice piece of engineering history in my opinion. Thanks for any help somebody can give me.
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