On Time National Museum of American History

Marking Time
  The Race Is On
  The Most Reliable Time
  Watches by Machine
  Like Clockwork
Synchronizing Time

Mechanizing Time 1820–1880

Increasingly, Americans let the clock tell the time and regulate their lives.

The Race Is On

As the tempo of life accelerated and speed became a virtue, a horse-racing craze swept the nation. At the track, stopwatches made it possible to post winning times in quarter-seconds! In 1855, Lexington, the country's most famous horse, ran unchallenged in a four-mile race against the clock. He set a world speed record—7 minutes, 19 3/4 seconds—that stood for nearly twenty years. Such feats inspired the American Watch Company to introduce the world's first mass-produced stopwatch.

Lexington lithograph
Lexington lithograph, 1855; by Currier & Ives. Caption reads, "The great Monarch of the turf and sire of racers."
Chronodrometer, or Improved Horse Timing Watch, American Watch Company, Waltham, Massachusetts, about 1859


Smithsonian National Museum of American History