E. Howard & Co. Electric Clocks and Systems

E. Howard self-winnding master clockwith door open
E. Howard #89 self-winding master clock with two secondary clock circuits and four bell circuits, in dark ash case. Originally installed circa 1904 at Roxbury High School, in Boston's Roxbury section. Pilot clock on left dates from 1911 when system was converted from series to parallel secondary clock circuits. Substitute dial shown while original awaits restoration.
pilot clock in cast brass case
Earlier pilot clock in heavy cast and turned solid brass case.
pilot clock in thin copper case
Later style pilot clock in thin copper case with molded bakelite back.

Being the first American clockmaker to produce electric time systems, E. Howard & Co. of Boston, Massachusetts deserves special recognition on these pages. With our focal point remaining The Standard Electric Time Co., it is interesting to compare the products of these two companies which, during much of the most intense period of their competition, were located less than 100 miles apart.

Howard's entry into the field of electrical horology apparently began with its successful manufacturing and marketing of strictly mechanical "Watch Clocks, for the Detection of Delinquent Watchmen on Night Duty in Factories, Railroad Stations and Public Buildings" ---1874 catalog. The catalog describes these early watch clocks as follows:

"The clock has a Time Dial (independent of the Pin Dial), which serves as a good regulator for time for the whole establishment.

"The Pin Dial is securely enclosed, so that it is impossible for it to be tampered with, or the pins driven (other than by the regular pulls), without immediate detection.

"The clock should be placed in a room convenient for the exhibition of time, and cords and pulleys run from the clock to such rooms or places on the premises as you wish the watchman to visit each HALF HOUR of the night. Care should be taken that the termination of the wires should be in such places as to cause the watchman to explore as much of the premises as possible. It is necessary to visit all the rooms or places designed in order to drive ONE PIN. The clock is so constructed that fifteen or twenty minutes (according to the number of rooms that have to be visited,) is allowed the watchman to go over the building. With this clock the watchman cannot fail in his duty without detection."

The same catalog then goes on to introduce the "Electro-Magnetic Watch Clock":

"MR. J. HAMBLET, JR.,
Electrician and Inventor of this Clock,

"Is now associated with us, and will devote his attention to the manufacture, sale and erection of these clocks.

"The Watch Clock is used in all Manufactories, Railroads, Lumber Yards, and all places where watchmen are kept during the night. The clock may be placed in the office, or in a separate building at a distance from the premises to be guarded. A system of wires radiates from the clock to all buildings and premises, and to the points which it is desirable for the watchman to visit in his tour of duty. At each point or station the watchman inserts and turns a key, or simply touches a knob, which causes the electric current to pass and do its work upon the magnet at the clock, and cause a pencilled record on a PAPER DIAL at the exact instant when the key is turned. The watchman in this manner, passing around from station to station, successively, makes TELEGRAPHICALLY his own record of duty done, showing the time of each visit to each station, as well as the time occupied between the stations; and of course the whole time taken up in making the entire round, and also in going all the rounds; and if all the stations have been visited or have been neglected the facts will be shown upon the dial. In fact the Superintendent can read in the morning the exact part of the premises at which the watchman was at any minute of his required tour of duty during the night.

"The paper record dials are changed daily, and may be filed and kept as a permanent record of the watch duty, INTERESTING TO INSURERS, being the time record made by the watchman himself, and which he can make in NO way except by visiting the stations in regular order."

Because of public skepticism at that period concerning all new things electrical, the strictly mechanical watch clocks remained popular a while longer, until the superiority of the electromagnetic version became well established. But even before then, Howard had developed and begun installing the the master/slave type of clock system destined to become practically universal in schools and other large public buildings. Prior to 1884, the year The Standard Electric Time Co. claimed that its founder, Charles D. Warner had invented the electric clock, Howard had actually installed a number of electric time systems in various prominent buildings. Some of these buildings were named, along with the year of installation, in a circa 1900 Howard catalog:

Boston, Mass., Park Sq. R. R. Station, 1874

New York City, New York Tribune Bldg., 1875

Lansing Mich., State House, 1878

Hartford, Conn., State House, 1878

Boston, Mass., English High School, 1880

Nashua, N. H., Nashua Mfg. Co.'s Mills, 1880

Pawtucket, R. I., Conant Thread Co., 1881

New York City, Cooper Institute, 1882

New Orleans, La., Cotton Exchange, 1883

For a master clock, early systems such as these relied on either a hand-wound, weight and cable-driven regulator or tower clock movement. The electrically-wound master regulator came later.

Early Howard secondary clock movements, like those of Chester Pond, used electromagnetic energy to directly drive the hands as the armature pulled in. Although logical, this method proved inferior to the later idea of moving the hands by means of a spring energized by the magnet. While the later Standard Electric Time Systems proved themselves electrically superior to Howard's, the longevity attained by Howard's construction method utilizing numerous beautifully machined parts in place of thinner sheet metal stampings, is beyond reproach. With respect to design, of particular note is a 2-lever power equalizing system the company employed in both electrically-wound master clock movements and
those of their improved secondary clocks.

Source: Illustrated Catalogue of CLOCKS manufactured by the Howard Watch and Clock Co. (E.Howard & Co. Proprietors), BOSTON, 1874; reprinted 1972 by the American Clock and Watch Museum, Inc., 100 Maple Street, Bristol, Conn. 06010

Early Howard watch clock
Early Howard watch clock with hand-wound cable and weight-driven movement.
Pendulum
Pendulum.
Recorder
A paper disc recorded the time of watchmen's visits to key-stations in remote locations and wired to clock. Discs had to be changed daily.
Patent plate
Patent plate.
Dial
Dial.
Electrically wound movement in #89 master clock
Electrically wound movement in #89 master clock.
Program movement in #89 electrically wound master
clock
Program movement in #89 electrically wound master clock.

The Howard No. 74 Special Regulator
By Paul Middents

Dial of HOward master clock
Movement of Howard master clock
Pendulum of Howard master clock

This clock was discovered hanging idle in the periscope shop at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard over 30 years ago by clock enthusiast and submarine radioman, Ernie Lopez. The periscope shop had once been the chronometer repair shop and the Howard had served as the master clock. Many years later Ernie enlisted the assistance of the author and Leon Jaussaud another local clock enthusiast to rescue this very significant instrument. Negotiations ensued with the Navy and eventually this clock along with two other significant shipyard timepieces were restored and placed on long term loan with the Kitsap History Museum.

Howard master clock

The original mercury pendulum was intact but without mercury. It was surrounded by a stainless steel enclosure and the case showed signs of a mercury spill and cleanup effort. Ernie Lopez completed a painstaking restoration of the case and Leon Jaussaud did a masterful job restoring the movement, pendulum and massive cast iron back plate. We were excited to note the large bronze plaque pictured above connecting the clock to Joseph Mayer whose two street clocks we had recently restored for the Kitsap County Historical Society. We believe Mayer installed this clock system at the shipyard in about
1915. It probably controlled one or more slave clocks similar to the one pictured.

We were quite excited to be dealing with something of this quality and technical excellence but this clock did not match the traditional Howard No. 74 in any way. Subsequent inquiries of Howard collectors and experts yielded no information on this clock.

The movement is based on a No. 89 electrified to be wound electromagnetically once per minute. Howard developed this movement in about 1904 or 1905. It was used in conventionally dialed master clocks and domestic tall clocks.

This movement is identical in every way to the electrified No. 89 though it is carefully engraved "No. 74 Special". The only things that distinguish the clock from an electrified No. 89 are the dial configuration and the very heavy cast iron dial plate. The dial has been repositioned on the movement so the escape wheel arbor comes out at the center and is fitted with a sweep seconds hand. The hour and minute dial is relegated to a position below the center.

Movement of Howard master clock
Contacts of Howard master clock
Electrical contacts on the escape wheel arbor. One controls the winding electromagnet and the other external slave clock circuits.
Contacts of Howard master clock
The Howard winding system apparently has never been used by another maker. Instead of a single winding lever assembly as used by Standard Electric Time, there are two. Attached to one is the armature and to the other is the winding pawl. As the clock winds, due to the way these parts are shaped, the point at which they meet moves from left to right. Howard and Mayer designed slave clocks use a similar system.
Drawing of contact action
When the magnet is energized it draws the armature towards it, rotating the armature lever up (ccw). This lifts the winding pawl lever, advancing the ratchet wheel one tooth clockwise, winding a small main spring. The locking pawl (not shown) keeps the spring wound. This process is repeated once each minute. Note that the contact point between the armature lever and the winding lever moves from left to right as the armature approaches the pole. This effectively shortens the lever arm as the magnetic force on the armature increases and helps insure a positive start to the winding cycle.

Howard Secondary Clocks from the collection of Alan Bloore

Catalog #66Movement
Catalog #66, early version circa 1880's, in fine, close-grained mahogany case. Contains earliest known type of Howard secondary clock movement, mounted on a round cast iron back.
Catalog #125Movement
Catalog #125, early version, oak.
Catalog #125Movement
Catalog #125, later version, oak.
Round oak clock, circa 1910Movement
Round oak clock, circa 1910.
Round oak clockMovement
Round oak clock; dial with movement mounted on hinged bezel, circa 1920's.
Later type of square oak clockMovement
Later type of square oak clock, circa 1920's.
Double dial corridor clock in oakMovement
Double dial corridor clock in oak.

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Howard Secondary Clock from the collection of David Rooney

Secondary clock made to City of Boston Schoolhouse Department specifications, which required that hands be accessible from the front by means of a hinged bezel.E. Howard Secondary clock made to City of Boston Schoolhouse Department specifications
Secondary clock made to City of Boston Schoolhouse Department specifications, which required that hands be accessible from the front by means of a hinged bezel.

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To make this project a success, your help is needed. If you can provide a good picture of a special clock, it could well prove to be something that others would enjoy seeing here. Owners of clocks will receive credit unless they wish to remain anonymous. In return, or as a public service, we can provide in over 90% of cases, copies of original factory publications pertaining to a specific clock. These include master clock instructions, technical bulletins and wiring diagrams.

Inquiries concerning available materials may be E-mailed to

Thanks for looking!

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© 2003 - 2016 Jeffrey R. Wood