Meeting Recap: Choosing a Clock: Regulation, Cosmopolitanism and Humbuggery

Professor Kevin Birth, Department of Anthropology, Queens CollegeCity University of New York
September 5, 2017


Video recordings of meetings are available to HSNY members.

Imagine if you will, Grand Central Terminal at rush hour on a Friday afternoon. Now, imagine that every train line had clocks that told a different time. What chaos would result! At the September 2017 meeting of the Horological Society of New York, Professor Kevin Birth discussed the history manipulating time for political gain, known as time pluralism.

Birth gave examples from medieval times up to present day. Highlights include English, Austrian, and American history, including the 1859 New York Democratic Party Convention. Over the centuries, hours have changed dramatically from country to country and from season to season, beginning with sundials and even paper hour tables that served to explain what church clock bells meant from many different cultures. Clocks controlled business, the work day, and were also used to predict tides for merchant who moved their wares on rivers and canals. 

HSNY thanks Professor Kevin Birth for the fascinating lecture!