Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life

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University of Chicago Press, 2013 - History - 255 pages
The public spaces and buildings of the United States are home to many thousands of timepieces—bells, time balls, and clock faces—that tower over urban streets, peek out from lobbies, and gleam in store windows. And in the streets and squares beneath them, men, women, and children wear wristwatches of all kinds. Americans have decorated their homes with clocks and included them in their poetry, sermons, stories, and songs. And as political instruments, social tools, and cultural symbols, these personal and public timekeepers have enjoyed a broad currency in art, life, and culture.
In Marking Modern Times, Alexis McCrossen relates how the American preoccupation with time led people from across social classes to acquire watches and clocks. While noting the difficulties in regulating and synchronizing so many timepieces, McCrossen expands our understanding of the development of modern time discipline, delving into the ways we have standardized time and describing how timekeepers have served as political, social, and cultural tools in a society that doesn’t merely value time but regards access to time as a natural-born right, a privilege of being an American.
 

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Contents

Unveiling the Jewelers Clock
1
Times Tongue and Hands The First Public Clocks in the United States
24
Clockwatching The Uneasy Authority of Clocks and Watches in Antebellum America
41
Republican Heirlooms Instruments of Modern Time Discipline Pocket Watches during and after the Civil War
63
Noon November 18 1883 The Abolition of Local Time the Debut of a National Standard
89
American Synchronicity TurnoftheCentury Tower Clocks Street Clocks and Time Balls
114
Monuments and Monstrosities The Apex of the Public Clock Era
143
Content to Look at My Watch The End of the Public Clock Era
171
Notes
185
Index
247
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About the author (2013)

Alexis McCrossen is associate professor of history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She is the author of Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday and the editor of Land of Necessity: Consumer Culture in the United States–Mexico Borderlands.

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