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Caro
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PostSubject: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 02:28

I've just starting reading a book called The Making of New Zealanders by Ron Palenski, a new book about NZ identity.  This is often considered to have gelled at Gallipoli, but though Palenski is better known as a sports journalist and accepts the importance of sport in NZ's culture and identity, he traces their sense of New Zealandness much further back.

One of the things he says strengthened it from being "in its toddler years once likened to six little fishing villages" was the coming of telegraph.  The telegraph first opened up communications between cities and their ports (Christchurch and Lyttelton, Dunedin and Port Chalmers), then the country generally and then international communications. 

Palenski says the introduction of the telegraph led directly to the decision to standardise time in NZ - "a world first for the fledging country that is hardly ever acknowledged". And he says this standardisation of time was another factor in bringing NZers together as a country instead of individual areas.  New Zealand Mean Time was adopted in 1868. He quotes a newspaper report in 1866 complaining about the telegraph office closing at five in Hokitika. It says, rather tellingly, "The office closes at five o'clock - - that is, at some hour which the presiding official chooses to "make" five - for there is no time in Hokitika." 

I had not thought about this much before - before Greenwich Mean Time how did countries and towns decide on what time it was at their place?  Time was important long before the mid-19th century - all those competitions about fixing longitude and making clocks and working on pendulums shows that - but who decided and how when it was whatever time?  Did Britain have varying times in earlier days?  What about China and Arabia with their early knowledge?  or huge places like Russia?  Did small places just have some sort of decision about the best time to call noon in, say, summer and work from there?  They surely didn't have varying daylight savings/summertime time happening all over the place, and all over the seasons.  How did it work?

(The board tells me my title must be at least 10 characters - why? I just put 'time' originally and it wouldn't accept this.)
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 08:45

For most places in Europe the fixed time points were sunrise, noon and sunset, with only noon, ie when the sun is directly overhead, being a clear immovable fixed point throughout the year. Sunrise was of course earlier in summer and later in winter. Didn't the Romans divide up the day and night each into 12 "hours" and thus a Roman daylight hour was longer in summer than in winter? 

Knowing the exact hour was certainly very important for the religious orders: the Rule of St Benedict specified certain activities at certain times of the day and night: at midday, 3am, dawn, sunrise, tertia (halfway between sunrise and midday), sexta (midday), nona (mid afternoon), vespers (an hour before sunset) and 9 pm. ….. these hours associated with prayer and ritual are the ‘canonical’ hours, and for a monk obeying them correctly was vital for the soul's salvation.

During the day these hours could usually be determined by a sundial but during the night a monk had to be designated to sit up with a calibrated candle to ring a bell at the required times. This was a primary drive for the construction of clocks which could automatically determine the time and sound a bell. The first such clocks were varieties of the old Greek clepsydra (the water clock). It is interesting that during a 1198 fire in the great church of Bury St Edmunds it is recorded that: "the young men among us ran to get water, some to the well and others to the clock …." ie it was a water-clock containing a large reservoir of water. In Europe the first mechanical clocks start to come in over the next century although they rarely had a clock face and were still concerned primarily in ringing a bell at the fixed canonical times.

I think the development of clocks to display the time came with the development of business. And thus by about the 14th century any city concerned with it’s status would have erected a great clock to display the common local time for the whole town. And it would necessarily be only the local time as determined from when the sun was locally at its zenith ie local noon. In days when no message could travel much faster than a horse this really didn’t matter and so ‘local time’ remained until the 19th century and the development of telegraph and railway systems spanning the whole country. Then not only was it possible to send out a precise time signal from London but it was also necessary for the safe and punctual operation of the railway system.


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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:09

Spain (for religious reasons) and France (as part of their revolutionary rationalisation of time measurement) both had complex systems of coordination in place to ensure a standard time across the country prior to the 19th century. However it was in Britain, and the advent of railways, that the first "real-time verification" system of a standard national time was pioneered. The requirement for rail timetables to follow a standard made it imperative that a dependable method be devised not only to impose a standard time but to ensure that it was absolutely accurate throughout the entire island. Chronometers developed for nautical application therefore became quickly deployed on the rail network, and as this infrastructure quickly grew throughout the entire land it became possible for the first time to be certain that everyone in the land played by the same rules. Interestingly Ireland, being a separate island, managed to retain a half-hour discrepancy from the rest of Britain for quite a while, though this was as rigorously applied through the same method.
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:20

@nordmann wrote:
...... France (as part of their revolutionary rationalisation of time measurement) both had complex systems of coordination in place to ensure a standard time across the country prior to the 19th century.

How did they do it, Nordmann? I know Napoleon set up a sophisticated semaphore system across the country, much like that in Britain which was used to communicate between the Admiralty in London and the fleet at Portsmouth, but the French system spanned virtually the whole country from Paris to the Med' and the Atlantic ports to the Alps. Even so I wouldn have thought sending the most simple of signals would still take couple of minutes to cross the country.
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:21

Caro, I have amended that rule regarding topic title and it will now allow four-letter words (you know what I mean). I've taken the liberty of changing this thread's title to the one you originally intended.
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:30

When did wrist watches become popular, I wonder? Victorian men always carried a pocket watch, like the White Rabbit:


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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:35

Hi MM - in Britain they used a combination of methods. Church bells played a prominent role. An act passed in the 18th century (I think under Pitt the Younger) made it compulsory for a synchronisation using bells to be undertaken on an appointed day each month and all public clocks adjusted accordingly. It was almost impossible to enforce however. A similar system using mail coaches and clocks failed too.

In Britain it was always getting everybody to play ball that let the system down - and bloody-mindedness often played a big role. Regional time variation was tied up with local identity, leading to some severe anomalies (Cardiff prided itself with being the "earliest" city in Britain, despite it being several degrees west of Greenwich). Even after the railway arrived there were difficulties. Within London, for example, John Bellville was appointed in 1836 to wear a watch that he must regularly synchronise with the clock in Greenwich and then walk around the entire city checking that everyone was in sync with him. He had the power to levy fines on frequent offenders, confiscate faulty equipment, and even close churches and other public buildings that had clocks which were out of kilter. Amazingly after his death this extraordinary job (and power) was kept in the family, first by his widow Maria and then by Ruth, his daughter, who kept making her rounds right up until the Blitz in 1940!

Temp - wristwatches were an aeronautical invention, popularised principally through their use by fighter pilots in WWI, both on the British/American and German sides.
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:42

@nordmann wrote:


Temp - wristwatches were an aeronautical invention, popularised principally through their use by fighter pilots in WWI, both on the British/American and German sides.

I had no idea about that! Just found this:


Wristlets, as they were called, were reserved for women, and considered more of a passing fad than a serious timepiece. In fact, they were held in such disdain that many a gentlemen were actually quoted to say they “would sooner wear a skirt as wear a wristwatch”.

The established watchmaking community looked down on them as well. Because of their size, few believed wristlets could be made to achieve any level of accuracy, nor could they withstand the basic rigors of human activity. Therefore, very few companies produced them in quantity, with the vast majority of those being small ladies’ models, with delicate fixed wire or chain-link bracelets.

This all started to change in the nineteenth century, when soldiers discovered their usefulness during wartime situations. Pocket watches were clumsy to carry and thus difficult to operate while in combat. Therefore, soldiers fitted them into primitive “cupped” leather straps so they could be worn on the wrist, thereby freeing up their hands during battle. It is believed that Girard-Perregaux equipped the German Imperial Naval with similar pieces as early as the 1880s, which they wore on their wrists while synchronizing naval attacks, and firing artillery.

Decades later, several technological advents were credited with the British victory in the Anglo-Boer War (South Africa 1899-1902), including smokeless gunpowder, the magazine-fed rifle and even the automatic or machine gun. However, some would argue that it was a not-so-lethal device that helped turn the tide into Britain’s favor: the wristwatch.

While the British troops were superiorly trained and equipped, they were slightly outnumbered, and at a disadvantage while attacking the Boer’s heavily entrenched positions. Thanks to these recently designed weapons, a new age of war had emerged, which, now more than ever, required tactical precision. British officers achieved success by using these makeshift wristwatches to coordinate simultaneous troop movements, and synchronize flanking attacks against the Boer’s formations.

In fact, an “Unsolicited Testimonial” dated June 7, 1900, appeared in the 1901, Goldsmith’s Company Watch and Clock Catalog as follows:

“… I wore it continually in South Africa on my wrist for 3 ½ months. It kept most excellent time, and never failed me.—Faithfully yours, Capt. North Staffs. Regt.”



http://www.qualitytyme.net/pages/rolex_articles/history_of_wristwatch.html
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 09:48

Interesting stuff indeed. It was such an obvious advantage for people who required to use both their hands in time-critical exercises that it is a wonder it took so long to become popular. I believe an early Wodehouse story concerns a "gent" wearing one to the great amusement of his peers, showing that even in the 1920s the wearing of a wristwatch was still considered a "fad".
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 10:03

Further to your comments about attempts to synchronise time, whether in Britain or France, I'm surprised they bothered. Mapping a country was sufficiently accurate by then that it would have been an easy matter to calculate exactly how many seconds any particular town or city would be either in advance or behind the national datum (eg Greenwich) and then apply a correction to the locally observed noonday zenith. (Basically doing the longitude calculation in reverse: knowing the degrees east or west and calculating back to get the time difference) and apply the correction to bring local time into line with the national standard. 

But I can understand local predudice. Here I am on Western European Time, an hour ahead of Greenwich, but geographically I am on a line of longitude only fractionally east of Dover. So I see the sun at its zenith and so due south just seconds before London does (at 12:00 GMT), but my clock tells me the local (national) time is 13:00. It's even worse for some French towns, Brest for example is further west than Liverpool, Swansea and even Plymouth ... at 4° west of Greenwich, that's by my calculations over 16 minutes behind GMT, ie 11:44 am "true local time", while the town hall clock in Brest still has to show 13:00!


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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 10:12

During the Napoleonic wars there was a concerted effort to at least get the coastal towns around Britain to adopt the same time, the idea being that a directive to counter a possible French naval assault or invasion could be easily transmitted and readily intelligible to everyone without having to take local time differences into account. This was critical as a landing by the French would coincide with tide times which themselves were variable under a standard system. Trying to account for two variables, one totally subjectively applied, made a general order just too complicated.

It didn't work however. And anyway the French didn't invade. But it did get everyone thinking about bringing such a standard about in a practical way.

On the subject of regional variations; in Ireland some towns and townlands adopted malleable time - much like the ancient Romans. In Winter, for example, daylight was still reckoned to have twelve hours - just very fast ones. In Summer the same was true of night. This meant that clocks were meaningless. In some places in Ireland we suspect the same system is still secretly being used by locals - at least if the experience of gauging business opening hours within the so-called "service industry" (ie. drinking industry) are anything to go by.
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 11:00

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published The Man with the Watches in 1898. You can read this short story here:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/ManWat.shtml


   I have said that there was no personal property which might help to identify him, but it is true that there was one peculiarity about this unknown young man which was much commented upon at the time. In his pockets were found no fewer than six valuable gold watches, three in the various pockets of his waist-coat, one in his ticket-pocket, one in his breast-pocket, and one small one set in a leather strap and fastened round his left wrist. The obvious explanation that the man was a pickpocket, and that this was his plunder, was discounted by the fact that all six were of American make and of a type which is rare in England. Three of them bore the mark of the Rochester Watchmaking Company; one was by Mason, of Elmira; one was unmarked; and the small one, which was highly jewelled and ornamented, was from Tiffany, of New York.

A vintage Tiffany watch - will try to find an image...

PS Can't resist slipping in a Jane Austen quotation. Here's Mary Crawford (Mansfield Park):

"Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch."
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PostSubject: Re: Time   Mon 08 Jul 2013, 11:31

Far too many Tiffany images to choose from, but I found this timepiece which, if I had a spare $21,500, I think I would be tempted to buy - even though I have no idea what "pre-hairspring verge" means. It is, according to the blurb, a "very rare English silver gilt pre-hairspring verge pocket watch made by Henry Grendon, Royal Exchange, London, circa 1660".

What times (presuming it's genuine!) this watch has seen!


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PostSubject: Re: Time   Tue 09 Jul 2013, 01:04

Thanks for all those interesting bits.  I hadn't realised wearing a wristwatch was quite so modern.  Although the flippant comment from the rather glib Mary Crawford would seem to me so show that Austen herself didn't find watches so useless.  (My you, my watch is usually too fast or too slow even now.  And it's not a cheap one. Though not very new now.)

Prior to general public clocks in NZ and wristwatches, the townspeople and visiting sailors were signalled the time by the firing of a cannon or the dropping of a timeball.  [The timeball in Lyttelton was a tourist attraction till the earthquakes. It wasn't built until 1876. It was the only working one in NZ and one of only 5 worldwide, but it was demolished in the February 2011 earthquake.]  http://www.teara.govt.nz/files/p6692hpt.jpg

The regional conflict was obvious in NZ too.  We still had provincial government in those days and the Otago newspaper railed that imposing Wellington time on Dunedin "was a fresh instance of the tyrannical caprice which actuates our rulers at Wellington. This was when there was apparently one time for local things and another for government offices.  This caused problems with judges when the local court didn't adhere to this rule.  It was following this sort of difficulty that a standardised time was proposed.  Wellington Mean Time was changed to New Zealand Mean Time.  MM, my book gives a list of what the newspapers said the new time meant.  To convert the mean time to 'true ' time you had to add 9 minutes 16.7 seconds to Auckland (did watches in those days manage tens of seconds?), add 17 minutes 31.7 seconds to Napier, down to subtracting 6 minutes 43.3 seconds for Port Chalmers and subtracting 12 minutes 35 seconds for Bluff way down south.

The time chosen with a meridian of 172 degrees 30 minutes east was because it was reasonably close to the average throughout the country and also a neat 11 hours 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich.  (Why are we now 12 hours ahead?) It was decided by Scottish-born [NZ historians usually differentiate between various areas of Britain] scientist, doctor, cartographer and geologist James Hector.  Standardised time is easier for a small country - Australia still has to have several different times, which means if you are telephoning there or watching some live television sport you have to work out not only whether daylight saving has any effect but also which number of varying hours you have to subtract to get it right.

Thank you for changing the title, Nordmann.
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