E. Howard Clock Co four pendulum Isochronal regulator designed by Hezekiah Conant.

This clock was manufactured by The E. Howard Clock Company of Boston, MA in 1888 and is so dated inside the case. In fact, the original order has been found in the Howard Company log books and it indicates that it was ordered on April 3rd, 1888 and was delivered on November 30th of the same year. The order was placed by Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s thread king, Hezekiah Conant. Mr. Conant was charged $1,605 for this clock which was an extraordinary sum of money. Considering that in 188 a two dial tower clock (or public clock) installed in a town meeting house or church steeple cost approximately $400. This is the E. Howard Clock Company’s tour de force. Conant was a a gifted mechanical designer and received a patent for this very unusual timepiece mechanism on the 23rd of August 1887. This clock features an escapement design that incorporates 4 individual mercury pendulums. As a result, it is called an “Isochronal clock.”

Conant’s theory is that four pendulums swinging independently on separate escapements and having a movement that takes their average would be more accurate than a single pendulum clock. Conant claimed that the elimination of error is always in proportion to the square of the number of pendulums. This implies that a two pendulum clock would reduce the error to one fourth, thus four pendulums would reduce the error to one sixteenth. The difficulty in this theory is how to take the multiple pendulums and translate their independent impulses mechanically into a single mechanism. This is ingeniously done with a combination averaging wheels and planetary gears.

The main dial of the clock is formatted in the traditional style. This large dial is divided into twelve hours, the hours are indicated by Roman style numerals. Arabic numerals are used to mark the five minute intervals atop each hour. The individual minutes are marked on the closed time track. This also serves as seconds ring. Each second would be indicated by the long sweep second hand mounted from the center arbor. Each pendulum is represented on the dial plate with a subsidiary dial that tracks their progress. Each pendulum feature four mercury filled canisters and the rods are of different lengths. As a result, each will have a specific number of beats per minute. This clock features pendulums that beat 56, 58, 60 and 62 beats per minute. Each of these dials is marked to indicate at which rate they are tracking. Internally, the dials are geared into pairs and the averaging process begins. The result is recorded on the two smaller dials located above the four individual seconds dials. The gearing is then designed to take these two averages and average once them again. This end result is recorded by the sweep second hand on the main dial. This process of averaging was used extensively by European and American Government ships of the time period. Many ships were designed to carry multiple chronometers on board. The standard practice was to average their results to give correct Greenwich time. This aided in the calculation of the vessels longitude. Conant actually had a first version of this clock Constructed by Tiffany & Co in 1887. That clock is said to have had all four pendulums of the same length. As a result, the astronomers of the day believed that the pendulums would synchronize by overpowering each other. This was due to the vibration that would develop in the pendulums airspace. Conant improved on that clock this with this design by moving the weights to their own dedicated weight channels and constructing the four pendulums of varying lengths.

This massive movement is constructed in brass. The framing features a single back plate. Ten large pillars secured with screws support the three separate sections of the front plate. These plates are line decorated and the upper front plate bears the Maker’s die Stamp, “E. Howard & Co. Boston.” Five and six spoke wheels are driven by two large cast iron weights that are fitted into the cabinet in dedicated weight channels at the back of the case. These are accessible from the sides of the case via doors. The weight cords wind on to grooved barrels at the top of the movement. These are connected to great wheels with stop work and maintaining power. The train is constructed with three sets of planetary wheels designed to carry the power to each of the four deadbeat jeweled pallets escapements. Two of the pendulums are mounted to the front of the movement and two are mounted to the large movement mounting bracket located at the back of the case. The fine regulation arrangement of the sweep second hand is mounted on the right side of the movement. This allows one to adjust the clock to 100th of a second while the clock is in operation.

This custom made purpose built case is constructed in oak and retains it’s original old oak finish. The finish is in excellent condition and has taken a warm and inviting tone. It stands approximately 8 feet tall, 34.5 inches wide and 22 inches deep. Two glass doors in the front of the case allow one to access to the dial and the lower door to the four pendulums. Four smaller glass doors located in the sides of the case allow additional interior access. The bonnet door on the right also has access to the sweep second hands micro adjustment. Four wooden paneled doors, two on each side of the case provide access to the two large weights. The decorative elements incorporated into the design of the case include a combination of Art Nouveau and traditional features. The fluted columns are fully turned. All four terminate at the top with carved Corinthian capitals. This impressive clock has wonderful presence.

Hezekiah Conant of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a successful mechanical engineer and industrialist. His business was the great thread mills of the region during the the last quarter of the 1800’s. This business was called, The Conant Thread Company.

Hezekiah Conant was born in Dudley, Massachusetts on July 28, 1827. He was the fourth child of Hervey and Dolly (Healy) Conant. Hezekiah attended local schools and paid for his own college courses at Nichols Academy in his own home town.

Growing up in rural Dudley, MA, Hezekiah farmed during the summer months and was educated during the winter. At the age of seventeen, he left home for Worcester and entered the printing trade. From there he moved to work in a local machine shop and developed an interest in mechanical drawing. He began to study mechanical engineering. He developed a great ability as a mechanical engineer and inventor. It is reported that some time around 1852, he invented a pair of “lasting pinchers” for the use of shoemakers. He patented this device but did not profit from it. He worked in Boston and in Worcester in various machine shops before he traveled to Hartford, Connecticut where he worked for the gun manufactures. He work in Colt’s firearm manufactory. He also work for Christian Sharp, the inventor of the Sharp rifle. In 1856, he invented and patented an improvement on the Sharp rifle, known as the “gas check.” This was considered so important that the United States and also the British governments immediately ordered its application to all arms manufactured for them by the Sharp Rifle Co. In the same year, he constructed a machine for Samuel Slater & Sons of Webster, Mass. The machine was used for sewing the selvage on doeskins. Conant did no secure on this device, but it was very successful, and has been in use ever since. Mr. Conant soon turned his attention to the improvement of machinery used in the thread manufacture. He constructed a machine for dressing sewing thread and invented an automatic machine for winding spool cotton. Both of these devices were patented. The Willimantic Linen Co was so impressed with this new design that they purchased one-half the patent right, and engaged Mr. Conant, Feb. 1, 1859, as a mechanical expert. He invented the ‘ticketing machine’ which cuts out labels, gums them, and applies them simultaneously to each end of the thread spools at the rate of one hundred per minute. In 1864. he traveled to Europe in the interest of his employers and inspected many of the large thread establishments in the old world, among them the great works of J. & P. Coats and of the Messrs. Clark in Paisley, Scotland. When he returned in 1865, he was superintendent of the works of the Willimantic Linen Co. until to 1868. During this period, the company had more than doubled its capital and production.

In 1868, Mr. Conant resigned his position with the Willimantic Linen Co., and removed to Pawtucket, where he organized the Conant Thread Co., with an authorized capital of $100,000, and became the treasurer of the corporation and the manager of the works. During the period of development, Mr. Conant has continued to be treasurer and manager. He continued to develop and maintain a relationship with the J. & P. Coats of Paisley, Scotland, the leading thread manufacturer in the world. Conant’s business grows and it employs over 2000 persons. It is considered to be one of the best arranged, best equipped, and best organized establishment of its kind in the world. By 1893, the business covers about forty acres of land and the capital invested is more than $4,000,000. Good wages have always been paid to the operatives.

E. Conant had additional interests and responsibilities in the region. He is president of the Pawtucket Institution for Savings; president and director of the Pacific National Bank; vice-president of the Pawtucket Safe Deposit Co.; and a director in the First National and the Slater National banks of Pawtucket. He is a patron of Nichols Academy where he erected new school edifices, dormitories, an astronomical observatory built and equipped, and a fine library and reading-room.

Mr. Conant has been married three times. His first wife was Sarah Williams, daughter of Col. Morris and Elizabeth (Eaton) Learned, to whom he was married Oct. 4, 1853. She died July 17, 1855. Nov. 1859, he was married to a sister of his first wife, Harriet Knight Learned, who died July 6, 1864. Dec. 5, 1865, he was married to Mary Eaton, daughter of Dr. Samuel P. and Harriet (Eaton) Knight.

Hezekiah Conant of Pawtucket, Rhode Island died on January 22, 1902 at the age of 74. He is buried in Dudley, Mass in the Corbin Cemetery.

About Edward Howard of Boston, Massachusetts.

The E. Howard Clock Company has an outstanding reputation for making high quality weight driven wall timepieces, standing regulators, public clocks and electro-mechanical master and watchman clocks.

The E. Howard & Company succeeded the Howard & Davis firm in 1857. The Howard and Davis firm was comprised of Edward Howard and David P. Davis and was established in 1842. Both men served their apprenticeship with Aaron Willard Jr of Boston. This firm was involved in watch and clock manufacturing since 1842. This firm also made high grade clocks, precision balances, sewing machines and fire engines. After the dissolution of Howard and Davis, Edward Howard went on to become Boston’s leading manufacture of weight driven clocks. This included residential clocks, commercial clocks and tower clocks. They also sold a large number of watchman and salve clock systems. These sold well in the late 1800’s.

It has been said that the E. Howard Clock company never made an inexpensive clock and that everything they made was of very good quality. As a result, Howard clocks have become very collectible and are prized by their owners. Today, the E. Howard clock name enjoys outstanding name recognition.

For a more in depth reading of E. Howard and his various businesses, please read “Willard’s Patent Time Pieces” written by Paul Foley.

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