E. Howard & Co., Makers, Boston. An Astronomical Floor Standing Regulator Clock with a single-arm gravity escapement. 221130

This floor standing regulator was manufactured by the E. Howard & Company of Boston, Massachusetts circa 1859. This regulator form is illustrated in the 1858 printing of the E. Howard & Co., catalog. This early catalog advertises that E. Howard & Co. was the successors to Howard & Davis and The Boston Watch Co. This Regulator predates the numbering system applied to the later astronomical regulator versions. It is referred to as their “Astronomical Clock.” This catalog states that “this clock, for beauty of workmanship and nicety of performance, is fully equal to any imported Regulator.” Astronomical Clocks like this one were used in observatories, Railroads, and by watchmakers. These Regulators achieved a high level of accuracy to a variation of one-hundredth of a second per day. It was available in a number of requested dial sizes and case shapes. This may be the standard version due to the fact that similar clocks are known. One of which is in the collection of the Smithsonian, and several others have sold publically in the last decade.

The distinctively shaped case is constructed in black walnut and retains an older surface. The cabinet is, for the most part, complete except where noted in this description. The base section is substantial. The bottom board rests on the floor. The outer edge is finished in a half-rounded profile. The base section features inset panels on three sides. The center panel features a vibrant selection of crotch walnut graining. The wood selected for the two side panels is more conservatively grained. A complex molding transitions the base to the waist. This middle section features glass panels on all three sides. Nicely shaped molding frames these glass panels. Access to the interior of the case is through the front panel. This is not hinged. Two wooden dowels or pins secure the bottom in place. The top is held in place with a spring-loaded catch. Unlock the top lock by turning the knob above it, and the panel tips out from the top to disengage. Access through this door allows one to make timing adjustments to the pendulum. Please note that the board that supports the pendulum swing indicator is missing. Also missing is the wooden mount for the swing indicator and the brass beat scale. We are prepared to restore these two elements if one wishes? A multi-shaped molding transitions the waist to the neck. The neck area is nicely tapered and supports the round head of the case. Due to the shape of the head, this form is often called a “drum-head.” The construction of this head is evident from the sides. It is constructed with six layers of laminated wood and then shaped. This early model is also decorated with two carved details positioned around the bezel. The lower carving is attached to the case. The carving at the top of the case is mounted on the bezel with dowels. It will tip back if you open this dial door. Both carved details are nicely executed and feature a pleasing design. The circular-shaped bezel is fitted with glass. It is hinged at the top of the case and locks closed with a spring-loaded lock. The knob for this lock is located in the center of the lower carving.

If you are not familiar with the astronomical regulator dial format, it can seem strange. The hours, minutes, and seconds are displayed independently of each other. This dial features a 12-hour layout. (Occasionally, you will find these in a 24-hour format.) The minute ring is located along the perimeter of this dial. Each of the twelve five-minute markers is indicated in Arabic numerals. These are positioned on the outside of the minute ring. This closed minute ring is divided into 60 divisions. The minute hand is centered on this dial. The seconds display is located inside the time ring below the 60-minute mark. This is also divided into 60 increments. Each of the 10-second divisions are marked with the corresponding Arabic numeral. The second hand is fitted directly onto the escape-wheel arbor. The hour display is positioned in the lower half of the dial. Each hour is represented with a Roman-style hour numeral. The Maker’s name is beautifully engraved across the middle of the dial-in large script lettering. It reads, “E. Howard & Co. – Makers, Boston.” The dial sheet is brass and measures approximately 14.5 inches in diameter. The brass dial plate is skillfully engraved. The engravings are filled with paraffin, and then the dial surface is treated with a silver wash. The silver does not adhere to the paraffin, and the result is an excellent contrast between the flat surfaces of the dial and the engravings.

This movement is heavily constructed. The two large rectangular-shaped plates are supported by five large turned pillars. The shaped pillars are secured with screws. Brass dust covers are fitted on the three exposed sides of the works. These are secured to the sides of the plates with thumbscrews. All of the outer facing surfaces, the plates, and dust covers are decorated with scraping. This design remains and is still in very good condition. The grooved winding barrel is mounted between the plates. The works are powered by a single weight and is wound with a crank key. Originally it had a Geneva stop work. This gear needs to be restored. The weight descends to the left of the pendulum in the interior of the case. This movement is designed to run for an 8-day duration. The escape wheel is cut as a dead-beat. The pallet facings are fitted with jewels, as are the first two holes. This movement is also fitted with maintaining power. The pendulum is impulsed by a single-arm gravity escapement. The pendulum suspension hangs from a bridge that is mounted to the back of the case. At the top of the crutch is a Manuel beat adjuster. This clock is fitted with a brass and steel pendulum rod, a decorative rating nut, and two glass jar mercury pendulum bob.

The pendulum frame is constructed in steel and brass. The two glass jars feature a cut design and are original to this clock. Brass caps secure the jars in the frame. The jars should be filled with mercury. The mercury compensates for changes in temperature and keeps the center of gravity stable over the length of the entire unit. The rating nut is engraved with graduations for adjustment. This pendulum swings behind the clockwork.

This clock is approximately 7 feet 8 inches (92 inches) tall. Wen measured at the upper waist molding; the case is 21.5 inches wide and almost 14 inches deep. This is an early example and was made circa 1858.

About Edward Howard of Boston, Massachusetts.

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 clock apprenticeship under the guidance of Aaron Willard Jr in Boston. The Howard & Davis firm made high-grade clocks, precision balances, sewing machines, fire engines, watches. After the dissolution of Howard and Davis, Edward Howard became Boston’s leading manufacturer of weight-driven residential, commercial, and tower clocks. Howard also sold a large number of watchman and salve clock systems. These sold well in the late 1800s.

It has been said that the E. Howard Clock company never made an inexpensive clock, and 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 Edward Howard and his various businesses, please read “Willard’s Patent Time Pieces” written by Paul Foley.


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