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 What is This Strange Device?

The Huletts Current

News & Opinion About Huletts Landing, N.Y.

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What is This Strange Device?

January 18th, 2010 · No Comments

This is the original night watchman’s clock used throughout the history of the Huletts Hotel. Night watchmen at major hotels carried this device with them throughout the evening.

Now you might be asking; “What is a night watchman’s clock?”

Well between 1910 and 1940 it was actually a piece of new technology to see that a night watchman was properly doing his rounds. It worked this way. By definition a night watchman was on the job while everyone else was asleep. So theoretically it was possible for a night watchman to take a little time off from his job without anyone knowing because they were asleep. However, if the guard could prove he was doing his rounds, and was in the right place at the right time, his job performance couldn’t be questioned. This led to the watchman’s clock.

A guard would carry this clock and proceed on his rounds throughout the night. At certain places there would be a “station” with a key that he would put into the clock which would record what time he had visited that station. There were numerous stations within the hotel and on the grounds. One station was behind the Casino.

Inserting a station’s key into his clock would record the time that the night watchman was at that station.

Many hotels made their night watchmen carry this device. As you can see in the picture below, it was specifically made by “Lathem Watchman’s Clock Company”.

With the advent of modern computer and video technology, this device became completely obsolete.

I’ve always wondered what stories a clock like this could tell. Imagine numerous night watchmen swinging it as they proceeded on their rounds during the many years it was in use. Note that the cord is knotted on the end to make it easier to carry. It’s also quite heavy.

So, I have heard stories that the night watchman had heavy footsteps. While I can’t verify this, we at least know he walked on time!

Tags: History