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James Hamblet 1824-1900. Presentation by Keith Rickard. Great-great-great-grandfather. James Hamblet. Born in Chelsea, Suffolk, MA on 16 Jun 1824 Had a sister Susan Deliverance Hamblet (b. 1828) Lived in Boston with his family in 1830

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james hamblet 1824 1900

James Hamblet1824-1900

Presentation by Keith Rickard

james hamblet
James Hamblet
  • Born in Chelsea, Suffolk, MA on 16 Jun 1824
  • Had a sister Susan Deliverance Hamblet (b. 1828)
  • Lived in Boston with his family in 1830
  • Worked as a brass finisher in 1850, his father as a soapstone worker, as can be seen in the 1850 US Federal Census:
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James Hamblet
  • Married his first wife, Indiana Kendall, on 5 Jul 1853 in Boston and had 3 children with her.
  • Worked for William Bond & Son making astronomical instruments, as seen in the 1860 (Boston) census:
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James Hamblet
  • Left William Bond & Son in 1862 and goes into the business of manufacturing telegraph instrument and apparatus with Edmands and forms the firm “Edmands & Hamblet” in Hanover Street, Boston.
  • In 1868 his firm produces the “Magneto Telegraph” device, including the magneto-electrical dial instrument.
  • In 1870 James marries his second wife, Mary Louisa Lester Larabee, and has two children with her.
  • The 1870 census (Boston) shows the following:
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James Hamblet
  • In 1870, one of Hamblet’s telegraph instruments business patrons was inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Edison was an “ambitious telegraph operator” in the Western Union office in Boston who needed Hamblet’s help for his early inventions which included a stock ticker. Edison regularly used Hamblet’s workshop.

Picture of Thomas Edison c.1872

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James Hamblet
  • Between 1872-1876, Hamblet starts working for E Howard & Company, clock makers (est. 1842) in Boston. He becomes very interested in the regulation of clocks. His main job was to manufacture, sell and set-up the Electro-Magnetic Watch Clock”

Picture of James Hamblet c.1875

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James Hamblet

Electro-Magnetic Watch Clock

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James Hamblet
  • In 1877, Hamblet leaves E Howard & Co.
  • He has an interest in the Western Union’s plan to transmit a time signal at noon from the US Naval Observatory at Washington DC. It is thought that this may have been Hamblet’s suggestion.
  • He moves to Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and new children.
  • He acquires a number of West Union circuits and starts providing a time service to jewellers and other stores and offices in New York City.
  • He designed a cogwheel attachment for a central master clock which would then automatically transmit time signals to sounders in subscribers’ premises.
  • This clock was synchronised with Washington DC
  • He later becomes General Superintendent of the Time Telegraph Company.
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James Hamblet
  • In 1878 he becomes manager after founding the Western Union Time Service at the Western Union Building.
  • He extends it to thousands of towns & cities across America where Western Union’s electrically synchronised clocks were installed.
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James Hamblet
  • With James’s cooperation, a large time ball on a flag pole erected on the tower of the Western Union Building.
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James Hamblet
  • Extract from the 1880 Census (Brooklyn New York City)
  • In 1882, Hamblet obtains signatures of jewellers and clockmakers to petition to Congress to pass a law establishing four time zones and standard time across the States.
  • Hamblet had noted that the some 300 times zones thatexisted across America made time table setting for rail companies very difficult to achieve and maintain. And forpassengers to understand
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James Hamblet
  • In 1882, Hamblet went on a crusade round America to preach the need of correct time to the nation.
  • He wrote articles in newpapers, magazines, visited railroad and steamship companies, lectured before socieites, clubs and churches for the adoption of standard time.
  • In the 19 Jan 1882 edition of the New York Times it was reported that he spoke before some 340 members of the New York Electrical Society about his experiments in the construction of his clock which could control the mechanism of his design in some 58 clocks.
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James Hamblet
  • With his snow white hair and long beard he became known to the public as “Father Time”!
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James Hamblet

The Day of Two Noons

  • On 18 November 1883, from his office (Room 48) in the Western Union Building, No 45, 193 Broadway, New York City, Hamblet’s complicated and delicate clock, which formed the regulator of some 2000 clocks at jewellery stores across New York, was stopped for3 minutes 58.38 seconds, so standardising New York time.
  • After checking the adjustment by comparing by telegraph with observations at Washington DC, Allegony (PA) and Cambridge (MA) that all was correct the Time Ball then dropped at the “new” noon.
  • Railroad companies immediately recognised the new standard time zones and adopted time tables based on standard time.
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James Hamblet
  • Crowds gathered in the streets with watches in hand to check their time, and captains of vessels trained their telescopes on the Time Ball.
  • On 18 March 1884, after much pressure by an aroused public opinion, Congress passed the law establishing Standard Time.
  • The four time zone were officially recognised:EST Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5 hours)CST Central Standard Time (GMT -6 hours)MST Mountain Standard Time (GMT -7 hours)PST Pacific Standard Time (GMT -8 hours)
  • Not everywhere adopted standard time, but Congress made it mandatory on 19 March 1918.
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James Hamblet
  • Because of his new fame, Hamblet was seen as a Brooklynite socialite. The New York press report on his attendance at certain functions.
  • In 1890, Hamblet is secretary to the Brooklyn Institute and becomes president on 11 October 1890.
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James Hamblet
  • He presides over lectures and meetings which included:

25 Oct 1890: The Magnetic Current7 Nov 1890: Electrical Transmission of Time (by himself)15 Nov 1890: Sub Marine Telegraphy13 Dec 1890: Inspecting an Electric Plant27 Dec 1890: Some Introductory Notes on Electricity25 Jan 1891: Monthly council meeting7 Feb 1891: Inspecting the Edison Plant8 Mar 1891: About Arc Lighting21 Mar 1891: Construction of Electric Motors1 May 1891: Annual General Meeting of all Departments 9 May 1891: Annual Meeting of the Dept of Electricity7 May 1892: Electrical Exhibition in November14 Jan 1893: What is Electricity?6 Feb 1897: New Electric Points16 May1898: The Magnetic Field

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James Hamblet
  • In 1894 Hamblet becomes a Professor and in 1896 a trustee of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers of New York
  • On 24 Dec 1889, Hamblet has a patent approved at the US Patent office.
  • Patent number 418,125 “Electric Synchronising Device for clock Pendulums”. This device was probably used to synchronise those clocks subscribing to the Western Union Time Service.
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James Hamblet
  • Between Oct and Nov 1894, Hamblet suffers but recovers from a severe attack of pneumonia brought on by a cold which had settled on his lungs for 5 weeks.
  • On 2 January 1900, Hamblet dies from another pneumonia attack.
The Brooklyn Eagle publishes his obituary:“James Hamblet died at 20 Sidney Place last Tuesday of pneumonia. He had been ill since last fall. Mr Hamblet was born in Boston seventy-five years ago and came to Brooklyn from San Francisco about thirty years ago. He became interested in electricity when a youth, and filled the office of superintendent of the Western Union time service for twenty-five years. The great clock on the telegraph building in Manhattan, which regulates the time of the various office(r)s of the Western Union system, in the United States, is a monument to his skill”. He was president of the electrical department of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, for ten years last passed. He was also head usher and clerk of the vestry of St. Ann’s P. E. Church at the time of his death. He leaves a wife [Mary Louisa Howard Hamblet] and daughter [Edwina Hamblet].”
James Hamblet

1824 – 1900