Whether it's a Ship bell, Passing strike, or Dummy, a clock with a bell is a bell. In the past, a bell would be attached to a clock to keep time. Today, a clock without a bell is called a dummy.
Among Philadelphians, the dummy clocks of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century are infamous for being a trifle less than impressive. The dummy clocks that stood on Independence Hall's east and west walls for over two centuries had a hefty number of digits. The dummy clocks are a relic of a bygone era when Philadelphians depended on a network of public clocks to keep them on track.
It was not until 1903, nearly two hundred years after the dummy clocks were removed, that they were replaced with something more modern: a functioning clock. It also had the requisite bells and whistles. Its biggest draw was the fact that it could display time to the decimal equivalent of a second; this is a feat that was impossible in the days before the invention of a clock synchronization device.
The aforementioned dummy clock was not the only one in the city. In fact, the city hall clock was not the only one with a bell and a whistle.
Passing Strike Clocks
Typically, a passing strike clock is a mechanical clock that rings the bell once per hour. A passing strike clock is different from a chiming clock, which chimes part of a tune every quarter hour. In a passing strike clock, the hammer mechanism is positioned on the left side of the clock, while in a chiming clock, the hammer mechanism is positioned on the right side.
The striking train in a passing strike clock is typically the same as the timing train. The striking train was originally installed on the left side of the clock, parallel to the timing train. However, later clock manufacturers streamlined the design, installing the striking train on the right side of the clock. The strike train is a gear train that scales down the power source, transmitting force to the hammer mechanism.
The hammer mechanism is a cam that raises and strikes the bell. The hammer is attached to the mechanism with a follower. The following parts are typically used in a passing strike clock:
Ship Bell Strikes
During sailing ship days, bells were used to sound time. It was an ancient tradition. By the 18th century, seagoing custom was nearly universal in the Mediterranean area.
The bell was also used to keep track of duty watches. Most crew members would be divided into two or four groups. Each group took turns with essential activities. The bell would be struck every half hour to keep track of time.
The bells were also used to signal the presence of important people on the ship. When a sailor died, eight bells were rung to commemorate the occasion.
A ship's bell is an essential link in a ship's emergency alarm system. A bell is also used to signal the location of a fire. For instance, it would be rung for one, two or three rings to indicate the location of the fire.
The bell was used to sound time on ships as early as the 15th century. The first mechanical ship's bell clock was manufactured in the 19th century in America.
Latrobe's Clock With a Bell
Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe designed the first cathedral in the United States. His design was chosen because it fit the architecture of the Cathedral. His model depicts a standing female figure holding a book and a notepad. The figure is playing a lute-like stringed instrument, accompanied by two drums. The drawing also shows two drums and a long-necked banjo.
The bells were installed in 1831. The original clock made by Thomas Stretch in 1752-1753 was not accurate. It burned during the riots that destroyed Saint Augustine's Church in May 1844. The bells were reinstalled in 1844 and the bell supports were repaired in 1861. A second clock was also made by Thomas Stretch, and it was sold to St. Augustine's Church. Latrobe's design was chosen for the clock because it fit the architecture of the Cathedral. He also hired Italian sculptor Carlo Franzoni to make a model for the clock. Latrobe died in New Orleans in 1820 of yellow fever.