Alarm clocks: Necessary evil?


Most of us are familiar with phrases that illustrate symbols of American life, such as “a car in every household” by Henry Ford, and “Motherhood, Apple Pie and the Flag.”

I wonder if anyone ever quipped, “An alarm clock in every room?” Originally, alarm clocks were given titles suitable for many rooms in a house: kitchen alarms, dining alarms and bedroom alarms.

True alarm clocks are a lot newer than apple pie, motherhood or the flag. It was about 1870 before this “announcing of the beginning of the day” alarm was introduced. It is natural to concede that apple pie is more enjoyable than the clanging or even a buzz of an alarm clock.

Fitting name. The name “alarm clock” signifies exactly that, a sharp reminder of a definite time of day. It was never termed a happy, gleeful, pleasant or good morning clock. (While you are shocked half awake, a person must fumble to find the minute button to shut the blankety-blank thing up. Then there are those alarm clocks that cannot be silenced. Only when they run down, this happy moment occurs. These, of course, are intended to wake up the whole family, the neighbors, all the dogs and even the chickens.)

Rise and shine. The necessary, but often displeasing, contraptions answered the need for arising to meet the day’s requirements. From 1870 on, millions of many types, sizes and clanging sound clocks were produced through the preWWII days, when electric clocks replaced the ticking of the hand-wound alarm clock.

F. Kroeber and Parker Clock companies set the standards for alarm clocks prior to 1900. Soon, every clock manufacturer joined the mass production of this widely accepted alarm clock, i.e. Gilbert, Ingraham,

Western, New Haven and Seth Thomas.

Alarm clocks of our yesteryears also were given names similar to other articles mankind either named for friendly association or disdain. Alarm clocks were given names, either by the manufacturers or the owners, such as Bugaboo, Comet, Rattler or Slumber. Catalogs issued by Montgomery Ward named theirs “Old Reliable;” Sears titled one “National Call.”

World and national events, places and persons affect such titles. During World War I, patriotism abounded and alarm clocks were given appropriate names: “Admiral,” “Victory,” or “Ace.”

Similar to the convenience of a pocket watch, the alarm clock provided a easily carried and mobile instrument to tell time.

Shapes, designs and colors were altered to please the changing moods of the public, also to allow it to be considered fashionable.

The brass movements not complicated with European counterpart inner works were most reliable and close to constant accuracy for owners for quite some time.

Technical advances of many kinds have replaced the old hand windup movements in alarm clocks for the better – albeit sometimes the scorn of many, especially when the electric fails.

Look around. The wind-up alarm clock can still be purchased from stores and reproductions of older styles are among them. Old alarm clocks and more recent types can often be located at garage and flea market sales. Mint examples or near so, may be found, especially at estate auctions or from older members of the communities who have personal sales.

The alarm clock is like a pair of shoes, socks or any apparel, even the national and folks of renown owned one to start the day. Also it was a instrument serving all people – black or white, well-to-do or poor, old and young – no discrimination.

Of course, my family does not tolerate the rhythm of ticking clocks. If I take one on vacation, it ends up out in the car at night.


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