Past Time

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To its owners it was “The Eighth Wonder of the World … The Acme of Mechanical Science,” and even if those claims seem a little inflated, the Great Historical Clock is undeniably a wonder. It was built by Roland Hurlburt, a Boston carpenter who apparently was enchanted by a similar monumental clock he saw at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Working with his son, he completed it around 1884, and probably exhibited it at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Thereafter it followed a restless career, traveling as far as Australia with Bent & Batchelder’s Anglo-American Christy’s Minstrel Show before coming to its current home at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Historv. It’s a rare clock that can draw a crowd, but this one stands thirteen feet tall, covered with animated figures, and every inch teems with historical incident. Turn the page for a look at what happens every quarter hour.