Backhouse, Benjamin: "[Clockmaker] working [in] Masham
(Yorkshire) 1823 to 1834 by which latter date had premises in Silver
Street." One wonders just what his cases looked like, and whether the
proud owner would declare, "I just bought an 1820's backhouse!" Some of
his ancestors may have been the two Jameses, (both the I and the II)
Backhouse, who worked in the early 1740's. A William Backhouse
emigrated to New York at about that time.
A dial in the Old Ashmolean Museum bears the curious name 'Mimi Pittum',
who evidently was a maker in Italy in 1553. Ever since I first noticed
the record, I've wondered whether Granville H. Baillie, Fellow of the
Institute of Physics, has been giving us a meta-physical leg-pull.
One also wonders whether the Frys of Hampshire, England, were running
out of names when they named their penultimate son Young Fry. They may
have been as desperate as were the parents of one of Young Fry's
contemporaries---a Mr. Yoell Yoell.
An acquaintance of mine who handled personnel records for the Navy for
many years collected unusual names. His absolute favorite---and this is
on record---was Charles Audrey Clapsaddle---the Third!
That of John Nixon of New York, 1773, who "called himself Musical,
Repeating and Plain Clock and Watch-maker, Periodical Titivator..." as
did John Simnet, watchmaker of New York City. A 'titivator' was
evidently some sort of decorator or ornamenter of some object. The
definition appears under "Verb.ORNAMENT" in Roget's Thesaurus---one of
ORNAMENT'S synonyms being 'diaper', others being 'adorn' and
'embellish'. I can understand periodical diapering‹as in "To give the
child a fresh canvas..."; but what is periodical embellishment? Is it
the embellishment of periodicals, or is it embellishment which is
accomplished at certain intervals?
I also looked in the Oxford English Dictionary:
verb - used with object:
1. to make smart or spruce: e,g., She titivated her dress with a new belt.
verb - used without object:
1. to make oneself smart or spruce.
Origin (1795 - 1805; earlier tidivate (tidy + (ele)vate)
I also did a Web search on "titivate:"
The results will likely offend some viewers, therefore, if you don't want to see the results,
don't click on this link:
And a combination of the two:
Perhaps of interest is "Ottmar Tützling; Burgher, 1691, Donaueschingen",
whose name appears in a rather faded manuscript in the collections of the
in Stuttgart. He is listed as an 18th C. Bavarian inventor,
mathematician, and maker of mathematical instruments, who published
Über den Pendelschlag Astronomischen Uhren, 1720.
Amongst his other inventions, he is credited with the creation of
various forms of foundation and support garments. No confirmation can
be found in any other lists of German, Austrian or Swiss makers,
therefore it is suspected that this record is analogous to that reported
for a Guillaume L'Ácrappier, 'Maître horlogeur et plombeur', in
Tardy (the Brooks Palmer of France), who was a French Huguenot refugee
alleged to have invented the water closet in London in the late 17th
century. His invention is alleged to have prompted the Duke of
Wellington, after defeating Napoleon in Belgium, to remark that
"Waterloo has flushed the Frenchman from his lair." One wonders whether
either of these alleged inventors had any influence on the Earl of
Meath two centuries later---the Right Honorable Earl used a "lavatory
cistern" as a part of his water clock, and "removed one of her
ladyships's stays" to make an escapement pin.
Muddled History; An Horological First;
and The Many Lives and Talents of John Harrison:
Verbatim et literatim; from a note on chronometers in a recent BULLETIN:
"What makes a chronometer? It is mounted in gimbles (sic) to stay level, ...
(does that make both my binnacle compass and galley stove
has a spring detent escapement...
(one assumes that this is a European chronometer)
and an up/down indicator to measure winding.
This last feature compensates for temperature changes."
(and poor Dr. Guillaume spent all that time on Invar!
I guess we can put the much-maligned 'middle temperature error'
to rest forever, and feel sorry for all those who spent their lives
designing balances and hairsprings. The author of these notes feels
that the above, while perhaps not the last word in defining the
chronometer, is nonetheless of sufficient interest that it should it be
promulgated amongst the membership.)
The following story (a continuation of the
preceding) of the invention of the chronometer, with a brief
biographical note on its inventor, is also of interest.
"After four of five ships crashed, ...
(an interesting syntactical construction, but I
imagine it would certainly be an attention-getter if four fifths of the
British fleet abruptly struck upon the coast of the Scilly Isles!),
in 1703 the Queen of England...
(I wonder how George II and Parliament and the Board of Longitude
felt about that?)
offered a prize of 10,000 to 20,000 lbs. ...
(rather an indeterminate prize amount,
yet that's 5 to 10 tons of silver---and I said this is literatim)
Sterling ($1 million),...
(that must have been a rapidly fluctuating rate of exchange!),
depending on the degree of accuracy obtained,
to the inventor of an instrument that would read longitude."
(would the inventor of the Global Positioning System
please stand up?)
But, to continue---from the same source: "John
Harrison spent a lifetime developing the "chronometer" and, "another 20
years collecting his money!"
(Mr. Charles K. Aked, please take note. This last
seems to suggest that yon John Harrison may not lie 'a-mouldering in his
grave' in the quiet churchyard at Hampstead Parish Church. Besides, it
would probably take twenty years to haul 10 tons of sterling silver
back to the Harrison cottage.)
Several Musical Notes:
Students of modern "music" may recognize the name of this next maker,
who is listed as "CC, son of Richard, yeoman of Midgham, Berkshire, who
was apprenticed in London to John Jeffrys 5 November, 1739"---Jethro
Curiosity impelled me, years ago, to take a quick look at the origin of
the metronome, that small born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-blankets
relative of the clock. It has an adjustable rate, and thereby is a
device whose design and purpose are in complete opposition to the
centuries-long search for the perfect timekeeper. The metronome was
invented in about 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkler in Amsterdam, but a
Johann Nepomuk Maelzel copied the device, added a scale of tempo
divisions to the stick of the compound pendulum, and patented the device
as a "metronome." To this day it is known as a Maelzel Metronome, and
an indication on a musical score of "M.M. = 80", informs the musician
that the Maelzel Metronome should be set to a rate of 80 notes per
Most interestingly, however, before the invention of the metronome, as
early as 1592 the Venetian Lodovico Zacconi, in his Prattica di musica,
gauged tempo by using the human pulse as a reference, as did Johann Joachim
Quantz in Versuch einer Anweisung die flöte transversiere zu spielen
(Research on an instruction method for playing the transverse flute) in
Berlin a century and a half later. It is also of extreme interest that
the pendulum was used very early as an indicator of musical tempo.
Before Galileo's death in 1642, Marin Merselle published in Paris a
chart of pendulum lengths in his Harmonie universelle in 1636.
Forty years later in London, Thomas Mace spoke of using a pendulum to
keep time, and in 1746 William Tans'ur published in London
A New Musical Grammar
in which he discussed "the doctrine of pendulums applied to music."
The reader may wish to take a side trip to a discussion of tempi as
governed by metronome and pulse as applied to the Vienna Waltz and its
phenomenal rise in the 19th century.
The Waltz and its popularity.
In the course of these various researches, I was intrigued to find that
"Christiaan Huygens divided the octave into 31 equal tones in the late
17th century in order to permit transposition of diatonic scales in just
intonation." And we, with our narrow horological focus, only think of
him as the first to apply the pendulum to a clock, and as the inventor
of the hairspring. How nearsighted!
Was it Hooke, or was it Clarke?
Although he is somewhat late---two upstarts by name of Hooke and Huygens
seem to claim precedence---but, perhaps it was Henry Clarke, a
Shropshire, England, watch and clockmaker who named the hairspring. He
is described in the 1864 Bury St. Edmunds directory as "Watchmaker and
Hairdresser". Sort of the 'Mr. Gigi' of the world of horology?
She's been around for a long, long, time:
and racked up another marriage to boot...this one to a clockmaker.
In 1822, Samuel Pickavance married Elizabeth Taylor---now,
And an unusual end:
From Tardy: "Clavelle, nous dit Rabelais, était un horloger de La
Rochelle. Hérétique, il fut brûlé avec son horloge de bois. 1816".
Translation: 'Clavelle, whom we call Rabelais, was a maker in La
Rochelle. A heretic, he was burned with his wooden clock in 1816.'
One wonders if he was tied to the stake and burned, or tied to his clock
and burned, or if the clock merely provided the fuel? Regardless, this
can be considered a somewhat 'untimely death'. The well-known satirist
lived nearly a century earlier, but it's obvious that someone didn't
like his namesake's clock, either!
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