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What Commuters Found On New York’s City Streets Is A Piece Of History.

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There’s a stereotype about New Yorkers that most people know. The world thinks they just look at the sidewalk all the time, and I can tell you it’s kind fo true–for one thing, there are a lot of tiny, be-sweatered dogs to look out for. Sometimes you miss out on what’s going on around you, but in this particular case, it’s best to keep your eyes glued to the pavement. Otherwise, you might walk right over it.

On the corner of Maiden Lane and Broadway in Lower Manhattan, look down. There, embedded into the sidewalk, is a working clock. It’s ringed with a brass compass and it has been ticking away for many years. It has been telling the time for hundreds of thousands of people. Many don’t even realize it’s there.

The clock was originally conceived in 1896. The Barthman clock was installed in 1898. It was a rectangular piece that told the time via numbers, kind of like an early digital clock. When its operator died in 1917, no one else knew how to operate it, and it fell into disrepair. It was replaced with a round face clock in 1925, and has remained ever since.

Today, it also features a compass. The date “1884” refers to when William Barthman Jeweler was founded.

The original 1898 clock had no hands, and operated much like a digital clock, displaying the hour and minutes. It was lit and operated on gears, and when it fell into disrepair, it was covered with a piece of cardboard.

The clock in the 1940s, when it still had Arabic numbers. It also lacked the frame it has today, and note how the sidewalk has been replaced and the little skylights no longer exist.

The clock is still maintained to this day. An estimated 50,000 people walk over it per day. Amazingly, its glass covering withstands  the wear and tear. The custom pane is produced by United Silica, a New Jersey-based company known for making high-stress materials. The pane can withstand 2,000 pounds of pressure, but even so, the pane needs to be replaced every four years. 

The glass appears cloudy from the daily wear from thousands of pedestrians.

An old pane from the clock. This glass gets stepped on by 50,000 people a day, and has to be replaced every 4 years.

William Barthman is still an operating company. Although they’ve moved a few buildings away, they still keep scrapbooks with newspaper clippings about the clock and still see it as a key feature of the business. From the basement, you can see the clock from below, as one writer from Gizmodo got to do.

The business has been keeping scrapbooks of articles about the clock since it was installed.


The clock from below, with sunlight pouring in through the gears.

So if you find yourself in Lower Manhattan, stop and look for this little piece of history. You can also check out this video from William Barthman’s website:

You won’t be disappointed.

Read more: http://viralnova.com/street-clock/

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