Page 159. " Cometa Borealis: We entered the atmosphere at dusk. We trailed a wake of fire. "
Three Galaxies and a Comet, 2007
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumThree Galaxies and a Comet, 2007 - Credit: Miloslav Druckmuller

Howard’s life draws to a close.

Since ancient times, people have believed that the appearance of comets are omens, foretelling notable births and deaths or other significant events. In 79 AD the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius, which destroyed the city of Pompeii, was attributed to a comet. Some theologians and astronomers speculate that the appearance of Halley's comet in 12 BC might explain the biblical story of the Star of Bethlehem.

In William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, The Duke of Bedford exclaims: “Comets, importing change of times and states / Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky / And with them scourge the bad revolting stars / That have consented unto Henry’s death”. 

On a lighter note, James Morrison, rock musician and member of the Doors declared: “I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps "Oh look at that!" Then - whoosh, and I'm gone...and they'll never see anything like it ever again... and they won't be able to forget me - ever.”

Page 161. " The escapement on a clock consists of a collar on a pinion called a pallet, and an escape wheel located at the top of the clock’s works. "

Escapement, collar, going train, striking train, gathering pallet, mallet, mainspring, arbor – this is the precise and meticulous language of clocks. Thus begins the third excerpt from The Reasonable Horologist.

The 1889 "Clock Jobber’s Handybook: A Practical Manual on Cleaning, Repairing, and Adjusting" by Paul Nooncree Hasluck, is a fascinating clockworks manual with “upwards of one hundred illustrations”. 

A contemporary and highly detailed example of the craft of clock making, is the luxury AP Calibre 3120 watch by Audemars Piguet, one of the leading houses in Swiss watchmaking. In this review, Suitbert Walter analyzes the art and exquisite craftsmanship involved.

Page 163. " Our greatest clock men find that poetry resides in the human process of distilling civilization from riotous nature. "

In the third passage from The Reasonable Horologist, Davenport reflects on the poetic process – the precision, clarity and careful construction – required to create order and meaning in the universe.

Ultimately – Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best, a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientists do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.Albert Einstein, "Ideas and Opinions", 1954.




Poetry in motion: Clayton Boyer designs kinetic clock sculptures. His “Galileo’s Bicycle” details the pallets "walking" along the escape mechanism.

Page 171. " Howard entered North Philadelphia at seven in the morning on a Saturday. By nine, he had sold his cart and wares for twenty dollars and was a bag boy at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. "
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Store, 1929
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumThe Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Store, 1929 - Credit: A&P Historical Society - Walt Waholek, President

Howard arrived in Philadelphia around 1928. The city was the second largest manufacturing center in the United States, and full of immigrants from Europe and the American South looking for opportunities and a better life.

Old farmers’ markets and pushcarts were being replaced with national chain stores like A&P Economy, which – by 1925 – had more than 1500 outlets in Philadelphia. These stores were small, and only two in the city were like Howard’s: “combination” stores offering groceries, meats, baked goods, dairy items and produce.

Incidentally, George Huntington Hartford, who founded the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, was a classic “Horatio Alger” story. He grew up on a rural farm in Maine. Initially A&P employed peddlers to deliver tea, coffee and spices in horse-drawn wagons – covering delivery routes in New England, the mid-west and the south.