What did people use to wake up before alarm clocks?

alarm clocks

Have you ever wondered what people used before the invention of an alarm clock? Most of us believe that the roosters were kept in farms to wake the people up early or the people used to sleep early in order to wake up early in the morning.

No doubt to say that people used to wake up by the rays of the morning sun, morning crows and roosters for centuries when there were no alarm clocks. But have you ever thought of any other way of waking up without an alarm clock?

History of alarm clock

Alarm Clock was first invented in 1787 by Levi Hutchins who was an American. He invented the alarm clock for himself only to wake him up early in the morning for his office. The first mechanical alarm clock by him could ring only at 4 am in the morning. It was his own created alarm clock for himself that he used to wake him at 4 am, his desired time.

Hutchins explained about his invention that the idea of a clock that could also work as an alarm was a difficult one, however its execution was an easy one. He said that it was simple to arrange for a bell that could ring at a predetermined hour.

Second alarm clock in the history

After Hutchins’s invention, a Frenchman Antoine Redier presented an adjustable alarm clock in 1847. The new invention by Antoine Redier led people to adjust a time to wake up rather than waking up daily at the predetermined time set by others.

How did people set alarms on these alarm clocks?

Radier alarm clock had a tiny hole on each number of the clock and a small pin to set an alarm which people could use to set the pin on the desired time they want to wake up.

First adjustable mechanical alarm clock

Later in 1876, an American Seth E Thomas presented a new version of the alarm clock, bringing an invention to the masses. However, the alarm clock became somehow popular and also began being sold in the market.

Flint Candle Alarm Clock

In the early 18th century, a candle alarm clock also known as flint alarm clock, was discovered that uses light instead of sound to wake its people. It was a spring-loaded mechanism in which a bell would sound and use a flint-lock to light up the pop-up candle.

The bell would activate the mechanism to strike with the flint that light up the candle with a spark. The candle in the box lid was set on spring that automatically rise up before the sun at predetermined time.

This was a brief history of the alarm clock invention. Now let’s get to know the ways through which people used to wake up early for their work.

How did people wake up in the past?

In the 14th century, the chiming sounds of the clock towers were also capable of waking people up. The clock towers became famous at that time and it used to chime at a fixed time daily. In the mid 18’s, when the factory revolution started, the loud factory whistle woke up the people around the factories. It helped a lot to wake up the workers of the factory to the noise.

You might be wondering that at the time the alarm clocks had been invented. Yes, it was invented but were not available at cheap rates and only a few people were aware of it.

Mechanical alarm clocks were expensive at that time

However, until the late 19th century, the designed alarm clocks were popular in some parts of the world but the main problem was their expensive rates that not everyone can afford. Indeed it was a unique invention but were not though a reliable thing.

Some people thought to spend some money to buy a mechanical alarm clock but that time they could not stand with its reliability of it. It was taken as a fragile item that should be handled and used with special care otherwise all your money would go wasted. This was indeed a misconception that led many people not to buy an alarm clock.

The alarm clocks at that time were not made of metals

In mid-1900 some of the alarm clock companies also continued to innovate with portable travel alarm clocks, radio alarm clocks, and many other alarm clocks but the problem was still the same. They were quite expensive and not reliable. Reinforced egg cartoons with pulped papers or pressed wood was used to make alarm clocks because metals were rare at that time. Thus, it was the era of knocker uppers. People hire them to wake up early in the morning.

What was Knocker-upper?

The knocker-upper also known as knocker-up was a profession. It was quite popular in many countries. The origin of this profession basically started in Britain and Ireland. People hire the Knocker-Uppers to wake up on time. It was a quite cheap and reliable task. A Knocker up used to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time.

A knocker-upper

Tools used by Knocker-upper?

The knocker upper used a baton or a heavy stick to knock on the doors of the sleeping people. This was an easy and reliable job done by some elderly people. They used to knock at their door continuously and won’t leave until their client gets awake. However, this made the whole house to wake up and some family members who did not want to wake up early in the morning often complain about this.

how people woke up before alarm clocks

In order to ease their job. Knocker upper made a long bamboo stick with a knob on its one end which they use to knock on the windows of their clients. They continue to knock on the window until their client shows up in the window.

before alarm clocks
Knocker-upper using a soft hammer

In large industrial towns, knocker-uppers also used a “snuffer outer”, “soft hammer” or “rattle” to rouse the industrialists or workers for their job.

Mary Anne Smith, a famous pea-shooter

Sidcup, Kent: circa 1930. Few workers possessed alarm clocks, so the services of this ‘knocker up’ were in demand. Her client were roused by shooting peas at their windows. © TopFoto / The Image Works NOTE: The copyright notice must include “The Image Works” DO NOT SHORTEN THE NAME OF THE COMPANY

Mary Anne Smith, a famous knocker up or peashooter, was famous for waking people using a pea shooter. She had a flute-like an instrument which she used to shoot dried pea on the windows of her clients. She reigned the streets of East London waking up the workers.

How was the job of Knocker-uppers

The job of Knocker-uppers as indeed an easy one but it was no less than suffering to them. They could only earn some 6 to 7 pence a week after waking more than 50 peoples per day. The waking time was 5 to 6 am. Sometimes their clients get ungrateful to them. They used to shout at them and sometimes throw a bucket of water at them despite caring for the fact that they hired them.

Knocker-ups were also known as night owls as they wake up the whole night and sleep during the day after their job. Some police constables also jumped in this profession to supplement their pay performing this task.

Alarm clocks became popular in mid-1900

 The job of knocker-ups ended in the 1950s when the alarm clock became widespread, reliable, cheap, and easy to buy along with the time when electricity also became widespread and affordable. However in some parts of England, the knocker uppers era did not end until 1950, people used to hire Knocker uppers until the ’70s.

Innovations made in the history of Alarm clock

 Later on, many new innovations were made in the history of the alarm clock. The most significant and unique innovation is the snooze option and also the online alarm clock which was invented in 2006.

Today we have alarm clocks in our wristwatches and mobile phones and we use to relax with the beeping alarms and smartphone music that help to wake us for our work. We can arrange several alarms in one single device or even ask our friend to wake us in the morning free of cost. This thing is simpler and more convenient than in the past.

Also read: Disappearance of Flight MH370 – The Greatest Aviation Mystery

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