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[Tidbits] Cox's Clock


Size and quantity can often be measured by time. The following was
told to me by my dry-cleaner whose wisdom I consider unparalleled in
the annals of mankind. Or not. I’m not an expert in these things.
However… this is what he told me. It is said, he said, that if a
person were to go to the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg and look
at each exhibit for thirty seconds… it would take that person
three years to view all the exhibits. This will give you an idea of
the quantity of the exhibits and the size of the building that has
the capacity to hold all these exhibits.

Which brings us to a segue of the most magnificent proportions… to
Cox’s clock… aka The Peacock Clock.

Cox worked on many many clocks… but two types struck me as
extraordinary. He called the first a Perpetual Motion Machine… but
that was a misnomer because it was powered from changes in
atmospheric pressure via a mercury barometer. It never needed winding
as the Earth atmosphere kept the mainspring coiled and as long as we
have atmosphere… it will run indefinitely.

And then there are the Automata… created by the same brilliant
goldsmith, James Cox. One of these is the Peacock Clock which was
made by Cox specifically for Catherine II… also known as
Catherine-the-Great. It consists of a peacock, a cockerel, and an
owl. She paid him 1800 pounds sterling back in 1781. Don’t know how
that translates today but he was broke at the time and I suspect it
did a job of saving from: “Would you like a little mustard on your
sausage, sir?”

This clock is and was the only large 18th century automaton in the
world to exist today in its original condition. It stands ten feet
high on exhibit at the Hermitage. Even that great American, Paul
Bunyon, could not wear this on his wrist.

At the end of each hour the owl begins working. His cage rotates.
Bells ring. He turns his head and blinks his eyes and taps his right

Ninety seconds after the owl begins his machinations, the peacock
spreads his tail, stretches his neck, turns his head, throws his neck
back, and opens his beak. He then reverses his process and returns to
his starting position after which time the cockerel starts shaking
his head and crows. All this to the tintinnabulation of magical music
and melodies and bells including the tones similar to those produced
by the glass harmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin. All this of
course is accompanied by the steady dance of a dragonfly.

James Cox was a British jeweler and a goldsmith and brilliant beyond
comprehension which of course is no big thang… cuz isn’t that true
of all jewelers and goldsmiths? Hmmm?

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits. Click it… and you will see represented on our
pages… a peacock clock created by one James Cox for Catherine the

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark