By Samuel Abaev, Rosemary Espinal, Kathy He, and Lucas You, Binghamton University
Timekeeping in the Workplace
For many years, humans have kept a record of time. Although clocks have evolved, the effects they have on laborers remain the same. Clocks have evolved from candle clocks to hourglass clocks, and then to the more modern mechanical clocks. As simple as it may sound, timekeeping has had a lasting effect in the business world.
The Birth of the Modern Time Clock: Old Bundy’s Time Clock on Water Street
Many modern technologies aren’t the result of a single invention, but rather the culmination of various technologies fostered over a long period of time. A multitude of these innovations took place in Binghamton, New York, which fueled the local economy and established an environment that nurtured innovation, technology, and advancement. Downtown Binghamton in the late 1800s was a haven for technological pursuit, and the story of the Bundy Brothers is firmly embedded in this era of success.
The Bundy Brothers’ legacy began with humble origins. One of the two brothers, Willard Bundy, was a jeweler and an inventor of various mechanical devices. One of such devices created by Willard was the Time Clock.
The time clock created by Willard was based on prior technological innovations pioneered by others; Willard combined, reconfigured, and repurposed previous inventions while applying his own unique patents to achieve a new workable instrument for social use. Willard’s brother, Harlow, a businessman, saw the creation of time clocks as a means of measuring a worker’s salary based on time as a potential business venture. Initially, Harlow was met with resistance in trying to promote his brother’s time clocks not only because the clocks were expensive, but also because the clocks were thought to be impractical given that the job of timekeeping was already fulfilled by humans.
Over time, however, his idea began to slowly catch on as business owners realized that it would save them money in the long run as well as it being more efficient. Furthermore, the Time Clock gained national attention as the average number of people employed in business establishments was increasing nationwide, which expanded its market. In following the events of how IBM began, author Dr. Marcia Steinberg explains that, “the need to deflect labor-management conflict and the tremendous surge in hirings throughout the country no longer made it practical or judicious to have supervisors manually record each individual employee’s arrival and departure time and maintain the files in a set of handwritten records...Willard’s time recorder [offered] a modern alternative.”
The decision to move to Binghamton
In response to this growing demand, the Bundy Brothers opened their first facility for the manufacturing of time clocks on Commercial Avenue Binghamton in 1889. By 1893, a mere four years later, the Brothers moved to a much larger location at 183,185 Water Street. The location, at the time, was the tallest manufacturing warehouse at Binghamton being six stories tall.
At this larger location, Willard and the growing number of employees began to not only construct the time clocks, but also the authentic wooden cases in which they were encased. Each case was a rich shade of mahogany. In 1906, the company again shifted locations to an even larger manufacturing plant in Endicott, NY. There, the company prospered until it was merged to become the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR), which was later renamed IBM in 1924