The Panchronicon

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The Panchronicon by Harold Steele Mackaye

Published in April of 1904, The Panchronicon features a Time Machine built in the year 2582 which travels back to 1897.   "Landing" in Burnham's Swamp near Peltonville Center, New Hampshire, the time-traveler invites local ne'er-do-well and town drunk Copernicus Droop out for a ride.

Sadly, however, The Time Traveler later catches pneumonia at the North Pole and dies, leaving the Panchronicon in the hands of Droop, who decides to head back to the centennial year of 1876 in order to become a millionaire by inventing the gramophone, the Kodak, the vitascope, and Milliken's cough syrup.

The machine itself is outfitted like a luxurious RV, complete with player piano and chandeliers. It resembles nothing so much as a giant mosquito -- if the glorious, gilt-embossed cover illustration is given any credence. And it flies to the North Pole in order to travel back in time.

The polar explanation of time travel offered is... well... somewhat unorthodox, to say the least.


Copernicus Droop Explains Time Travel

condensed from The Panchronicon by Harold Steele Mackaye


"Now don't you go to think I'm tight or going crazy. You'll understand it, fer you've been to high school. Now see! What is it makes the days go by -- ain't it the daily revolution of the sun?"

Phoebe put on what her sister always called "that schoolmarm look" and replied:

"Why, it's the turning round of the earth on its axis once in --"

"Yes -- yes -- it's all one -- all one," Droop broke in, eagerly. "To put it another way, it comes from the sun cutting meridians, don't it? If a man travels round the world the same way 's the sun, he catches up on time a whole day when he gets all  the way round. In other words, the folks that stays at home lives just one day more than the feller that goes around the world that way. Am I right?"

"Of course."

"Now, then, just follow me close," Droop continued, sitting far forward in his chair and pointing his speech with a thin forefinger on his open palm.

"If the feller was to whirl clear 'round the world and cut all the meridians in the same direction as the sun, an' he made the whole trip around just as quick as the sun did -- time wouldn't change a mite for him, would it?"


"Follow out that same reasoning to the bitter end!" he cried, "and what will happen if that traveler whirls round, cuttin' meridians jest twice as fast as the sun -- going the same way? Why, as sure as shooting, I tell ye, that feller will get jest one day younger for every two whirls around!"

"But how's he going to whirl round as fast as that, Mr. Droop?" she said.

"It does sound outlandish, when you think how big the world is. But what if ye go to the North Pole? Ain't all the twenty-four meridians jammed up close together around that part of the globe? Ain't it clear that if a feller'll jest take a grip on the North Pole and go whirlin' around it, he'll be cutting meridians as fast as a hay-chopper? Won't he see the sun getting left behind and whirlin' the other way from what it does in nature? If the sun goes the other way round, ain't it sure to unwind all the time that it's been a-rollin' up?"



Don Brockway, October 21, 2000 (updated July 2, 2003)


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