Category Archives: History

We have a very large library of books, pamphlets, catalogs and other research materials to put together a history of most manufacturers of antique and modern clocks. If you have a question about a clock, please send several close-up, clear pictures of the clock, the glass, the dial (face), and any labels or papers in the clock. We will do our best to give you a little history of the origin of your clock.

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One Of A Kind Masonic Clock

img-190403131827-2When I was growing up in Sylvania, Ohio in the 1960’s, my dad collected clocks and played drums in a popular quartet in the Toledo area.  The guitar player in his group was named Bill Barker, maker of handcrafted guitars.  In 1967, my dad’s stepfather, Harold E. Gordon (or H. E. as we called him), was celebrating his 51st year in the Masons.  Dad thought the occasion deserved a commemorative clock.img-190403131827-3

I remember my dad taking a trip to Schmitt’s antiques in Ypsilanti, MI to purchase a Vienna regulator movement, dial and pendulum for the special clock. He then spent several evenings at the dining room table, drawing up several plans and finally deciding on the final design for the clock.

Dad and I took a trip to Fostoria, Ohio one Saturday morning to a lumber yard that had raw live edge lumber.  After looking through what I thought was endless raw lumber (remember I was 11 years old), dad picked out some live edge walnut boards with good hardwood.
Craft Products, in St. Charles, Illinois, sold numerous accessories and plans to build clocks.   They also sold wood veneer inlays.  A masonic wood inlay was purchased.  Now all the pieces were ready to be assembled.

img-190403131827-1 So, now we are back to Bill Barker.  Dad had arranged to build the clock in Bill’s shop on Central Avenue in Toledo.  It was my first visit to a master craftsman’s workshop.  I was impressed by the guitars in various stages of production.  I also remember tiny wood planes that would take minute shavings of wood with each pass and very small tuning forks that Bill used in the production of his guitar bodies. I asked him if he still had the first guitar he made.  He reached up on the wall and handed the first Barker guitar to me.  I was an impressed 11-year-old.  He then told me that there were too many imperfections in the guitar to ever let anyone play it.  This may have been my first exposure to a true perfectionist.

I learned about woodworking over that Saturday and Sunday.  We planed the lumber, made templets, measured and remeasured.  The clock was coming together.  The door was cut out of the walnut and routed for the glass and the decorative curve around the glass.  Moldings were made for the top and of the case, a recess was made to install the masonic inlay.  Sanding, lots of sanding.  The movement, from an 1864 time only Vienna regulator, was fitted into the case.  The case was then disassembled and finished with Deft satin finish.  I mention the finishing product (Deft) only because I still use it in clock restoration today.  Deft was available in every hardware store until the big box hardware stores and internet put most of the mom and pop hardware stores out of business.  It is now only available through internet stores like Amazon.  The clock was completed over the next few weeks.

My grandfathIMG_8090 (1)er lived about 30 miles north of Cairo, Illinois in a small agricultural town named Anna.  The clock hung in the house that H.E. built on E. Heacock Street from 1967 until his death in the early 80’s.  The clock then hung in my father’s home in Hilliard, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) until he retired in 2004.  The clock then moved with dad to Sun City West, Arizona.  Dad died in September of 2007.  In June of 2009, I came in from working clock service calls to a large box that had been delivered by UPS.  This is not an extraordinary event as clocks are shipped to me for repair and restoration all the time. To my surprise, my stepmother, Joan, had shipped the masonic clock to me.  It has hung in my family room ever since.   Although to a collector, the clock has little value, it is one of the most prized clocks in my collection.

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Sessions Kitchen Clock – Before and After

Before

Several months ago, a customer asked if I could restore a clock he found in his Father’s farm house in central Illinois. He remembered the clock from his childhood. The case was in very bad shape. The wood was dry and the finish was cracked. The clock probably sat on a shelf in the kitchen, next to a wood or coal burning cook stove for years. The glass in the door was gone and the pendulum had been cut down both sides. This would have raised the center of gravity of the pendulum allowing the clock to run faster.

 

AfterThe case was so dried out that it actually fell apart. The old finish was stripped off and some warping of the wood top was taken out. The case was finished, glued back together, new glass, dial, and a new pendulum was installed. The movement was overhauled and tested. Shown below are the before and after pictures of the clock.

Greg Davis – Owner

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Fantastic Find

My father (Boyd Davis) collected clocks all his life, a passion that I seem to have inherited. In 1971, my father and mother opened a clock retail store in Columbus , Ohio (The House of Clocks on Lane Ave). Since I was a junior in high school when the store opened, I’ve never been sure if the store was part of his love for clocks or set up as a second income for the family, or both.

My father had a retired jeweler that did trade work for him. In November 1974, the retired jeweler brought in a box full of clock case and movement parts he had been storing in his attic. He gave it to my father saying “I don’t know exactly what this is, but I’m sure it’s American. I’m sure it’s something special and I want you to have it”. My father offered to buy the box for $50, which was quickly refused. Since the store was busy, the box was placed on a shelf in the back room.

Just before Christmas, my father cleared a table in the back room, took the box down and proceeded to examined it, placing the pieces of the box into position on the table. The clock was totally apart, since all the glue joins had come apart, but it was all there. Much to my father’s surprise, he slowly laid out a complete J. C. Brown Acorn clock (case, movement, fusee mechanism and tablet). The clock was totally restored by father over the next several months.

My father, being one of the most honest men I ever knew, gave the gentleman 3 new Colonial grandfather clocks of his choosing, as payment for the clock. One for each of his grown daughters for Christmas; however, he refused the fourth clock that my father offered to place in his home.

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The clock held a very prominent and prestigious place in my mother and father’s home for several years. It was the star of his collection. My father and mother divorced in 1980 after 27 years of marriage. The clock collection was sold, along with other possessions, to settle the divorce. I often wonder who is now showing off this magnificent sample of American clock making history in their collection. I can only hope it is admired as much as my father admired it.

Greg Davis

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1807 – Affordiable clocks for the masses

In  Eli Terry entered into a contract with 2 other men to manufacture 4000 clock movements with dials, hands, weights, and pendulums in a 4 year period. This in clock circles is known as the Porter Contract. In 1806 Terry bought a sawmill that used water power in Plymouth CT. He then hired laborers with specific abilities to produce the various pieces of the clocks, to an accuracy that made the parts interchangeable. One of the first in America to accomplish interchangeable mass produced parts for a product. The fact that the parts were made and assembled by skilled craftsmen, kept the cost down and allowed a much greater production volume, way more than 1 clockmaker could accomplish by himself. Thus was started, in this country, a new business of mass producing clocks, which brought the cost of a clock down to where the masses could afford them. Clocks were no longer for just the aristocrats. Apprenticing with Eli Terry at this time was Seth Thomas and Silas. Hoadley, who both went on to be noted American clockmakers. In my career of over 40 years, I have had the pleasure of restoring several of the now 210 year old all wood movements.

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