Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Connecticut, the mecca of early clockmaking in the USA

Connecticut, the Mecca of American Clock Making:

          The steam engine replaced the water wheel and rolling mills cranked-out metal stock. Skilled Europeans came to New England with their talents and the American industrial revolution built the society. From water to steam, and finally to electric power generators, Connecticut clock and watch factories provided the world market with Yankee timepieces that anybody could afford. From the early 1800's to the mid 1950's, Connecticut clockmakers cranked-out more timepieces than any other state in America. The "Old Country" was restricted with generations of bureaucratic regulations and guild demands that stymied mass production, but the "New World" had yet to become riddled with these hindrances. If you had the money, someone else had the brains and I had the skills, we'd open a clock factory. Competition was keen and many companies went out of production or in most cases, were absorbed by more successful establishments. Poor management was the demise of most companies. Connecticut's countryside contained a great deal of natural resources. From iron ore and timber, steel could be produced. From copper and zinc, brass was manufactured. Many streams and rivers were utilized as barges hauled products to the rail systems. During the late-1800's, Waterbury Clock company was producing over a million clocks per year, not to forget that their watch sales were close behind. Bristol, Waterbury and New Haven lead other cities in their production of timepieces. Surrounding cities and towns contributed not only with skilled labor, but raw stock and the machines to make clocks. New Britain became the "Hardware City of the World". After World War One and the demise of aristocracy, most of the European clock manufacturers went bankrupt as socialist governments claimed more of their clientele's money. Connecticut clock manufacturers filled the market, producing timepieces that not only were affordable by the multitude, but were produced in a country which not only embraced the entrepreneur, but a citizen's strife to become extraordinary. Essentially by that time, the clock movement had been perfected. Eventually though, even Connecticut clock manufacturers re-organized and tooled-up to become other kinds of manufacturing industries. With the production of electricity being more dependable, electric clocks found their market. Mechanical clocks were on the way out. After World War 2, only a handful of Connecticut clock manufacturers existed. Connecticut lost its last big clock factory during the late 1960's as Seth Thomas Company was unable to meet labor union demands. Eventually, even the tiny New England Clock Company took its last gasps. The great Connecticut clock industry became history.

A side Note:
          I was working on a Seth Thomas Pillar & Scroll shelf clock and chuckled to myself as I imagined how this clock came to be. It's made exactly like the Eli Terry clock. Young Seth Thomas was an apprentice to Eli Terry. After the revolution, not much British brass was being sent to the new country. Terry found his way down to Connecticut and established the first clock factory in America. He utilized a water wheel to generate power for his machines and made his movements out of wood. Noble parts like pivots, escape wheels and verges were made of metal. He used close grained, high-resin woods like apple and pear for wheels and pinions. Oak was used for the plates.
     Anyway, the young apprentice, Seth Thomas, fell in love with and eloped with Eli Terry's daughter (much to Eli's chagrin) and relocated (or was run out of town by Eli) to the next town. With him, he took his father-in-law's teachings and established his own clock factory. Seth embraced new ideas and technology and eventually bought out old Eli's business.

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