The first grandfather clock was invented by Dutch scientist Christian Huygens who built it using the principles discovered by Galileo Galilei. These clocks had different names over the period like wags on the wall clocks, long case clocks, or floor clocks. They were even called coffin clocks because the wooden box encasing looked like a coffin!
So, when did the name 'Grandfather clock' come about? This is a very interesting story. Over 100 years ago in Piercebridge, North Yorkshire, England, there was a quaint country lodge known as the George Hotel. The George hotel was managed by two bachelor brothers named Jenkins. In the lobby stood a floor clock, as they were called back in those days. One day, one of the brothers died and suddenly the old clock started losing time even though it was running precisely till then. Attempts to repair the clock turned futile and the clock finally stopped running when the second brother died at the age of ninety. The new manager of the hotel never attempted to have it repaired. He just left it standing in a corner of the lobby, its hands resting in the position they assumed the moment the last Jenkins brother died.
About 1875, an American songwriter named Henry Work happened to be staying at the George Hotel during a trip to England. He was told the story of the old clock and after seeing the clock for himself, decided to compose a song about the fascinating story. Henry came back to America and published the song titled 'My Grandfather's Clock' turning the Jenkins brothers to his grandfather.
These were the opening lyrics of the song:
"Oh my grandfather's clock was too tall for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
But it weighed not a pennyweight more..."
The song was an instant hit and the clock came to be called 'Grandfather Clock' from that day onwards.