Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Seth Thomas, an institution in clock making

In the 1820’s and 1830’s, the one day wooden movement shelf clock, such as the pillar and scroll and the bronze looking glass, was in mass production. The market grew rapidly and competition became severe. An economic recession in 1837 brought the clock business almost to a halt. Chauncey Jerome wrote:
1. “At Richmond I was looking after our old accounts, settling up, collecting notes and picking up some scattered clocks.”
“One night I took one of these clocks into my room and placing it in the table, left a light burning near it and went to bed. While thinking over my business troubles and disappointments, I could not help feeling very much depressed. I said to myself I will not give up yet, I know more about the clock business than anything else. That minute I was looking at the wood clock on the table and it came into my mind instantly that there could be a cheap one day brass clock that could take the place of the wood clock. I at once began to figure on it; the case would cost no more, the dials, glass, and weights and other fixtures would be the same, and the size could be reduced. I lay awake nearly all night thinking this new thing over. I knew there was a fortune in it."
“I arrived home from the south on the 28th of January (1838), and told my brother who was a first rate clockmaker what I had been thinking about since I had been gone. He was much pleased with my plan, thought it a first rate idea, and said he would go right to work and get up the movement, which he perfected in a short time so that it was the best clock that had ever been made in this or any other country. There have been more of this same kind manufactured than of any other in the United States.”*
Noble Jerome received patent number 1200 for his clock movement, issued June 27, 1839. The new clock proved to be a great success, and so Seth Thomas decided to enter the market.
“In 1840, Thomas sent his nephew, Marcus Prince, over to Bristol to learn how Chauncey Jerome was making the cheap 30 hour brass clock. Hiram Camp, Jerome’s foreman wrote, “about the year 1840, I think, Seth Thomas, who had not as yet engaged in the making of brass clocks, sent one of his men, a Mr. Prince, over to Bristol to work for Mr. Jerome and learn how to do the work. Mr. Jerome said to his foreman, Mr. Camp, 'Now Mr. Thomas is a good man and he wants to get into making brass movements and I want you to teach Mr. Prince all that you can about the work.' So, after two or three years, Mr. Prince went back to Mr. Thomas, and he began to make the brass movements.”.... ”
“Prince returned to Plymouth Hollow and made the first brass clock movements in 1842. In 1844 or 1845 wood movements were phased out and Prince assumed entire control of movement manufacture for Thomas. These earliest brass clocks were probably all in ogee cases with the addition of 30 hour and 8 day cases with columns about 1850.”**
Dates of Seth Thomas one day brass clocks according to the printer of the label (usually given at the bottom):
Elihu Geer, no address: 1842 - 1845
Elihu Geer, 26 State Street: 1845 - 1846
Elihu Geer, 1 State Street: 1847 - 1849
Elihu Geer, 10 State Street: 1850 - 1855
George D. Jewett: 1852
Case, Tiffany & Co.: 1854 - 1858
Elihu Geer, 16 State Street: 1856 - 1865
Hartford Steam Printing Company: 1860 
Dates of Seth Thomas clocks according to where it was made:
Through 1865: Plymouth Hollow, CT
1865 and on: Thomaston, CT

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