Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

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

Sunday, March 4, 2012

F Kroeber Clock Company

I receive many clocks in through the year that are private labels; that is labeled with the name of the seller not the manufacturer.  Kroeber Clock Company was one that years ago I thought was such a private label entity.  I was wrong in that assumption.  Kroeber Clock Company was a strong competitor in the clock manufacturing arena of the 19th century and had many unique aspects that made their pieces stand proud of the competition.  One such characteristic was the way in which the pendulum of the clock was "caged" or restricted in movement so as to reduce the possibility of damaging the fine suspension when the clock is moved.  I found the manufacturer Mr. Kroeber to be a very fine example from which to draw some inspiration.  Below is a short overview of F Koebler the man and the clock maker as well as the firm he founded and headed.

Florenz Friederick Martin Kroeber was born in 1840 in the city of Paderborn, Westphalia, Germany. His early years were spent in the city of Cologne, but his parents brought their family to America about the spring of 1850, settling in New York City. By the age of 19, "Florence" Kroeber began to work in the clock store of Owen & Clark at John Street as a bookkeeper.
In 1861, Owen & Clark was dissolved but one of the partners, George B. Owen, continued the operation under his own name. When Owen went to Winsted, Conn. to become general manager of W. L. Gilbert & Company in 1864, Florence Kroeber took over the Owen business. This was strictly a marketing operation, both of domestic and imported clocks, though labels with F. Kroeber were often applied.
In 1868, Kroeber went into partnership with Nicholas Mueller, a German immigrant who ran a business of producing bronzed cast metal figurines and figured metal clock case fronts. Two years later Kroeber married Mueller's daughter. Though the partnership lasted only about a year, the two families had close business ties and even rented adjoining New York stores for many years.
About 1870 Kroeber began to manufacture some cases of his own design and contracted with Connecticut manufacturers for movements, some to his own specifications. For over 25 years the operation was successful. It was incorporated as the F. Kroeber Clock Company in 1887 and that year a second New York store was opened in midtown Manhattan. Their 1888 catalog of 208 pages illustrated 286 clocks and 43 figurines, over 90% of American manufacture.
Business began to decline with the depression of 1893 and in 1895 the midtown store was closed. By 1898, their catalog of 115 pages offered only 182 clocks and 31 figurines, with only about 80% being American made. In 1899 the corporation went into receivership. Kroeber moved into a smaller store on Maiden Lane and spent about a year settling the accounts of the company.
Kroeber continued marketing clocks as a private venture under his own name, most being purchased from Connecticut. Except for cuckoo clocks, foreign made clocks were no longer offered. This business ended in bankruptcy in January, 1904 and because it was not a corporation, Kroeber was personally ruined. For the next seven years he worked as an employee in clock and watch departments of various New York firms. He died May 16, 1911 of tuberculosis.

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