Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Asa Munger, Clockmaker

Prior to the Revolutionary War, New York consisted chiefly of the Hudson River Valley; The Mohawk Valley and the rest of Central and Western New York remained in the possession of the Indians.
But with peace there began a western surge. This was augmented by the construction of the Erie Canal and by 1820 Central New York was a thriving agricultural region. The Genesee Valley around Rochester was a great wheat granary. The opening of the Canal in 1825 linked Buffalo on Lake Erie with Albany on the Hudson, and New York City became the gateway for foreign commerce.
As prosperity increased in Central New York, Yankee clockmakers were not slow to take advantage of it. Between 1820 and 1860 there were some 50 clockmakers working in this section.
Asa Munger’s clocks bear the label A. Mungers Patent Brass Eight Day Clocks and Timepieces, Auburn, printed by Henry Oliphant, Printer, West corner of South and Genesee St., Auburn. They are slightly under 40 inches high and have characteristic galleries. A mottled tin shield, often colored blue or gray blue, in the door covers the edges of the round enameled iron dial. The enamel has the gray fine grain of the banjos of the 1820-1830 period. The hands are steel and finely designed. The second hand is below XII; the time winding post is between I and II, but the striking one is in asymmetrical position very close to the X, which gives an odd appearance to the dial. The works have open plates of solid brass. The pendulum bob is an eagle with spread wings, a characteristic of this maker. He is listed as 1825.

Asa Munger was born in Granby, Mass in 1778. His grandfather, Joseph, served in the French and Indian War and was a landowner in Ludlow, Mass. His son, Joseph, (Asa’s father) was a goldsmith, a soldier in the Revolution, a member of the Masonic Order, and held a town office in Ludlow in 1801-02. Three of his sons followed the trade of goldsmith and Asa, in addition to being a watch and clockmaker, was a silversmith. Conceivably the eagle pendulum decoration and the use of metal decoration in place of the usual painting or plain glass in the upper door are a result of this influence, as are undoubtedly the fine hands and ingenious artistry in his clockworks.
He married Polly Chapin at West Springfield, Mass., September 30, 1801. They had six children and lived at Ludlow until about 1805, when they moved to Herkimer, N. Y., and then to Auburn where Asa spent the rest of his life, made his clocks, and died there March 2, 1851. While he is best known for the rather clumsy type of shelf or wall clock already described, a grandson wrote of him, “I have a hall clock made by my grandfather, Asa Munger, in Herkimer, N. Y., in 1817. It is ingeniously made; shows days of the week and month, phases of the moon, and plays a tune every three hours, a different one each day. On Sunday it plays ‘China.’ It is a genuine grandfather’s clock.”
Among the Auburn clockmakers, Munger and Benedict are listed for 1833, and Hotchkiss and Benedict as of 1820, but I believe 1830 would be nearer right. The latter partnership made a clock under the same patents as Munger. It had a wooden dial with their name and a coat of arms on it, a hole for the second hand large enough to reveal part of the works. The case was about 17 by 33 inches with an added four inches for the gallery. The dial was nine inches. This clock seems undoubtedly later than the standard Mungers, thus making the probable date about 1830 rather than ten years earlier, as listed.

Selected Highlights:
~He worked c 1810 as a silversmith in Herkimer NY 7

~He was a partner from circa 1818 to 1820 with J. H. Benedict in Auburn NY as MUNGER & BENEDICT.

~He worked from circa 1820 to 1833 as a silversmith and clockmaker in Auburn NY 1

~He worked from 1833 to 1839 as a clockmaker in Auburn NY

~He was a partner from May 1833 to Nov 1833 with Thaddeus Benedict in Auburn NY as MUNGER & BENEDICT. The firm obtained a contract with the state of New York to use prison labor at Auburn State Prison to construct their clocks.

~He was a partner c 1840 with Austin Erastus Munger in Auburn NY as A. MUNGER & SON.

~He appeared on the 1850 census taken at Auburn NY, listed as a clockmaker.

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