Cast Iron Case Clocks
Many of my customers are amazed at seeing (and trying to lift) a clock with a case made of cast iron. Many tales are told as to why cases are made from cast iron, some of the tales include cast iron was preferred to stone (marble, onyx, soap stone, granite, etc…). Cast iron feels more substantial than wood, the weight of cast iron makes it feel expensive and so on and so on. Truth be told, cast iron came into favor as it was the new and fabulous use item of the 19th century very similar to the plastic boom of the 1960’s. Cast iron was able to be cast in nearly any form desired. Cast iron reduced the costs of creating beautiful intricate items. Casting an item instead of producing the items in a studio out of several separate pieces created by artisans reduced costs and established continuity and consistency in manufacture that enabled the items to be quickly finish machined and fit out with movements, bezels, and embellishments in record time. Cast iron was the love of the industrial revolution and carried on this relationship for decades.
Many of the most successful clock manufacturers of the time adopted cast iron cases to build their offerings and attempted to increase their market share and exposure. Seth Thomas, Ansonia, Gilbert, Ingraham, and many other lesser known manufactures flooded the market from the 1890’s – 1910’s with their models. As quickly as the wonder item, Cast iron, was adopted, it was dropped. Consumers found the clocks to be too heavy, the paint chipped, cases rusted in humid regions, movements vibrated loose from the case, the sound was not as pure as those cases made from wood; worst of all cast iron fractured and was not easily restored.
Today, many people collect these heavy, ornate clocks due to their unique appearance and as curiosities for others to view. Cast iron clocks are still in plentiful supply, but most need their cases restored. I have restored many of these cases and enjoy bringing them back to their former beauty. I encourage you to look for these when you are antiquing or yard sailing. With hundreds of different models originally produced, you are sure to come up with some great treasures.