Clockmaking in America is as old as the country itself. Today, American clocks have risen in popularity, and antique timepieces are collected worldwide. Read on and learn about the rich history of clockmaking in America.
The history of clockmaking in America defines the ambitions, inventive genius and entrepreneurial spirit of the colonies. Deprived of the traditional materials required and the cottage industry supporting the clock and watch business in England and Europe, early New England clockmakers created ingenious, affordable and reliable clocks from the one resource they had in abundance – wood.
These wooden clockworks were so well engineered and constructed that thousands of them are still running perfectly after close to 200 years. This struggling but determined clockmaking enterprise emerged into one of the first important manufacturing industries in the New World, pioneering concepts such as interchangeable parts, mass production and a myriad of successful marketing methods.
By the 1830's it became feasible to produce brass movements in the colonies, which by 1840 would become the standard of industry. The machining and manufacturing techniques developed in the clock and watch industry laid the groundwork for the commercial avalanche that spawned the industrial revolution.
The very early woodworks and first generation brass movement clocks by the legendary pioneers of American horology in the 1810 to 1850 period can still be found today. Famous clockmakers from this era include Eli Terry, Chauncey Jerome, Birge and his many partners, Joseph Ives, Simon Willard, Atkins, Seth Thomas, Silas Hoadley, Riley Whiting, Forestville and Ingraham.
Today, collectors of American antique clocks enjoy a window of opportunity to acquire early American clocks of nearly every type and period for a fraction of their intrinsic value. With the exception of extremely rare clocks by important makers, good American clocks are affordable to almost anyone.
Makers such as Seth Thomas, Ansonia, E. Howard, Chelsea, Gilbert, Waterbury and Sessions produced millions of clocks in the 19th century. These clocks were so well made and so respected by their owners that a high percentage of them have survived and can still be purchased reasonably in today’s market.
The sheer pleasure and enrichment these wonderful horological specimens offer their owners far exceeds the monetary cost. The fact that they appreciate in value consistently over the years is a delightful and profitable added benefit.