A Short History Of The American Clock

Clock making in America started in Philadelphia, around 1702 when a British clockmaker, Peter Stretch emigrated there. Another craftsman, James Batterson, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1707, moving to Boston shortly afterwards, followed him out.

Quite a number of German clock makers arrived around 1750, and their influence on American clocks lasted over 100 years, particularly in small details such as the use of Lantern Pinions in their movements.

The Grandfather clock was made in America in small numbers from just after 1700, becoming more popular after 1750. Up to 1810 the movements were made of brass, often imported from Britain, after this date American mass-produced wooden movements were used, with the occasional brass movement.

Another British clockmaker, wall clocks Thomas Harland, was working in Norwich, Connecticut in 1773. He had around twenty apprentices hand making clock movements, one of these, Daniel Burnap, eventually started on his own, and later trained Eli Terry, who later became the first person ever to use mass-production for clocks. A particular success was his wooden grandfather clock movement, due to the low price.

Known in America at the time as eight-day clocks or thirty hour clocks, New York imported large numbers of complete British clocks. Other cities imported movements and sometimes brass dials, and local American craftsmen made the wooden cases.

The painted dial for grandfather clocks started to be produced in Britain from 1772, and after the Revolutionary War these dials were exported to America. Ten years later American artists started producing painted dials. Two of the best, Spencer Nolan and Samuel Curtis went into partnership, Nolan and Curtis became the first major American painted dial producers, based in Boston, Mass.

Another well known artist was William Jones of Philadelphia, he worked from 1825 to around 1845, when the market for grandfather clocks collapsed, due to the large numbers of much cheaper shelf and wall clocks now being made and sold all over the country. This happened in Britain too, around the same time and for the same reason, imports of low-cost American and German clocks and a change in fashion.

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