Keeping Up with Time

A display of wood parts

A display of wood parts

For hundreds of years, clocks were made from wooden parts.  Connecticut jumped into the clock-making world with an innovation by Eli Terry that kicked off the Industrial Revolution here.  Yes, Terry made clocks out of wood parts, the traditional way.  In 1802, he made 200 clocks.  Slowly, by hand.  Then he invented the mass-produced, interchangeable brass part.

Woo hoo!  The cost of clocks plummet, and now every parlor can have one.  Good thing, because everyone now had to be on time for that factory job.  You had to ‘punch the clock’.  Of course, you could take your chances, relying on the factory bell.  But with New Haven and Bristol and Torrington and Waterbury and a number of smaller towns all churning out timepieces, why not have one of your own?  Bristol alone had 275 clock-related businesses.  Horology run amok!

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You could get a New Haven Clock, the Wayland style on the left, say, for $25.50 in 1923, before it’s price zoomed to $32.10 in 1925.  If you didn’t hurry though, you’d be out of luck.  The Wayland was discontinued in 1930, making way for new styles.

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As a woman, you might get a job with the clock world, too.  Using a stencil to paint the clock face.  And they are charming indeed!  Every style you can think of and more you haven’t.



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And I think there’s at least one of each style clock at the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol–with its 6000 timepieces.  A wonder, when the hour strikes and so do all the clocks.

A Braille Clock

A Braille Clock, which I touched to feel the braille






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You’ll get a history lesson there, too.  Some clocks wouldn’t be so okay today.







I finally learned how a sailor’s clock works.  The ship’s bell strikes one bell at 12:30, 42015-04-04 15.07.20:30, and 8:30, both a.m. and p.m.  Then an additional bell is rung each half hour until 8 bells (the max) are rung at 4, 8, and 12, then the process repeats.  I finally know what 8 bells means!  My literary knowledge of Moby Dick feels one step closer to completion.

The little mouse was the first.

The little mouse was the first.


You probably know I’m a huge fan of wind-up toys.  I had no idea that these toys were invented in Bristol and are based on a clock’s gears and key.

Glad there was time for some inventive fun.

All those clock companies.  What happened to them?  Many burned down.  Shellac used in the factory, highly flammable.  Others went bankrupt from poor management.  But go to Bristol and visit this unassuming, big-ticking-heart of a museum to get a flavor for its heyday.

Penny whistle pipe organ clock

1845 Whistle Pipe Organ clock, that played one of seven tunes each day at noon

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2 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Time

  1. What fun! You found a real treasure of a museum. We love clocks as you apparently do also. Also, Rena I am continually impressed with your writing ability. This is a very well written article. You should “Wow” them at Yale this summer. Signed , your admirer.

  2. Pingback: Surprise Whimsy and Delight | Rena Tobey

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