Your favorite "A" Clock.
June 4, 2023 Meeting held at Mt. Brydges Legion.
The theme of the meeting was your favorite clock that begins with "A". A lively meeting indeed that was attended by about forty people. Ian Smith provided an informative talk about the Ansonia Clock Company. See the complete text of his presentation below.
Here are pictures ...
Ian Smith delivers keynote address during the
June 4, 2023 Chapter 92 NAWCC meeting.
Ansonia Clock Company, ca.1910.
7th and 8th Aves., 12th and 13th Str. in Brooklyn N.Y. This factory was billed as the largest clock factory in the world at the time.
Other Links to Ansonia Clocks
Note: Double click on the "gallery" to view and scroll through full-size versions of all the images.
Milestones in American Clock History and the Ansonia Clock Company
by Ian Smith
The earliest clocks to appear in the New World were undoubtedly brought over by the first settlers. Most likely, it was small clocks or just movements that were brought over as longcase clock cases would have been too expensive to transport. The first recorded craftsmen making clocks were in Philadelphia about 1685. By the early 18th century, clockmaking was fairly well established in New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Although clockmaking spread through the area, one of the more important areas for the craft was Connecticut. Between 1770 and 1790, Simon Willard produced the Massachusetts shelf clock. Around 1800, Willard developed his own style of case and movement in the guise of the banjo timepieces. By early 19th century, smaller mass-produced clocks began to appear. Eli Terry of Connecticut is credited with making the first mass produced clocks in 1806s, when he filled an order for 4,000 clocks. The clocks were a wag on the wall style and featured a wooden movement. It took Terry 3 years to complete the order. Terry became very successful in making wooden movements and in 1820, developed a new style of shelf clock known as the pillar and scroll. A few years later he developed the column and stenciled splat clocks. Around 1825 we have Chauncey Jerome developing the bronze looking glass clock and Elias Ingraham making the triple decker clocks. In the late 1830’s Chauncey Jerome built a cheap one-day brass movement which was driven by weights and housed in a simple case known as the ogee case after the shape of the curve on the case front. These clocks were highly successful in the marketplace. In addition to the one day ogee clock, there is also a larger 8-day variety. Around 1840, it became clear that the clockmaking business was here to stay and other companies sprang up to build inexpensive brass movement clocks.
After 1850, small clockmaking companies began to expand and develop into corporations. Seven of these firms grew into industrial giants and controlled the bulk of the clock manufacturing for the next hundred years in America. Can you name these Giants of industrialized American clockmaking?
Ansonia Clock Company (1850-1929),
New Haven Clock Company (1853-1959),
Seth Thomas Clock Company (1853-present),
Waterbury Clock Company (1857-1944),
E. Ingraham Company (1857-1967),
William L. Gilbert Clock Company (1866-1964), and the
Since our display theme is “A” clocks, lets look into more detail about the Ansonia Clock Company.
The Ansonia Clock Company developed from the enterprises of Anson Phelps, a native of Simsbury Connecticut. Phelps became wealthy as an importer of tin, brass, and copper working in New York City. In 1844, he built a new copper rolling mill two miles north of Derby Conn. and names the place Ansonia after his given name. It was thought that Phelps wanted to go into the clock business to expand the market for his brass.
At the time, Terry and Andrews were the largest clock manufacturers in Bristol, Conn with more than 50 employees using 50 tons of brass in the production of 25,000 clocks in 1849.
Phelps established the Ansonia Clock Company as a subsidiary of the Ansonia Brass Company. It was incorporated on May 7, 1850 for the manufacturing and sale of clocks, movements and related wares. Phelps was partnered with Theodore Terry and Franklin Andrews in this venture. Terry and Andrews got access to better quality brass at better prices.
The Ansonia Clock Company started with $100,000 authorized for the corporation with 4000 shares sold at $25 each. Phelps held controlling interest with 1344 shares and Terry and Andrews with 1333 shares each.
Ansonia was one of three Connecticut clock companies which exhibited at the 1853 New York World’s Fair. Ansonia primarily displayed cast iron cased clocks decorated with paint and mother of pearl. The other companies exhibiting were Jerome Manufacturing from New Haven and Litchfield Manufacturing Company.
Ansonia’s business proceeded well until about November 1854 when the factory burned to the ground at a loss of $120,000. The Company Directors passed a resolution selling the Land and Ruins to A.G. Phelps Jr and three others. This effectively ended the original Ansonia Clock Company.
For the 15 years following the 1854 fire, the history of clock manufacturing in Ansonia is obscure as no official clock company was formed during these years. This changed in 1869 when clockmaking became a major operation with the reorganization of the Ansonia Brass and Battery Company as the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company. In one year from June 1869 to June 1870, the company employed 150 workers, used 90,000 pounds of brass and produced 83,500 clocks valued at $200,000.
After 8 years, another reorganization took place separating the brass business from the clockmaking operation. On December 1877, the new company was incorporated under the original name “Ansonia Clock Company” and a factory was purchased in Brooklyn. Henry J Davies of Brooklyn, himself a clockmaker, inventor and case designer joined the newly reconstituted company as one of the founders. Davies is thought to be responsible for the figurine clocks, swinging clocks and unusual novelty clocks. In April of 1879, a second large factory was built at Brooklyn, NY, and most of the the clockmaking operation was moved there. By June of 1880, 360 workers were employed a the Brooklyn factories . The Ansonia operation in Connecticut continued manufacturing clocks until 1883 with a workforce of 100 men and 25 women. At that time skilled workers were earning $2.50 per day and ordinary labourers $1.25 a day.
On October 27, 1880, the Brooklyn factory was totally destroyed by fire thought to be caused by a gas explosion in the wood drying room. The loss was reported at $750,000 with only $250,000 insured.
Despite the setback, the Company immediately built a new building and within a few years, the entire clockmaking operation was centred in Brooklyn. Ansonia remained financially strong and in 1886, they reported $600,000 stock on hand and $250,000 due to them from sales. They had no debt. Sales offices wee located in New York, Chicago and London. More than 225 different clock models were being manufactured by 1886 and just before WW1 in 1914, the number of models had grown to almost 450. Sales agents were located in New Zealand, Japan, China, India and Ansonia exported large numbers of clocks to these and eighteen other countries. Between 1915 and 1920, Ansonia racked up huge debts by trying to beat their competition using old pricing to increase volumes - a tactic that did not fare well. By 1902, the number of clock models offered was down to 136 and to just 47 by 1927. Gone were the figural clocks, swinging clocks and china clocks. In 1926 the Company sold it’s Brooklyn warehouse but that die not stem the inevitable.
In 1929, the majority of the clockmaking machinery and tooling was sold to the Soviet government’s US trading company Amtorg, just before the stock market crash. Some of the skilled workmen were sent to Russia in 1930 to get the machinery in operation and train Russian workers. Moscow factories No 1 and No 2 were established in 1930 and they were still in full operation in 1956 and are likely still making mechanical timekeepers today.
There was talk of Ansonia reentering the marketplace as clockmakers but it did not materialize. In 1969, the rights to the name, trademark and goodwill were transferred to Ansonia Clock Company Inc., Lynnwood, Washington where they were used in their operation importing clocks from the Orient. This latest Ansonia Clock Company closed in 2006, ending 155 years of Ansonia clock operations.