Patents in clockmaking usually cover innovations to clockworks, the wheels and springs and escapements that together contribute to a clock’s ability to keep accurate time.

In the case of Elias Ingraham, founder of the 19th-century Connecticut company that bore his name, the patents he applied for concerned the design of his cases. In fact, Ingraham won 17 patents between 1853 and 1873, all protecting the design of his clocks, most of which were made to hang flat on a wall or sit on a shelf.

Ingraham was able to devote his attentions to the physical look of his clocks because the technology inside them was rapidly becoming a commodity. By the middle of the 19th century, spring-driven clockworks were replacing weight-based ones, which allowed clocks to be smaller and lighter. Clocks with balance wheels no longer needed to be so tall in order to accommodate a swinging pendulum. These innovations permitted Ingraham to focus on the look of his clocks to differentiate himself from his competitors.

Which is exactly what he did. In 1844, he and his brother Andrew partnered with Elisha Curtis Brewster to form Brewster & Ingrahams. The firm would become E. and A. Ingrahams Company in 1852, Elias Ingraham and Company in 1857, E. Ingraham & Company in 1861, The E. Ingraham & Company in 1881, and The E. Ingraham Company in 1885. These minor name changes might seem overly fussy, but they provide the contemporary collector of antique Ingraham clocks with a sure way to date clock styles that were produced during multiple years.

The first Brewster & Ingrahams clocks were called Gothics. Some had rounded tops, and some came to a point, with sharp "steeples" on either side of the clock’s dial. Competitors came up with their own variations on the steeple theme, as did Ingraham himself, whose embellishments upon his original included steeple clocks that were ringed with columns and adorned with rippled molding.

Ingraham's banjo clocks, many in handsome walnut, were also fitted with springs. Ingraham shelf clocks ranged from painted timepieces richly decorated with mother-of-pearl to round Venetian and Grecian styles clad in rosewood veneer and adorned with gilt columns. Versions of these shelf clocks were also created for walls—the Ionic style was so popular that Ingraham made it from 1862 until 1924.

In 1885, Elias’s son Edward took over the company and continued its innovation in clock cases. Double-dial wall and shelf clocks produced during this period told the time of day,...

But Edward’s chief contribution to his family’s company was a patent that covered the application of black paint to wood to create a shiny, marble-like finish. These clocks proved very popular for the venerable firm—some 200 designs were produced until the 1920s.

Ingraham continued to produce wooden wall and mantle clocks until World War II. Between the wars, the company also diversified into pocket watches and wristwatches. But in 1967, Ingraham was sold to McGraw-Edison, which converted its clock factory in Bristol, Connecticut into a production facility to make fuses, which by then was a more profitable enterprise than making clocks.

Key terms for Antique Ingraham Clocks:

Escapement: A device that converts the pressure of a spring or coil into a fixed release of movement.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Bill Stoddard's clock history site offers a trove of great reference information on clock and watch makers includin… [read review or visit site]

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

Check out this sampling of nautical and maritime items held by the U.K.'s National Maritime Museum and Royal Observ… [read review or visit site]

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection

Dan and Diana Lockett's amazing collection of several hundred novelty Lux clocks made by the Lux Clock Manufacturin… [read review or visit site]

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Detex Watchman's Clock Album

Philip Haselton's guide to watchmen's time recording equipment. Includes 19th century German portables, 20th centur… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique E. Ingraham & Co. Oak Mantel / Shelf Clock, Running ConditionAntique Running 1904 Ingraham "gila" Calendar Gingerbread Kitchen Clock. Nice!!!Antique E. Ingraham Mantle Clock, "adrian", Adamantine Parts RepairVintage Org. 1920's Advertising Metal Clock Forman Electric - E. Ingraham WorksAntique E. Ingraham Key Wound Mantel Clock. *** No Reserve ***Antique Rare Ingraham Ornate 1880's Walnut 8 Day Shelf Parlor Clock Working WellVintage Ingraham Fleetwood Art Deco Alarm ClockElias Ingraham Clock Maker Autograph With PictureIngraham Yankee Clipper Banjo Wall Clock / Key Wind Pendulum / Nautical Ship Old E Ingraham Gingerbread Lg Shelf / Mantle Clock Movement Clock PartsAntique Ingraham 1890's Mantel ClockOld Antique Mantle Shelf Dial Lot Door Bezel Clock Parts Ingraham Ansonia PlusIngraham Ionic Half Column Mantle ClockE.ingraham Black Mantel Clock DialE. Ingraham Black Mantel Clock Circa 1890/1900Clock Movements One Waterbury One Ingraham, Complete For Part Or RestorationAnother Ingraham Cabinet Clock For Parts Or Restore H13E.ingraham Company Rival Mantle Clock For Parts Antique Ingraham "desoto" Mantel Clock Case Parts RepairIngraham Antique Clock Movement For A Wall Or Kitchen Clock, Time & ChimeBeautiful 1880's 6 Column Ingraham Mantle ClockAntique Ingraham Mantel Shelf Clock Movement Parts Repair8 Old Ingraham Mantel Clock Colmn Parts Shelf Mantle Vintage Antique LotE. Ingraham & Co. Antique Clock OakAntique Ingraham Mantel Clock Case Parts & Restoration. Old Ingraham Clock Face Dial Bezel Vintage Antique Shelf Mantle Mantel PartsOriginal Ingraham Black Mantel Clock Dials Parts Black Dial E. Ingraham Clock Movements - 9 25, 6 35, 11 99 - Lot Of 3 - Parts Or Repair E.ingraham Mantel Clock DialIngraham 1900-1905 Carved Front Kitchen Shelf ClockFancy E. Ingraham Clock Pan Dial Bezel With Flat Glass Parts No ReserveVintage Ingraham Cabinet 13 Shelf Mantle Parlor ClockAntique Running Ingraham Mantel Clock Movement With PendulumIngraham Cabinet Clock Case Only H11Ingraham Gingerbread / Parlor Clock Pendulum H7Retro Miller Ingram Electric Red Metal Model Mk6 Wall Clock As Is For Parts OnlyBooks & Booklets On Clocks & Watches - Goodrich, Lyle, Ingraham, Welch And MoreVintage Kitchen Wall Clock Sentinel Wafer Chrome Model E. Ingraham Co.Vintage Ingraham Clock PendulumVintage Antique Original Ingraham Mantle Shelf Clock Key Need More Time? Vintage Toastmaster Ingraham Alarm Clock W/ Lighted DialNew Old Stock Ingraham Mantle Clock Cast Metal Pendulum Bob With Key (638a12)Vintage Ingraham Travel Alarm Clock Luminous Dial Made In Usa Runs