Mantel clocks (also known as mantle or shelf clocks) were inexpensive to make and affordable to own, which explains why they were one of the most popular clocks in the 18th and 19th centuries. Part decoration, part practical timepiece, mantel clocks are so named because they were small enough to be displayed on a shelf or mantel.
Mantel clocks were made with both brass and wood movements and ran anywhere from 30 hours to eight days between windings, although some Seth Thomas clocks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries ran for 15 days. Although its origins lay in France in the 18th century, the mantel clock took off in the U.S. in Connecticut during the early 19th century, when clockmaker Eli Terry began mass-producing them.
Ornately decorated and usually made of wood, porcelain, or ormolu, mantel clocks were mostly key-wound with a swinging pendulum. American mantel clocks were typically made of cherry or oak and sometimes incorporated iron or brass.
The bases of mantel clocks were decorated in a variety of ways. Some were made of solid wood or wooden panel, others were engraved, and some mantel clocks featured intricately detailed painted scenes. There were even mantel clocks with calendars built into their faces.
The Ansonia Clock Company made some gorgeous porcelain mantel clocks, whose front surface was painted with images of flowers. Ansonia also produced carved clocks with beautiful sculptures and figurines sharing their base.
Unlike Ansonia’s elaborate carvings, Seth Thomas clocks were all about smooth, sleek lines. His slick, 19th-century mantel clocks, usually made of richly colored wood, look more ...
The ogee clock was introduced in the 1840s. Featuring an "S"-like curve in its molding, ogee clocks were very popular, and most clock companies of the era produced variations on the ogee theme.
In the mid-19th century, Elias Ingraham created what is known as the steeple clock, whose triangle front and column-like sides resemble a church steeple. This design sparked numerous spin-offs, such as the double steeple and the beehive.
Whatever you call them, mantel clocks have maintained their popularity for more than two centuries because they are dependable and work so well in so many different domestic situations. Today, they continue to be sought after by collectors and non-collectors alike for pretty much the same reasons.
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Recent News: Mantel Clocks
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300 lots of fine decorative arts and Chinese works at Elite Decorative Arts ...EcommWire (press release), December 5th
The first is a French Japy Freres bronze mantel clock with a figural design depicting mythological beasts. Griffins with balls monitor the bottom of the case, while flying dragons protect the cupid finial. The late 19th century clock, with scrolled...Read more
West Hoathly toy car fan has £5000 collection stolenThe Argus, November 27th
The car collector near Ardingly lost 60 vintage cars as well as a Benefinkt and Sons wooden bracket clock and a black Chinoiserie mantel clock by Asprey during a burglary. The residents in Selsfield Road in West Hoathly had only left their home for...Read more
Americana at Christie'sMaine Antique Digest, November 27th
A French Empire ormolu mantel clock with a figure of Washington sold for $219,750, a bit more than it brought in October 2007 at Christie's. An Aaron Willard tall-case clock, the case documented to William Fisk, the dial probably painted by Spencer...Read more
St. James Parties to Save Opera HouseSt. James Plaindealer, November 26th
Items up for bid included a fajita bar for 20 catered anywhere in St. James from Los Potros restaurant and a hand-carved oak mantel clock made by New Haven Clock Company in New Haven, Conn. The opera house building always had businesses on the ...Read more
Palissy Ware style evident in 20th century majolica plateOcala, November 23rd
I have two clocks that I am considering selling. One is a Palais Royal mantel clock with shelf, and the other is a Howard Miller wall clock that looks like a miniature grandfather clock. I would be able to send you a picture of each of them, if you...Read more
The antiques crime wave - a plague on historic homesTelegraph.co.uk, November 22nd
None of the seven family members in the house heard as the gang lugged £45,000 of antiques out of the window and through the woods, including a 19th century ormolu and porcelain mantel clock and some of David's uncle's war medals. They only ...Read more
Just for StartersAgri-View, November 20th
Preserving relationships within a family is far more important than who gets what when a family member passes away. Personal items, like grandma's mantel clock, mom's special Thanksgiving platter or dad's boyhood shotgun, typically are not addressed in ...Read more
What's It Worth: French mantel clock, Japanese tea setRichmond Times Dispatch, November 9th
Q. Please give me your opinion about my old French clock. It has a figure sitting on the clock, which sits on a large base. The clock is protected by a glass globe. I think it still works. Answer: This French Empire-style mantel clock is a real...Read more