Founded in 1853, the New Haven Clock Company was the first to mass-produce brass clock movements in America. The company was formed to supply these movements to the Jerome Manufacturing Company, then the largest clockmaker in the world. When Jerome went bankrupt in 1856, New Haven Clock Company purchased it.
One of the primary benefits of the Jerome purchase for New Haven was the good reputation of the Jerome brand and the network of companies that remained interested in selling its clocks. In England, Jerome & Co. Ltd. sold Jerome clocks for New Haven until 1904, when New Haven purchased the English firm outright.
Among the Jerome clocks that New Haven produced for export was an 1860 mantel clock called the Duchess. It had a rosewood veneer case, an angled top, Roman-numeral letters on its dial, and a glass window to reveal the swinging pendulum inside...
Double-dial calendar clocks, for walls and shelves, were also popular. Some had light oak cases, some were made of rich walnut, and still others were produced by New Haven for the National Calendar Clock Company. One of these has three finials on top and is especially sought by collectors of antique New Haven clocks thanks to the word "Fashion" emblazoned between the two dials (Fashion was a popular magazine of the day; Seth Thomas and others also made these so-called Fashion clocks).
Perhaps the most collectible of the late 19th-century New Haven clocks is the Ignatz, or flying pendulum shelf clock, from 1884. Instead of a lever, anchor, recoil, or other traditional type of escapement, the flying pendulum had a ball-and-string "tetherball" escapement that whipped from side to side on the top of the clock’s case. New Haven produced them as Jerome & Co. clocks, but only for about a year.
New Haven made hundreds of other models, from banjo clocks to regulators to grandfathers, with names like Anglo, English, Glenor, and Occidental. In 1880, they even added a line of non-jeweled pocket watches.
But mismanagement plagued the otherwise successful company. After flirting with bankruptcy in 1894, New Haven pulled itself together in 1902 when Walter C. Camp, who was then known as the "father of American football," took the company’s reigns, modernized to reduce costs, and, in 1915, added wristwatches to the company’s offerings.
The changes Camp instituted were enough to keep the company profitable through the Depression, but after World War II, the company struggled through disruption caused by a takeover and poor sales, finally folding operations in 1960, a little more than 100 years after it had been founded.
Key terms for Antique New Haven Clocks:
Escapement: A device that converts the pressure of a spring or coil into a fixed release of movement.
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