Seth Thomas (1785-1859) began his clockmaking career in 1807 as an apprentice to renowned clockmaker Eli Terry. In 1810, he bought Terry’s Connecticut factory and began making tall clocks with wooden movements.

Thomas added wooden-movement shelf and mantel clocks in 1817. The first of these had pillar-and-scroll cases, usually with a scene painted on the bottom third of the case below the clock’s face. Around 1830, antique Seth Thomas mantel clocks were frequently framed in carved mahogany.

Brass movements replaced wooden ones in 1842 (wood was phased out entirely in 1845), which was also the first year that Thomas made mantel clocks with ogee cases—the style was produced until 1913.

Though an innovator when it came to production techniques and business, Thomas was rather conservative when it came to the appearance of his clocks. So, after his death in 1859, Thomas' sons were quick to introduce new clock styles—from handsome wall clocks to regulators to spring-driven clocks to clocks with calendars.

Of the calendar clocks, the Seth Thomas antique wall clocks for kitchens were particularly popular. One early double-dial calendar clock made shortly after the founders’ death had a rosewood-veneer case that came to points at the top and bottom to earn itself the nickname of "Peanut." Walnut kitchen clocks were produced from 1884 to 1909.

One of the toughest competitors for U.S. clockmakers in the second half of the 19th century were the French, whose clocks cased in onyx and marble were all the rage. In response, U. S. manufacturers made clocks that resembled those of the French, except instead of marble, they made their cases from less expensive iron or wood.

Thomas responded to the French challenge with its own line of marble clocks (1887 to 1895) and iron clocks finished in black enamel (1892 to 1895). But the Thomas response that i...

Adamantine was a veneer developed by the Celluloid Manufacturing Company—Thomas licensed the veneer because it could be produced in black, white, and a variety of patterns to replicate the look of wood, onyx, and, most importantly, marble. The Seth Thomas Adamantine mantel clocks were popular enough to remain in production until 1917.

Another trend from the late 19th century was the practice of naming a clock after international cities. Thomas did that, too, using names like Milan, Genoa, and Naples to evoke the style of a particular clock. Thomas also had a City Series of clocks named after U.S. cities. The Atlanta clock, for example, had a rosewood case with gilt details and a glass door that had been etched in a leaf pattern. Even Utica got its own clock. The City Series was produced for roughly 40 years.

Thomas clocks were also named after presidents (Lincoln, Garfield) and royalty (Victoria). Others were named after universities, from Cambridge to Cornell.

In the 20th century, Thomas introduced its first tambour clock in 1904. The low, wide profile of these mantel clocks made them perfect above fireplaces. Chime clocks followed in 1909, and electric clocks were added to the company’s catalog in 1928.

Of the pre-war, 1930s Thomas clocks, the Art Deco alarm clocks (wind up or electric) made of a colored plastic called Catalin are highly collectible. Unlike Bakelite, which was opaque due to its fillers of sawdust or carbon, Catalin is transparent, which made it easy to mix with dyes to produce rich colors. It could even be marbleized, which, for Thomas, recalled the company’s Adamantine clocks produced just a few decades earlier.

Key terms for Antique and Vintage Seth Thomas Clocks:

Ogee: A type of molding whose profile resembles an S-shape curve.

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]

Clockhistory.com

Clockhistory.com

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    

1890s Seth Thomas Regulator No. 9Vintage Men's S/s Seth Thomas 2 Register Chrono 734 Chronograph Watch & BraceletSeth Thomas Railroad Standard Regulator 2 No # Antique Clock In Beautiful OakWwii Seth Thomas 6 Inch Brass Us Navy Deck Clock No 3 Ships ClockAntique 1941 Navy Ship Clock Ww Ii Seth Thomas Mark 1 Deck Clock **works**Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantle Clock, Restoration Or Parts, Nice CaseSeth Thomas Antique (1810) Wall ClockAntique Seth Thomas Regulator Key Wind Clock As-is Parts/repairAntique Mahogany Shelf Clock By Seth Thomas Patented 1878 "overwind Prevention"Seth Thomas Clock MovementSeth Thomas Mantle ClockAntique Ansonia Cast Iron Shelf Mantel Clock No Gilbert Seth Thomas New Haven Seth Thomas Grade Marked 382 2 Tone Pocket WatchAntique Gilbert Regulator Shelf Mantel Clock No Ansonia Seth Thomas New Haven Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock Case Parts RepairSeth Thomas Unique Antique Mantle Clock Adamantine 100%original Looks/runs GreatSeth Thomas Scroll-cased Mantel ClockOld 1800s Antique Seth Thomas Parlor Lg Shelf Mantle Alarm Clock Runs Seth Thomas Mantle Clock DelosAntique Ansonia Metal Shelf Mantel Clock No Gilbert Seth Thomas New Haven Old 1800s Seth Thomas Mantle Shelf Clock 1/2 Hr Bell 89 C Movement Restore PartsSeth Thomas 8 Day Mantle ClockSeth Thomas ClockVtg Seth Thomas Wall Clock Military Time 24 Hour Industrial Marine 13.5"electricAntique Seth Thomas Carriage Clock Antique Seth Thomas Og Weight Driven Clock Case Parts RepairAntique New Haven No. 107 Shelf Mantel Clock No Gilbert Ansonia Seth ThomasVintage Seth Thomas Industrial 15" School House Electric Wall Clock9 Antique Seth Thomas Sessions + Mantle Shelf Pendulums Pendulum Clock Parts LotAntique Seth Thomas Mantel Clock Dial Bezel Parts RepairVtg Seth Thomas Helmsman E537-001 Brass Ships Bell Wheel Clock German Movement Labeled Pat'd 1880 Victorian Seth Thomas Time & Strike Adamantine Mantle ClockSeth Thomas German Mvmt. Mahogany Banjo Style Battery Op Wall Clock Chimes UsaOld 1800s Antique Seth Thomas Mantle Shelf Clock Dial / Bezel Glass Clock PartsAntique Seth Thomas Mantel Shelf Clock Movement Parts RepairSeth Thomas ClockAntique Seth Thomas Mantel Shelf Clock Case Parts RepairTwo Seth Thomas Pocket WatchSeth Thomas 1900 Eight Day Gallery Wall Clock *nr* Antique Seth Thomas Westminster Inlaid Wood Mantel Clock No. 124 MovementVintage Seth Thomas Westminster 2 Jewel Mantel Shelf Clock & Key A401-003 WorksVintage Seth Thomas Electric School Office Shop ClockVintage Seth Thomas Metronome #8 Model E873-111 Wood - Talley IndustriesAntique Seth Thomas #2 Regulator Clock - Exceptional - Please Read Description Seth Thomas Helmsman E537-001 Brass Ships Wheel Clock NauticalVintage Seth Thomas Mark-i Boat 1942 Ships Clock Parts RepairVintage Seth Thomas Wood Mantle Clock Chime Electric B 1700 Series!Antique Seth Thomas Adamantine Mantel Clock Case Parts RepairAntique Seth-thomas Mantle ClockAntique Seth Thomas Mantel Clock Dial Bezel Parts RepairAntique Seth Thomas Mantel Shelf Clock Movement Parts RepairSeth Thomas Mini Cottage Clock With Alarm 30 HourSeth Thomas Mantle Clock CaseVintage Metronome - Seth ThomasVtg Antique Seth Thomas Usa Mantle Clock Chime Key Wind Wood Victorian EdwardianAntique Seth Thomas Weight Driven No.2 Clock Dial Overall Diameter 12 3/8" Seth Thomas Black Bakelite Art Deco Desk ClockAntique Seth Thomas Maritime Or Industrial Wood Mounted Wall Clock 1911Antique Seth Thomas 8 Day Mantle Clock, Dark WalnutVintage Seth Thomas Mantle Clock-made In The U.s.a.