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.
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Bronze bust by Emmanuel Villanis (Fr., 1858-1914) fetches $1000 at Nov. 1st on ...ArtfixDaily, November 19th
Antique clocks were strong. Star lots included a Waltham grandfather clock ($1,845); a Waltham weight-driven banjo clock ($906); an Elmer O. Stennes banjo clock ($2,875); a rosewood double dial Seth Thomas wall clock ($1,076); and the walnut...Read more
Kings County in 50 objects: Hanford Civic Auditorium clockHanford Sentinel, November 17th
Built in 1886 by the Seth Thomas Clock Co., the clock was originally part of the old Central Grammar School building that once stood where the Civic Auditorium now sits. Originally, the timekeeping movement included a gearbox to control four clock faces...Read more
Fall's bounty at Pittsburgh auction houses extends to salesTribune-Review, November 16th
The focus shifts to antiques and collectibles during the Nov. 23 sale. A large group of ... A bevy of clocks include several French Empire mantel clocks, a Vienna Regulator, a Seth Thomas Sonora mantel clock with eight chiming bells and several other...Read more
Rare Antique & Collector Clocks, Plus Watches Will Be Sold In A 2-Day Auction ...PR Web (press release), November 14th
The cataloged auction will immediately follow, at 11 a.m. Start time for Sunday will be 11 a.m. Saturday's clock session will include rare examples by E. Howard & Co., Seth Thomas, Ansonia, Ithaca, Elmer O. Stennes, Foster Campos, Chelsea, Atkins...Read more
Musing of the museum: A look at the Monticello SquareMymonticellonews, November 13th
The 120-foot tower contained a Seth Thomas clock with four faces and a bell that struck the hours, as well as sounding fire alarms, calling courts to session, tolling for funerals and welcoming the New Year. (Incidentally, that bell is now located by...Read more
Prepare to fall back: 2014 daylight saving time ends Sunday at 2 a.m.The Republican - masslive.com, November 1st
The tower clock, a Seth Thomas #16, gravity fed, hour-striking time piece, is the same clock and mechanism that was donated to the campus as a gift from the class of 1892. It cost $452, which Nathhorst said "was a lot of money back then." ($10,500 in...Read more
Ball from Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter is latest DC addition to CooperstownWashington Post (blog), October 30th
Cap, Earl Whitehill-pitcher 1936. Shirt, Joe Cronin – worn during Old Timers Days. Senators shirt #9 ... Seth Thomas clock, “Annual Award to Outstanding Players of the Washington Senators, 1967 and 1968. Silver cup trophy -Walter P. Johnson, winner of...Read more
'Pitiless axmen' threaten the Emerald CoastSunHerald.com, October 25th
Hale Boggs from Long Beach's Boggsdale, had entered a Herald writing contest and won a Seth Thomas clock for his efforts. The founding Wilkes family of this newspaper obviously championed Coast trees. "The Live oak is here in its perfection," the...Read more