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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Area highlights for May 22Statesman Journal, May 22nd
Oregon State: Redshirt junior Seth Thomas was named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic team. TRACK AND FIELD. Corban: ... Jimmy & the Gang 7,Big Clock Booters 3. Kickin' It Old School 10, The Cherry Ballers 2. Bunt Pirates 14 ...Read more
WAY BACK WHEN IN YATES COUNTY: Clock was a longtime prominent Penn ...Finger Lakes Times, May 17th
I have spent a lot of time reading through old issues of our local newspapers — the Yates County Chronicle (later the Chronicle-Express), the Penn Yan Democrat and the Dundee Observer. In the years between the Civil War and the 1920s, I have seen many...Read more
Gem or Junk Part 5: The Final CountdownWTXL ABC 27, May 14th
So to start off, we went to Two Gals Thrift Shop and bought a vintage Seth Thomas alarm clock for $20. We thought it was worth fifty. What was Malcolm's opinion? "This is Seth Thomas and I noticed you did stick to some time pieces with what you were...Read more
Clock collector donates more than time to Cleveland church (photos)cleveland.com, May 14th
You can't miss the first gift because it is an accurate, operating clock in the steeple, a Seth Thomas installed in 1896. The second gift will be more ... The new one will have 1,892 pipes, where the old one had no more than 500, he said. Del Greco and...Read more
Tiffany scenic leaded window and lamps, plus Howard & Davis and Seth ...ArtfixDaily, May 12th
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A one-of-a-kind Howard & Davis astronomical regulator clock and a rare Seth Thomas No. 20 standing regulator clock with Grande Sonnerie strike and repeat could both reach or surpass $100,000 at a cataloged antique auction ...Read more
Relentless: Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills chases a killerAtlanta Magazine, May 6th
His Suburban was a 100-mile-an-hour black streak. Sills blew across the Rooty Creek bridge on Eatonton's east side. From there, it was a dozen-mile shot out Sparta Highway and up Old Phoenix Road. Spring had settled in. ... Before moving to Georgia...Read more
'Clock watcher' not winding downCody Enterprise, April 29th
For Dennis Spargur, it's the perfect place to begin his retirement, winding down to a slower pace as he switches from watching the clock – literally Park County's timepiece in the bell tower atop the courthouse – to a summer job on the maintenance crew...Read more
Antiques & Collectibles: Seth Thomas regulator clock a timeless favoritePress of Atlantic City, March 6th
Question: What can you tell me about an old oak wall clock left in an office building I recently ac-quired? It is 37 inches long, 16 inches wide and 5½ inches deep with a brass pendulum and weight. Its metal dial is painted white, has Roman numerals, a...Read more