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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Recent News: Seth Thomas Clocks

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Historic clock and statues to be moved
KIMT 3, December 17th

a decision had to be made on what to do with the Seth Thomas Clock and the statues of the Mayo Brothers while construction is ongoing. Civic Center Executive Director Donna Drews says the antique clock will be dismantled in early January and put...Read more

Clock tower will get up and running again
Houston Chronicle, December 11th

Time stands still on the century-old clock atop a historic industrial building in the Heights. Its hands have stopped ticking, and the building, one of ... Its first floor has held antique shops and other small businesses off and on in recent years...Read more

Keeping things ticking with the Maryland Clock Company
Baltimore Sun, December 5th

Time has been good to Rick and Doris Graham. Married for over four decades, their livelihood spans four centuries. They sell clocks at their family business, the Maryland Clock Company located in Davidsonville, and repair some timekeepers that date as ...Read more

E. Howard & Company No. 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator soars to a ...
ArtfixDaily, December 5th

Fontaine's often holds successful antique clock & watch auctions. The auction was packed with rare examples by makers such as Seth Thomas, Ansonia, Ithaca, Elmer O. Stennes, Foster Campos, Chelsea, Atkins, Walter Durfee, J. J. Elliot, Waltham, William ...Read more

An E Howard Company No 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator clock soars ...
News-Antique.com (press release), December 5th

News-Antique.com - Dec 05,2014 - PITTSFIELD, Mass. – An E. Howard & Company No. 47 wall-hanging astronomical regulator clock – one of only three examples known and so rare it doesn't even appear in the E. Howard catalog – soared to a record price ...Read more

Preserving an historic piece of time
Norwalk Reflector, December 3rd

The old reliable clock dating to about 1914 atop the old city hall building would keep him from getting in trouble with his parents. Reed, 55, a youngster at the time, needed to be home at the time he told his mother. Reed could either ... In November...Read more

Historic clock in Troy breaks
Towanda Daily Review, November 25th

She noted that the clock is a "unique Seth Thomas design." "It's been there so long, certainly the community must miss it (working)," she commented. An old photograph from Nov. 29, 1914 of the dedication of the "town clock" on Nov. 29, 1914 shows a...Read more

Seth Thomas clock winds up being around 100 years old
Ocala, June 16th

Q: The enclosed pictures are of a Seth Thomas wind-up clock that I acquired at an auction in Sullivan County, N.Y., back in the 1970s. The glass in the door that opens to the clock face is missing. The clock is in working order and when you wind it, it...Read more