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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What time is it?The Abington Journal, August 20th
He included the clock tower, which has become a symbol of Waverly and a beloved focal point for the community. The clock was built by the esteemed Seth Thomas, whose clock company also built the four-faced clock that sits in the Grand Concourse of ...Read more
Out & About: The Santa Barbara CourthouseSanta Barbara View, August 20th
The Clock Room was recently lovingly restored by clock enthusiasts and historians who rebuilt one of few remaining Seth Thomas mechanically driven tower clocks and brought it back to its original glory. Other highlights of this impressive courthouse...Read more
Clocks and Cannon BallsMaine Antique Digest, August 13th
Rick Merritt of Reading, Pennsylvania, was a very active buyer at prices lower than those paid by Sawyer and the Delaneys. Formerly of Merritt's Antiques, the venerable firm founded by his grandparents in 1938, Merritt has been buying and selling...Read more
Red Run Golf Club celebrates 100 years of golf, friendshipRoyal Oak Daily Tribune, August 8th
Red Run's centennial celebration began in June 2013, when a beautiful four-sided 16-foot-tall Howard Replica/Seth Thomas Tower Centennial Clock was installed on the first tee and dedicated to Red Run's first 100 years of golf and sportsmanship...Read more
More than a century after it was installed, courthouse clock is coming back to ...The Cass County Democrat, August 7th
The Cass County Commission, in partnership with the county historical society, conducted a ceremony July 31 inaugurating the restoration of the 1909 Seth Thomas tower clock. “I believe the Tower Clock Restoration Project at the Cass County Historic...Read more
Take a photo tour of Alabama's oldest and most picturesque courthouses, built ...The Birmingham News - al.com, July 29th
A new Seth Thomas clock was added when that floor was reconstructed. It sounds on ... Join al.com reporter Kelly Kazek on her weekly journey through Alabama to record the region's quirky history, strange roadside attractions and tales of colorful...Read more
Groundbreaking scheduled for courthouse clock improvementsThe Cass County Democrat, July 24th
The Cass County Historical Society, in partnership with the Cass County Commission, will be conducting a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 31, for the restoration of the 1909 Seth Thomas Tower Clock over the next year. The clock has ...Read more
This week in print – A glance at the pastMoultrie News, July 24th
In 1981, the antique store was owned by Linda and her brother Michael. She told ... Eight years prior to this story on the front page of the Moultrie News, Carl Page bought a large Seth Thomas Street Clock in Pennsylvania, originally from McGee Museum...Read more