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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
National Watch and Clock Museum
National Maritime Museum
Dan and Diana's Lux Clock Collection
Detex Watchman's Clock Album
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Seth Thomas Clocks
Source: Google News
Twisted Gavel holds second sale; C&P changes dateTribune-Review, August 24th
When Dan Pletcher discovered that a couple of major antiques shows on the East Coast were scheduled for the same weekend as his originally planned mid-September auction, he scrambled to move the sale to Sept. 6 to avoid the loss of any ... Also in the...Read more
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
MAINE TWO-DAY ESTATES AUCTIONMaine Antique Digest, August 8th
Bowen's, 8 ant. prints of Body/anatomy/Armour etc., Maurice Day “Antique” shop print, Oriental prints inc. 1760 “The Emperor & His Entourage” & a 1759 encampment etc. SILVER: 5” Orient. .... Sailor's shell art shadow box in anchor form, 24” ½ mod. of...Read more
More than a century after it was installed, courthouse clock is coming back to ...Kansas City Star, August 4th
“I believe the Tower Clock Restoration Project at the Cass County Historic Courthouse is an endeavor that all Cass Countians can take pride in,” Presiding Commissioner Jeff Cox said. “Preserving our history is one of the most important things we can do...Read more