Research on Antiques & Collectibles


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In Connecticut, between 1810 and 1812, Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley produced 8-day wood clocks designed for a long case, and also 8-day wood shelf clocks which are supposed to have appeared soon after 1820. Undoubtedly these long-case clock movements, few of which have been found, represent Connecticut's attempt to enter the 8-day wood clock field.

The basic Connecticut wood-clock movement is the cumbersome 30-hour "Cheney movement" which was being made in Hartford County as early as 1745. Although the method of placing the weight cords differed, both movements were "pull-ups," that is to say, no key or crank was needed in winding the clock. When the weight was down it could be elevated by pulling down on the free cord. In this respect these movements follow the early English 30-hour short-pendulum brass lantern clock and its lineal descendant, the 30-hour brass long-case clock, the latter being sometimes called the "English country clock." There is little doubt that the wood ‘Cheney’ belonging to the Reverend Laurence L. Barber is somewhat larger than most other Cheney movement clocks and doubtless earlier. In most contemporary clocks, the escape wheel is set about halfway between the center of the front plate and its top edge, while in Dr. Barber's clock the escape wheel is so placed that its pinion comes through an opening at the very center of the heavy front plate, and extends toward the dial about 2 1/2 inches. The pinion projects into a hole drilled in the minute wheel shaft, but although this hole is larger than the pinion, the parts were so worn that the hand wheels had a tendency to drag down on the escape pinion and stop the motion, but it is difficult to ascertain any merit in this peculiar arrangement.

A Cheney movement can be compared with a later 30-hour pull-up movement by Riley Whiting. For the purpose of further comparison, the same 30-hour movement and a Thomas and Hoadley 8-day key-wind movement are also compared. In overall size there is little difference. The parts in the 8-day movement are rather finer except that the circumference of the winding drum is 4 1/8 inches, while in the 30-hour movement it is about 3 1/3 inches. The latter movement with a single cord would run 30 hours on one winding, and the arrangement of the 8-day movement with the same diameter on the drum would allow it to run 90 hours, or 3+ days.

With the introduction of a pulley and a doubled cord, the latter movement would run 7 1/2 days, but instead of reducing the diameter of the drums enough to give the normal 8-day run, the size of the drum was increased and the cord was tripled, that is to say, it goes from the movement down and around a pulley in a small wooden frame on which the weight is hung, then back and over a pulley set in the board on which the movement rests, and then down to tie off at the top of the wooden frame. The time train requires a weight of 17 pounds. There are only four copies known of this 8-day movement.

Another unidentified key-wind seconds pendulum 8-day movement, which doubtless originated in Connecticut, has its plates somewhat larger than those in the Thomas and Hoadley movement. The general arrangement of the striking train differs from that adopted by Thomas and Hoadley, and the count wheel, which in long-case wood clocks commonly is found on the reverse of the back plate, has been moved to the front plate. This method later was necessary in connection with shelf clocks such as the overhead striker, wherein the movement was fastened to the back board of the case. The winding drum is large, having a circumference of about 4 3/4 inches. Ten hours are required for one revolution of the winding wheel and so, with a doubled cord, the movement would run for more than 8 days in a normal long case.

There is a limited number of copies of the 8-day wood clock by Silas Hoadley which, in departure from standard lines, it surpasses any of Hoadley's efforts in the shelf clock field. Although weights of almost 7 pounds each are required, the movement does not utilize a key but is a "pull-up." In front of the front plate and at the top of the movement there is an auxiliary plate 3 inches in height and having the same width as the main plates. This supports some of the striking parts, including the count wheel, the others being between the main plates on the right as one faces the movement. The going train is on the left, which is unusual. The winding wheels are set so low in the plates that it was necessary to cut through the baseboard so that the wheels might have clearance. The escape wheel is behind the back plate where it is supported by a wooden bridge that also supports the verge which turns in the Terry manner on a pin. The verge meets the escape wheel at the side, and movement of a single screw permits adjustment of the position of the verge. On the reverse of the front plate there is another small auxiliary plate which supports the front escape pinion.

It is easy to assign a reason for the production of the key-wind Thomas and Hoadley movement. Eli Terry had withdrawn from the business in which Thomas and Hoadley had been associated with him and undoubtedly it was commonly known that he was devoting his efforts to the production of a wood shelf clock. The demand for the 30-hour pull-up clock had probably gone off and Thomas and Hoadley as casting about for something from which to create a new market, and indeed they may have had in mind to forestall Terry's proposed invention by producing an 8-day movement. Doubtless there was some demand for an 8-day wood clock. Years ago in Maine, there was a 30-hour pull-up clock by Hoadley, which a local genius had transformed into a key-wind 8-day. To accomplish this he discarded the striking train, drove a winding post into the original main strike wheel which he set as the winding wheel behind a hole that he drilled in the dial, added a fifth wheel to the going train, and hung a 10-pound weight on a doubled cord. If my calculations are sound, a slight change in their winding wheel would have given Thomas and Hoadley an 8-day run on doubled cords, and accordingly it occurs to me that in adopting the out-size weights and a tripled cord, Seth and Silas were merely engaging in a bit of showmanship. However this may be, the Terry perfected shelf clock speedily made its appearance and no long-case wood clock, no matter how impressive, could stand against it.

A Hoadley experiment which probably was undertaken soon after Thomas took his departure in 1813, with its amazing movement, was re-designed with the purpose of avoiding imitation of the design in which Thomas had an interest. If that was Hoadley's purpose, it seems clear that he achieved the end desired; in fact, so far as most experts believe, no other clockmaker could have said that the pattern had been stolen from him.

It is also difficult to understand how carpenters or joiners, who had been connected with clockmaking for a short time only, could produce so many rapid changes in the set-up of their clock movements. While this question may have presented itself in connection with the work of clockmakers other than Hoadley, in this regard, his career was most interesting, and clearly his 8-day adds to the interest. There seems to be reason in accepting the premise that Eli Terry possessed inventive genius, but there is no reputable record to suggest that Terry carried Hoadley along or advised him in connection with the surprising movements which the latter produced. However, it seems that either we must assume that Hoadley was also a genius, or we must conclude that there was in Connecticut, in that period, a trained clockmaker, such as Thomas Harland probably was, who was available and who did advise Hoadley and other carpenters and cabinetmakers as they successfully joined the great Connecticut wood clock parade.