Antique Clock Collecting: Boston Clock Company
Boston Clock Company, 1884-1894, continued the traditions of the Harvard Clock Company after the name change in 1884. Boston Clock Company began producing striking clocks in 1886 after the invention and patent of the famous Boston tandem wind movement. This type was produced in house strike and in limited numbers, ship’s bell. The ship’s bell clocks appear to be prototypes, as all known examples vary significantly in movement design. Circumstantial evidence exists that these ship’s bell clocks marked “Boston Clock Co.”, were assembled at the Vermont Clock Company circa 1900.
From 1884-1894 Boston Clock Company produced approximately 15000 clocks.
While it seems expected that these fine Harvard and Boston clock movements would be similar, as they were produced by the same company, the newly named company expanded their offerings considerably.
In the annals of Boston folk lore is another story about Joseph Eastman and his attempt to market his clocks thought the famous jewelry company “Tiffany & Co.” of New York. When Eastman called on the buyers of Tiffany, he was rejected, as although his clocks were of excellent quality, his time only clocks were not the striking clocks customers wanted. This was a tremendous set back to Eastman as his company had purchased a very large supply of dials with only one winding hole for use with the time only movements.
This patent dated June 15, 1886, states, “this invention has for its object to enable the striking-movement of a clock to be readily separated from the time-movement without affecting or making either movement inoperative; and to this end it consists in a clock having a frame composed of two separable sections, the one holding the time-movement and the other the striking-movement”. It is said that Eastman designed this movement with one winding arbor to satisfy the demand for striking clocks and to use his large supply of single winding hole dials. The Boston Clock Company experienced at least a moderate level of success as the Boston Clock Company’s 1890 catalog boasted a fairly wide line of clocks. One of the most notable, although rather rare, of the Boston clocks, the “Locomotive”, seems to have been the the inspiration for the Chelsea Clock Company when they began offering their “Marine” line of clocks in 1897. These marine clocks, followed by their patented Ship’s Bell clock in 1900, eventually became Chelsea’s largest product line and established their reputation as “Timekeepers of the Sea.” Chelsea also adopted the “watch type” escapement which was similar in both design and appearance. The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review of Jan 31, 1894 on page 25 reports that “The Ansonia Clock Co. has bought out the Boston Clock Co.” The Circular of September 4, 1895 additionally notes “The Boston Clock Co. have just transferred their property to Charles O. Warner on private terms. The estate comprises a large brick building and a lot of land, containing about 50,362 square feet, appraised for $5,000. The whole is assessed for $35,000.” These two entries mark the end of the Boston Clock Company . Although the Ansonia catalogs, till as late as1907, offered Boston Clock Co. clocks, this appears just to be a reduction of acquired inventory, as no effort was made to continue production of Boston clocks. Models offering Ansonia movements in what appear to be Boston style cases are the extent of Boston/Ansonia collaboration.
The Boston Clock Company is one of my favorite clock makers and Boston area producer. It really begins the story of Chelsey, as I’ll tell you when we get to Chelsey Clocks, but It begins with a man named Joseph Eastman who was a wonderful clockmaker, inventor, mechanic, but not a very good businessman. He made very good clocks, but he wasn’t too good at selling them, so that there aren’t that many of them and they’re rare, but extremely high quality. We are looking at a few of them here. This company existed from the mid eighteen eighties to the mid eighteen nineties. They were really trying to compete with the quality, high quality French clocks of the period as opposed to the Connecticut clocks or any of the other makers. In this case we have a crystal regulator we saw some of those before in a different style, but he’s copied the features of it in very high quality, the beveled glass all around, the porcelain dial, but you see no pendulum swinging below, because Eastman made balance wheel movements rather than pendulum movements, so there’s just something ticking inside that may have actually been a problem for him in selling this clock, because people were so used to seeing the pendulum swinging below that they thought it looked odd if it didn’t have it.
The other feature of his clocks, the ingenious one that you can see on this clock particularly is that there is only one winding hole. Which normally would tell us that this is just a time keeper, but in fact this is a time and strike clock and he had developed a system called tandem wind where you’d actually you would turn the key in one direction to wind the time train and reverse direction, wind it in the other direction to wind the strike train. Complicated, but interesting in the fact of only one winding hole. He also made carriage clocks; again, high quality ones. The only really quality carriage clocks made in this country to compete with the Frenchman’s of the time. These are rare and interesting, also balance wheel clocks of course, not pendulum. This is the Sparta model in an unusual silver case; mostly they were gold or polished gold or polished brass.
This is an even rarer model; the Cypress model which is a miniature striking carriage clock, again with that tandem wind feature, but very rare, very collectible.
They also again made wall clocks to try to compete with Howard and the other companies. They a; many of those styles can be seen in this reproduction Boston Clock Company catalog which is available for you to look at and find the model that you may find to begin your Boston Clock Company collection.