We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our old English long-case clock rang 12 times on New Year's Eve, as it has for my wife's family here in New England for between 240 and 300 years. There’s a note pinned inside by her great-great grandfather that reads “This clock was buried in the basement of one of our ancestors during the Battle of Bunker Hill” (which you will recall took place on June 17, 1775). History records that the London clockmaker, Devereaux Bowly, opened his shop in 1710 and died in 1773, so the clock had to have been made between those dates. My wife’s patronymic ancestor, a sea captain, was in Boston by 1736, so he could have brought it to Massachusetts any time during that period.
Of all the furniture that the past bequeathed to the current day, most of us have a particular soft spot for the long-case, or grandfather clock (so-named after the popular 1876 song, My Grandfather’s Clock). It is still and no doubt will be for many years to come the most popular form of household timepiece. Clocks give life to a room, but the tall clocks of the peculiar form that is now 300 years old have a special dignity. To the early American colonist, owning a clock was a status symbol. Most people of that time could not afford a clock of their own and had to rely on the church clock on the town common for the time of day. Privately owned clocks were only found in the finest of homes and were certain to be displayed in a prominent place for all to view.
Long-case pendulum clocks were still a new invention in 1736. In 1580 the Astronomer Galileo observed a swinging lamp suspended by a long chain from a cathedral ceiling. He studied its swing and discovered that each swing was equal and had a natural rate of motion. He later found this rate of motion depended upon the length of the chain or pendulum. In 1640 he designed a clock mechanism incorporating the swing of a pendulum, but he died before building his clock design.
It wasn’t until 1656 that Galileo’s pendulum principle was put to use by Dutch scientist Christian Huygens, who was the first to develop a pendulum based clock. Huygens’s invention however allowed clocks to run accurately to the point of three minutes loss or gain per day. Some years later in 1670 the English clockmaker William Clement noticed that a longer pendulum kept better time, so he lengthened the pendulum to over three feet. This of course required a longer case for the clockworks, and so the long-case clock was born. From then on the clocks were variously called long-case clocks, floor clocks, and even coffin clocks because they resembled the shape and size of the simple wooden coffins of that time.
Grandfather clocks were first made for royal families and nobles, but in time their production cost were cut down to where they were affordable for merchant families and became a symbol of socio-economic status and wealth.
Around 1685, long-case clocks were imported into American colonies for the first time and roughly 10 years later their construction in the New World began. New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Virginia became long-case clock making centers, but, until the 19th century American introduction of inexpensive brass movements, English clockmakers reined supreme.
Ed. note: I'm sure most of our readers are familiar with My Grandfather's Clock:
What a valuable piece of family heirloom! THAT is something to treasure and preserve for future generations for sure. (Now that I've said that, Barbara Boxer will pass a law seizing your clock for the Smithsonian in order to "preserve it for future generations").
I hope you have it appraised, pictured, and insured.
I have two long case grandfather clocks of more recent vintage myself. My wife had one when we were married and my (former) company (Tandem Computers) gave me one for my 10th employment anniversary. We hope to pass these on to our sons in a family tradition and hope they bring years of enjoyment to them when it is time.
(OT here: I am looking for a mechanical ship's clock. The old style that has to be wound, not the current fashion of sticking some cheap quartz abomination inside an expensive brass container. One of the OLD style wind 'em up kind, that rings the 8 bells)
Long Case Clock
My wife has a clock at home that is very old and the wood work is almost identical to the one on this web page it stands about 7feet tall but the face is a hand painted farm seen can you shed any light on it
Thanks James Easson
My name is Art and I live in Oyster Bay in New York (on Long Island) and came across your interesting blog posting regarding your family Bowley tall case clock. I too have a Bowley clock and have always looked for information about Bowley. My clock is without a case (lost over the years â€“ I believe burned in a fire) before I rescued it from a garbage pile â€“ and having been restored many years ago, it is virtually identical to yours! I was fascinated â€“ I took my computer with your posting on the screen to where we have it hanging on the wall in our central hallway and just stood there in amazement.
I would love to exchange and share information about Devereux Bowley and our clocks. If you are interested, as I hope you are, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, I am an avid clock collector and have many fascinating clocks. For any of your blog followers, you may be known that there is a major clock collectorsâ€™ organization â€“ The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (nawcc.org) and a major clock museum operated by the Association in Columbia, PA.