Many different American clock companies made the antique models sought by today's collectors and decorators alike. Learn more about a number of these manufacturers including where they did business and when.
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Ansonia, a subsidiary of Ansonia Brass Company founded in 1844, was a premier American clock maker from 1850 to 1929. They made millions of clocks including wall and mantle styles along with grandfather clocks, alarm clocks and a variety of others. Novelty clocks made up the bulk of their business during the early 1900s.
The company's factories were located in Connecticut and New York. In the early 1880s, the Brooklyn, New York factory was employing 360 workers. The Ansonia, Connecticut facility provided jobs for 125 men and women through 1883 when the factory was closed, and all operations were moved to New York. The business had sales offices in New York, Chicago and London at that time, according to AntiqueAnsoniaClocks.com.
A variety of Ansonia clocks is available to collectors and decorators today in all price ranges.
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Elias Ingraham and Company
Elias Ingraham worked as a casemaker for several other clock companies before forming his own in 1860 in Bristol, Connecticut. In 1865, rather than continuing to source them elsewhere, Ingraham began making its own inner workings by setting up a hardware shop with the help of experienced clockmaker, Anson L. Atwood.
Ingraham was awarded 17 patents for differing clock parts and mechanisms. "Many of his cases utilized an unusual figure "8" door design for which he had received a patent in 1857," according to ClockGuy.com. Another patented innovation conceived by Edward Ingraham, Elias' son, was the use of black enameling to imitate French marble mantel clocks. These were quite popular with consumers and the technique was copied by other clock companies thereafter.
Edward took the reins of the business in 1885, and the company saw exponential growth through the late 1800s into the early 1900s. By 1913 they added pocket watches to their lines, and wristwatches in 1932. Production of both pendulum clocks and watches ceased altogether during World War II. Watch production resumed after the war through the mid-1960s, but clocks were no longer made. Literally tens of millions of Ingraham watches were made during their decades in production.
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William L. Gilbert started his clockmaking career in the 1820s working in partnership with various companies in the in Bristol, Farmington and Winsted, Connecticut areas. When the Gilbert Manufacturing Company factory burned in 1871, the business was reestablished as William L. Gilbert Clock Company. A new factory was built in 1873.
"In July of 1873, the new factory complex was completed and manufacturing commenced. George B. Owen (1834-1916) had come to Winsted in 1866 as General Manager and ran the firm for nearly 50 years, designing many interesting cases and patenting several clock movement features. Owen also operated a concurrent clock business at Winsted between 1875 and 1894," as noted by ClockGuy.com.
Weathering an aggressive expansion and economic recession during the early 1900s, along with a change in management, the business morphed into the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation in 1934. They were one of the few clockmaking businesses to continue production during World War II, doing so by making cases from molded paper-maché rather than metal.
Most Gilbert models are low-end mantle clocks that do not sell for extremely high prices. However, larger wall clocks will generally garner a higher price. It's wise to research each clock individually rather than generalizing about values.
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Howard Miller (not to be confused with the Mid-Century manufacturer Herman Miller) founded his clock company in 1926 when he was just 21 years of age. He had learned the art of clockmaking from his father in their home country of Germany. His business, located in Zeeland, Michigan, was known for making quality clocks with an eye on value.
In the early years, Howard Miller concentrated on mantel and wall clocks with chiming mechanisms, but the firm also made a variety of other unique clock styles popular with collectors today. By the 1960s, they were entrenched in the grandfather clock business earning the company the title of "World's Largest Grandfather Clock Manufacturer," according to HowardMiller.com.
Today Howard Miller produces a wide variety of clock styles in addition to high quality cabinets made for displaying collectibles.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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This New England clock company was founded in the mid-1800s to supply brass clock movements to Jerome Manufacturing Company, the largest clock company in the world at that time. When Jerome Manufacturing fell on hard times, it was purchased by New Haven in 1856. They continued making clocks with Jerome & Co. labels through 1904, according to DiscoverClocks.com.
In addition to many different clock varieties ranging from wall clocks to bedside alarm versions and advertising clocks (like the one shown here), New Haven made a line of low cost dollar pocket watches from 1880 through the 1950s. They also made wristwatches from 1915 until 1960.
There are many nice examples of New Haven clocks available in the antiques marketplace–as many as 329 different models have been cataloged.
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Seth Thomas began making clocks in his Connecticut home with locally sourced materials in the early 1800s. He honed his skills making wooden movement clocks working with Eli Terry and Silas Hoadley, and joined with Hoadley to buy out Terry's share of their company in 1810. He stayed put for several years before selling his share of the business to his partner and buying his own company.
After making many tall clocks, around 1817, Thomas "began making the wooden movement shelf clock. These were cased in pillar and scroll cases until 1830, when the bronze looking glass and other styles became popular. In 1842, brass movements were introduced, and first cased in the popular O.G. case (which was made until 1913). Wood movements were phased out in 1845," according to ClockGuy.com.
Seth Thomas, Sr. died in 1859, but his name lived on through the family business. His sons Seth Jr. and Aaron had learned the ins and outs of clockmaking by then, and went on to enlarge and grow the company. Aaron became president, and encouraged adding new products to the firm's lines.
This manufacturer was known for making a wide variety of high quality models including perpetual calendar clocks and regulators. By 1872 they were making tower and street clocks as well, and eventually ventured into jeweled watches.
"Many Seth Thomas clocks from 1881 to 1918 have a date code stamped in ink on the case back or bottom. Usually, the year is done in reverse, followed by a letter A–L representing the month. For example, April 1897 would appear as 7981 D," notes ClockGuy.com.
This family-owned business was sold to General Time Instruments Corporation in 1931, but the name Seth Thomas was still used thereafter.