Digest>Archives> July 2009

Collecting Nautical Antiques

U.S. Light House Establishment Clock

By Jim Claflin


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One Day Lever Clock.

Like most other items of the services, clocks used by the Lighthouse Service were not well documented and what we know is the result of piecing together bits of information over time. We believe that the Light-House Establishment [pre 1910] and the later Lighthouse Service [1910-1938] purchased the majority of their clocks from four manufacturers: E. Howard & Company of Boston, Howard & Davis Company, Chelsea Clock Company and Seth Thomas Clock Company. However, a friend and lighthouse expert recently sent me images of a rare clock by a fifth company - The Ansonia Clock Company.

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Back view of the One Day Lever Clock.

The clock model is the "One Day Lever Clock" fitted into a beautiful octagonal red oak case. The dial is lettered "U.S.L.H.E.", also Trade Mark "A" and makers mark. The face paint is crackled a bit from age, pointing to its age and authenticity. This clock was at the New Dungeness Light Station sometime in the period from 1900 to 1925, when it was transported by Principal Keeper E.A. Brooks to the Mukilteo Light Station where he was transferred. Keeper Brooks retained the clock when he retired in 1937 and it has remained in his descendants’ possession ever since.

The Ansonia Clock Company made clocks from 1850 until about 1929. Looking at the back label, you will note that this clock was made in their Brooklyn, New York factory. Research reveals that they moved into their Brooklyn address in 1879 and very soon after suffered a severe fire. They wouldn’t produce clocks at that location until about 1881 or so. Clock companies often moved or merged and changed their names over their lives. Clock labels, when they remain, often help us to date such pieces by the name and addresses listed.

I would estimate this clock to be c.1881 - 1910, as after that period brass marine-type clocks were almost exclusively purchased, and these would have been marked for the Lighthouse "Service" rather than Establishment.

As this is the only such Ansonia clock that I have ever seen, it further adds to our list of clock styles used by the Light-House Establishment. We did find in 2002 a strikingly similar clock also in an octagonal wood (pine) case, and also lettered "U.S.L.H.E.", that was manufactured by the Seth Thomas Clock Company.

I suspect that very few such clocks were purchased by the Light House Establishment. By far most clocks in use during that period seem to have been of the regulator or banjo style by E Howard or Howard & Davis.

If any of our readers has any additional information about this type of clock and its use by the Light House Establishment, we would be most interested in hearing from you.

This is surely a great piece, both because of its rarity and its beauty.

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Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. In business since 1956, he has specialized in antiques of this type since the early 1990s. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling (508) 792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the July 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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