An Acorn Clock

The acorn clock, named for the whimsical, graceful shape of its case, is coveted by collectors for its rarity. Historically it is interesting as an example of mass-produced Connecticut clocks during their transition from weight- to spring-drive. The use of the spring-drive meant that manufacturers no longer had to build elongated cases to accommodate falling weights. This new freedom, along with the technique of laminating and bending wood, made possible the characteristic acorn shape of the case.
Jonathon Clark Brown (1807-1872) was a prominent Bristol, Connecticut manufacturer, who operated a succession of clock factories. Last and best-known of these was the Forestville Manufacturing Company, which boasted an annual output of one hundred thousand clocks shortly before its bankruptcy in 1856. A cabinetmaker by trade, Brown offered an unusually diverse and imaginative range of case styles. The Forestville Manufacturing Company made acorn clocks like this one from 1847 to 1850.
Acorn clocks were among the first to use the locally made coiled-steel springs that had recently become available. These springs were not installed as integral parts of the movement. Instead they were attached to a conventional weight-driven movement in a notably rough-and-ready manner. Mounted at the bottom of the case, the springs exerted the same pulling force upon the clock as the falling weights had. The two springs, one for the going train and another for the hour-striking train, were each combined with a fusee, a cone-shaped pulley designed to equalize the changing force of the unwinding spring. Before long, Connecticut clockmakers dispensed with the fusees and incorporated the springs directly into the movements.
Currently not on view
Object Name
acorn shelf clock
clock, acorn shelf
Date made
ca 1849
Forestville Manufacturing Company
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 24 1/2 in x 15 in x 5 1/4 in; 62.23 cm x 38.1 cm x 13.335 cm
Place Made
United States: Connecticut, Bristol
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Domestic Furnishings
Industry & Manufacturing
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Albert Adsit Clemons, through George H. Paltridge

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