Eli Terry Tall Case Clock

Between roughly 1790 and 1820, American clockmaking changed from a handicraft to an industry. The principal setting for this transformation was western Connecticut, the principal product was the wooden clock movement, and the main character was Eli Terry (1772-1852).
Terry began his clockworking career traditionally enough. He acquired the metalworking skills to make brass movements during an apprenticeship with Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, who in turn had been apprenticed to the British immigrant clockmaker Thomas Harland. Terry's teachers for wooden movements were probably Timothy or Benjamin Cheney, clockmaking brothers from East Hartford.
Once on his own, Terry specialized in thirty-hour wooden movements for tall case clocks, although he accepted commissions for brass movements as well. Over a period of years, he experimented with many variations of thirty-hour movements, one of which is in this clock. The town of Plymouth, Connecticut, named on the dial, was incorporated in 1795; Terry made this clock some time between 1795 and 1807. After 1807 Terry's wooden movements had different characteristics. In that year he introduced large-scale factory methods and water-powered machinery into the manufacture of wooden tall case-clock movements. His pioneering application of mass-production technology to the clock industry and his highly successful mass-produced shelf-clock won Terry a prominent place in American history.
Currently not on view
Object Name
tall case clock
date made
ca 1795
Terry, Eli
Physical Description
cherry (movement, wheels material)
oak (movement, plates material)
wood (movement, pins material)
silver-plated brass (dial plate material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 84 1/4 in x 18 in x 12 1/4 in; 213.995 cm x 45.72 cm x 31.115 cm
place made
United States: Connecticut, Plymouth
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
James Arthur Collection, New York University
Additional Media

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