Tower Clock Movement, Heisely

The German immigrants who founded Frederick, Maryland, believed that time was a divine gift to be spent in productive work. According to their Calvinist values, temporal order was an important component of godly and disciplined behavior. They relied on this tower clock to help them organize and coordinate their daily lives in time. The congregation of Frederick’s German Reform Church (now Trinity Chapel) installed this clock in the church tower in the 1790s. The entire town contributed to buy the clock for about $800 from local clockmaker Frederick Heisely and paid for its maintenance. The clock coordinated activities for the town’s intertwined sacred and secular communities for nearly 140 years.
When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology (now National Museum of American History) was under construction, builders prepared a pit between the first floor and basement to accommodate the clock’s fourteen-foot pendulum. The clock kept time on the first floor of the museum from its opening in 1964 until the 1990s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
tower clock movement
date made
ca 1790-1799
overall: 115.2652 cm x 116.84 cm x 101.6 cm; 45 3/8 in x 46 in x 40 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
City of Frederick Maryland
Additional Media

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