Jerome Brothers Ogee Clock

The depression of 1837 hit Connecticut wooden clock manufacturers so hard that they feared the entire industry might collapse. On a trip to Virginia to collect old bills, Chauncey Jerome—a successful clock producer from Bristol, Connecticut—had a new idea. A simple one-day clock made of brass, he thought, could be produced far more cheaply and in much greater quantities than the standard wooden clock. When he returned home, he described the idea to his brother Noble, a talented clockmaker who quickly made a prototype and received a U.S. patent on it in 1839.
A typical factory might produce several thousand wooden clocks per year, but the Jeromes—and their principal imitators and rivals—were soon mass-producing brass clocks in the hundreds of thousands. For these brass clocks, Chauncey Jerome adopted a simple case introduced by several other New England clockmakers. The case became famous as the "Ogee," named for its characteristic S-shaped moldings.
Unlike wooden clocks, brass movements were unaffected by humidity and could be transported by ship. The entire world, clockmakers quickly recognized, was a potential market. The reception Chauncey Jerome's clocks received in England, home of some of the world's finest clockmakers, illustrates the impact of his innovation. When the first clocks arrived in 1842, valued at an improbable $1.50 each, English customs inspectors assumed that Jerome had set the figure far below cost to avoid paying the proper duties. To teach Jerome a lesson, the inspectors bought the whole shipment at the declared price. When a similar cargo at the same valuation arrived a few days later, they did the same. Only with the third shipment did they recognize that they were unwittingly becoming distributors for Yankee clock manufacturers. Jerome was content with the prices British customs agents had been paying him and would have happily supplied them indefinitely. From then on Jerome's clocks entered the English market unimpeded.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1840
Jerome, Chauncey
Physical Description
"brass" (movement material)
wood (case material)
overall: 26 in x 15 1/2 in x 4 1/2 in; 66.04 cm x 39.37 cm x 11.43 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

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