Novelty Clock, "Winker," about 1865

Once Yankee technology had perfected the process for mass-producing spring-driven brass clock movements, the small mechanisms could be made and sold so cheaply that virtually everyone could afford a domestic clock. Case styles proliferated as the industry rushed to satisfy the broad range of American tastes. Decorative novelties flooded the market. Fanciful figures with blinking eyes were among the many popular styles.
The "winkers," painted cast-iron figures with clock movements in their bellies, enjoyed great favor in the 1860s and 1870s. Made by several firms in nearly a dozen styles, they featured eyes that moved up and down through a wire linkage to the escapement. The first figures are credited to Pietro Cinquinni of Meriden, Connecticut. In 1857 he patented two figure-clock case designs: a man dressed in eighteenth century garb, who came to be called Toby or the Continental, and Santa Claus. Production began the same year at the Meriden firm of Bradley and Hubbard, manufacturers of cast-metal household ornaments. Movements were supplied by the Seth Thomas Clock Company and the Waterbury Clock Company. Figure-clock castings by J. Buchner and Company of New York and movements attributed to Chauncey Jerome also survive. The line soon expanded to include the Organ Grinder, Gambrinus, Topsy, Sambo, the Sitting Dog, the Reclining Dog, the Owl, and the Lion. The Smithsonian's Toby has an unmarked spring-driven movement with a balance wheel, the so-called "marine lever" movement.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1865
Bradley & Hubbard
Physical Description
"brass" (movement material)
iron (case material)
paint (case material)
overall: 16 1/2 in x 10 1/2 in x 7 1/2 in; 41.91 cm x 26.67 cm x 19.05 cm
clock: 4 in; 10.16 cm
base: 2 in; 5.08 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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