A Pillar-and-Scroll Shelf Clock


Eli Terry began to mass-produce his austere but serviceable box clock (See Cat. 317044) in 1816 and immediately proceeded to refine it. The plain box case acquired a pair of slender pillars on the sides, scrollwork on top, and a set of graceful feet. A dial was added, and the lower portion of the glass door was reverse-painted. In the movement, Terry experimented with modifications of the escapement, revised the gear trains, and replaced the rack-and-snail striking mechanism with the more economical count wheel. The result of these efforts, patented in 1823, was another wooden, weight-driven, hour-striking, thirty-hour clock that soon became widely known as the Connecticut pillar-and-scroll clock.

As the design of the clock was perfected, Terry set about organizing its manufacture. Production was underway in 1822. By 1825, Eli Terry, in partnership with his brother Samuel and his sons Eli, Jr., and Henry, was operating three factories, each turning out two to three thousand pillar-and-scroll clocks a year. Originally, Terry's clock cost fourteen dollars, but before long its price dropped to under ten dollars.

Other clockmakers, notably Seth Thomas, soon produced clocks after Terry's design. The output of the new clock industry soon became too large to be absorbed by the local market. Scores of traveling salesmen were dispatched to sell clocks in the rural West and South. "As to the Yankee clocks peddler," reported an English traveler in the 1840s, " in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and here in every dell of Arkansas and in every cabin where there was not a chair to sit on, there was sure to be a Connecticut clock."

Date Made: 1825-1828Date Made: 1824-1827

Maker: Eli & Samuel Terry

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Connecticut, Plymouth

See more items in: Work and Industry: Mechanisms, Industry & Manufacturing, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of James Arthur Collection, New York University

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1984.0416.033Catalog Number: 1984.0416.033Accession Number: 1984.0416

Object Name: pillar and scroll clock

Physical Description: glass (door material)wood (overall material)brass (overall material)Measurements: overall: 31 1/2 in x 17 5/8 in x 4 5/8 in; 80.01 cm x 44.7675 cm x 11.7475 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746aa-6bc2-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1204715

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