Clock Patent Model


The depression of 1837 hit Connecticut 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, and a disciple of Eli Terry—had a new idea. A simple, weight-driven, 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. Noble Jerome, a talented clockmaker, quickly made a prototype and received a U.S. patent on it in 1839.

By that time, mechanized production of clock movements was already underway and would soon reach unprecedented numbers. Whereas the typical factory might produce several thousand wooden clocks per year, 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" 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 traveled 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. Over the next twenty years, in part because of American competition, the British clock industry declined to near extinction.

Date Made: 1839Patent Date: 1839-06-27

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Place: United States: Connecticut, Bristol

See more items in: Work and Industry: Mechanisms, Industry & Manufacturing, Patent Models


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: ME.309112Catalog Number: 309112Accession Number: 89797Patent Number: 1,200

Object Name: clock movement, patent modelpatent model, clock strikerObject Type: Patent Model

Physical Description: wood (base material)brass (wheels material)Measurements: overall: 5 5/8 in x 6 1/4 in x 2 in; 14.2875 cm x 15.875 cm x 5.08 cm


Record Id: nmah_852103

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