A Pillar-and-Scroll Shelf Clock

A Pillar-and-Scroll Shelf Clock

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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."
Currently not on view
Object Name
pillar and scroll clock
Date made
date made
Eli & Samuel Terry
Place Made
United States: Connecticut, Plymouth
Physical Description
glass (door material)
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
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
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of James Arthur Collection, New York University
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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When I was a college student back in 1965, in Cincinnati, OH, I began collecting and restoring old pendulum clocks. Another collector, Addison Clipson, told me that one day I would find an Eli Terry Pillar and Scroll clock and will have achieved any collector's "dream come true". Well, three years ago I purchased a wonderful Terry clock while on vacation in New England. The clock is an Eli Terry & Sons, probably ca. 1825, which was descended in the same family since it was purchased. The clock is in "as descended" condition and after a bit of cleaning and new weight cords, it runs perfectly. The inside of the clock still has the odor of whale oil and three paste-on repair stickers which have the town of Essex, VT, written on them. The clock came from Stocksboro, VT, just twenty miles south of Burlington in the Green Mountains. The family that owned it was the Gould family. I have traveled to Plymouth, CT, for the past fifteen consecutive years and just enjoy being in the place where this clock was manufactured and where the beginning of the mass produced clock industry began. Thank you.
"I have been looking for this particular configuration, glass and dial, of this particular Eli Terry & Sons Pillar and Scroll Mantel Clock for the last 30 years. I have a Eli Terry & Sons Pillar and Scroll Mantel Clock that has been passed down to me through several generations. The clock works well.: however I was advised not to run it due to the dryness of the gears.My mom, as a child, wound this clock once a week in Logan County, Ky. before they had electricity in that area. She is now 83 years old. It was in pieces in my grandfathers attic until my mother told me about it. I was in college as an Industrial Arts Major. I cleaned all the parts, placed everything back together. glued some small pieces of the mahogany veneer back in place with the traditional hide glue and presented it back to my grandfather.After I married he call me to come to his home and he signed and presented it to me.On the back of the dial, one generation after another has written "Given to_____ by _____ and date, up to and including when he presented this clock to me. .I would like any additional information on the Eli Terry clock if possible.Thank you.Edwin Moss"

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