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Telechron Electric Alarm Clock

Telechron Electric Alarm Clock

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This clock dates from the 1930s, when the popularity of electric clocks began to surpass mechanical ones. In the late 1870s, mass produced spring-driven alarm clocks had first become available for as little as $1.50. The alarm clock became a fixture in bedrooms across the country. In the 1920s, inexpensive electric versions, plugged into house current, appeared. By 1933, roughly sixty percent of all clocks made and sold annually—with and without alarms—were electric.
The internal workings of this clock were made in Ashland, Mass., by the Warren Telechron Co. for General Electric Company. The dial is marked “General Electric” and “Telechron.” The small circular opening under the 12 on the dial is a power indicator. If the power to the clock failed, a red dot appeared in the opening. Resetting would cause the red dot to disappear. Reflecting the art deco influences of that decade, the clock features an alloy case with a black plastic base. Evolved from a firm making window mechanisms for automobiles, the Dura Company of Toledo, Ohio, manufactured the case, an art deco style based on design patent D85,094 granted to George Louis Graff of the same city in 1931.
The modern electric alarm clock has its origins at the Warren Clock Company, Ashland, Mass., in 1912 when Henry Warren made battery-driven electric clocks and experimented with a small clock that operated with power from the electric mains. In 1918 Warren received a patent for a self-starting synchronous motor small enough to power a clock. His clock required a steady flow of 60 cycles per second of alternating current. He discovered that his clocks failed to keep time because the frequency of current from the local power company, Boston Electric, fluctuated. Warren’s next invention, a master clock for power stations, remedied the situation.
In 1917 General Electric purchased a 49% interest in the Warren Clock Company (renamed Warren Telechron Co. in 1926) and used Telechron motors in its clocks. At first clocks appeared only under the Telechron name, but after about 1930, a line of products made in Ashland bearing the General Electric name began to appear. In 1943, when Henry Warren retired, General Electric acquired a controlling interest in the firm and continued making electric clocks until 1979.
See also: Linz, Jim. Electrifying Time: Telechron and G.E. Clocks, 1925-1955. Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 2001.
Currently not on view
Object Name
clock, electric, alarm
Other Terms
clock; Electric
date made
General Electric Company
Warren Telechron Co.,
Physical Description
metal (case material)
overall: 5 1/2 in x 4 in x 3 1/4 in; 13.97 cm x 10.16 cm x 8.255 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Winifred B. Cassar, Jr.
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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