The History of Mantel Clocks and How to Identify a Real Antique Piece

08 June 2021

Many mantel clocks are collector’s items today, and many antique models still operate smoothly and keep excellent time. American-made mantel clocks date back to the 1600s. The majority of the original clock designs, however, were tall, stately grandfather clocks. 

In the early 1800s, Eli Terry, a clockmaker in Connecticut, started mass-producing mantel clocks, which increased their popularity. Mantel clocks that were made before 1820 generally had wooden clock movements. 

In the early 1840s, brass movements had nearly replaced the wood variety. If you have an American-made mantel clock with wooden movements, it was most likely produced before the 1840s. 

Determining the Age of Your Mantel Clock

If your mantel clock displays an “anniversary” trademark, it was produced after 1901. If your clock is designed with electroplating, it was made after 1836. Clocks that are composed of plywood were made after 1905. In addition, if your mantel clock consists of moulded plastic or Bakelite, it probably was manufactured in the 1930s or ’40s. 

After the year 1896, any clock that was imported was required to be marked with its country of origin. The clockmaker name typically appears on the inside of the clock. Mantel clocks produced in France usually had elaborate designs, and many were made by the well-known Parisian clockmaker, Henry Marc, during the 19th century. Art Deco period clocks were typically manufactured of marble or granite. 

How to Identify a Genuine Antique Mantel Clock

Your mantel clock must be no less than 100 years old to be considered an antique. If your older clock is less than 100 years in age, it is categorised as vintage. Mantel clocks grew significantly in popularity during the Civil War years. There are several ways to determine clocks that were made during this era, including the following: 

• Examine the Wood. The wood of which a mantel clock is made can help you identify the clock’s place of origin. For example, clocks produced in the United States were usually made of cherry. This attractive red-brown wood often displays touches of deeper red or pink. Some clocks were manufactured of mahogany, a rich dark red-brown wood. Others were produced from oak, light or dark hardwood that is frequently used today as a building material.

• Identify the Style. Mantel clocks made of wood during the Civil War years frequently displayed sleek lines. A good example of this style is the design of clocks made by Seth Thomas. Ansonia, however, made clocks that exhibited elaborate carving or painted scenes. The ogee (OG) style was known by its “S” curve. It was popularised by Seth Thomas before the Civil War and used in subsequent designs.

• Determine the Manufacturer’s Name. The name of your clock’s manufacturer is most likely imprinted on the clock face and other parts. Additional clockmakers of the Civil War era included Ingraham, Haven and Waterbury. However, if your clock was made by Howard Miller or Sessions, it was produced after the Civil War.

• Identify the Movement and Label. Wooden movements were beginning to be phased out in clockmaking in 1842. After 1845, brass movements were introduced in the U.S. by New Haven. By examining the movement, you can find the manufacturer’s name and the date of clock production. 

Yet broken or malfunctioning parts of a clock may have been replaced. Clocks with replacement parts are not original pieces. Take care to ensure that the name on the movement and label corresponds to the actual maker of your clock. 

By consulting our experienced professionals at Ken Ross Jewellers located in Ashburton, Victoria, you will obtain excellent advice and information concerning the history of mantel clocks. You will also gain valuable tips concerning the best methods for determining clock manufacturers and authenticity. Our experts will guide you in determining whether your mantel clock is a true antique piece or an attractive vintage model.

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