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  1. #1

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement

    Possibly in the future I may have the opportunity to purchase a grandfather clock. The clock case is most probably American, pine/poplar interior construction with mahogany primary wood and lots of inlaid shells, borders, etc. My question is, how do you tell if the movement is American? Is there some tell tale sign that you can look for that would identify it as American? I know that many American movements would be cruder than English but some American makers made quality movements. The movement currently in the clock is probably English, or so we think. Thanks for any guidance with this.

  2. #2

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Possibly in the future I may have the opportunity to purchase a grandfather clock. The clock case is most probably American, pine/poplar interior construction with mahogany primary wood and lots of inlaid shells, borders, etc. My question is, how do you tell if the movement is American? Is there some tell tale sign that you can look for that would identify it as American? I know that many American movements would be cruder than English but some American makers made quality movements. The movement currently in the clock is probably English, or so we think. Thanks for any guidance with this.

  3. #3

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Takes experience and wisdom to determine whether the older tall, standing or "grandfather" movement was wholly made in the US and there were very few.

    Most were made from a kit of parts both in England and the US. Plates, bridges or cocks, pillars and wheels were offered separately or as a kit of parts in various stages from raw castings to semi-finished sets. Arbors with pinions cut and polished were available too.

    The American Clock and Watch Museum has examples of whole kits and imported tools needed to finish a movement.

    Some craftsmen adopted various minor differences in turning the pillars as an example that typify their work. Thus some that were made in the US have a "personality" that can be associated with a maker.

    At least one authority has shed light on some of Willard's early work being made of imported wheel castings.
    H.J. (Les) Lesovsky, Alhambra California

  4. #4

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Les is absolutely correct. Unless you can find an unusual distinquishing maker's quirk in a movement, it's really impossible to tell if an antique tallcase bellstrike movement is English or American. The kits referred to above were cast in England and imported into the Colonies. (In theory, brass casting was illegal in the Colonies.) After the revolution, whole movements were imported, then movements with white dials.
    Later, the waters were further muddied by the practice of antques dealers, who faked famous makers' work by adding their names to clocks by obscure English makers, which were cheap and imported in large numbers in the early 20thC.
    Just an example: I showed a 30 Hr. movment to the guys who wrote the book on English 30 Hr. clocks, and they both concurred that it was early 19thC, from the English Midlands. Yet an expert on PA clocks insisted that it was from the Reading, PA area! Though it was purchased near Reading, I suspect the truth is that all, or most, of the Reading Pa makers were buying finished, or semi-finished movements from the English Midlands at that time.
    I've been urging the owners of clocks by famous makers to document the tooth wheel profiles of their movements. At least in the period when makers cut their own wheels, these are likely to represent the one characteristic which would differentiate them from others, especially if they used a wheel cutting engine. But I haven't had much success, perhaps because they're afraid of what a comparative study might reveal. Just look at what the infamous Rembrandt Commission did to museum collections worldwide!

  5. #5

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Hello Weight Driven,

    One additional point of consideration - all clockmaking originated in Europe. English and German clockmakers emigrated to US and they brought their clockmaking traditions with them.

    They trained apprentices here and succeeding generations of clockmakers. It becomes even more difficult to distinguish movements. Particularly in Pennsylvania where both English and German clockmakers work and there are differences in their movements. In time a mixture of traditons occurred.

    The bottom line is if you have a well made 200 yr. old 8 day brass movement housed in a nice original case and original dial - you have something really special. It will probably run another 200-300 years with minimum maintenace and it will outlive us and many more generations.

    Andy Dervan

  6. #6

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Thanks Les, Bill and Andy for all the valuble information you have provided. I am sure this question comes up from time and time, especially when someone purchases a grandfather clock in the hopes of it being all American. Once again, thanks to all.
    Dennis

  7. #7

    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Buy a nice wooden works tall clock buy Hoadley or Thomas or both and you can be sure it is american.
    Eight day or 30 hour.

  8. #8
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    Default How to identify an American vs English Grandfather clock movement (RE: Weight Driven)

    Originally posted by Bob Brousseau:
    Buy a nice wooden works tall clock buy Hoadley or Thomas or both and you can be sure it is American.
    Eight day or 30 hour.
    Ah, Bob, WD might want an English one - he did not actually say he wanted it to be American!
    Me - a wooden works American long case would do me fine!
    Mike - banned member of the throwaway society.

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