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Thread: Dana Blackwell

  1. #1
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Dana Blackwell

    I was reminded this evening that there had been no discussion on this message board of the passing of Dana Blackwell. The obituary below will be printed in the upcoming issue of the Bulletin, but I am sure it is alright to share it here.
    It is with much sadness that I report the passing of Dana J Blackwell, one of the greats of the horological world. He died at his home on June 14th, a few weeks before his 90th birthday.


    After working as a designer of aircraft instrumentation and a teacher of Mathematics and English Literature, he became a Vice-President of the Howard Clock Products Company in the 1970's; and it was Dana who rescued the Howard clock and watch records from destruction and presented most of them to the Smithsonian Institution. Until the 1990's, he also served as a Director of the American Watch and Clock Museum in Bristol, CT. He wrote numerous articles on horological and historical matters, many of which were published in the Bulletin, and also gave countless lectures throughout the United States. Until age gradually forced him to cut back on the activities he loved, Dana continued to be a restorer of, and consultant on, clocks, watches, chronometers and electric time installations to "Industry, Museums & Collectors" and in his 'spare time' carry on correspondence with friends and acquaintances around the world.


    Happily married to Verna and content to live in the same lovely house in Connecticut (it retains to this day some gas lighting), Dana travelled extensively both in America and Europe. During his travels, he sought out many of the remaining workshops and individuals who were involved at the highest levels of horological practise. This led to personal friendships with Henry Stern, owner of Patek Philippe, Geneva, as well as the chronometer making firm of John Bliss in New York, the firm of John Ritchie in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the then leading London watchmaking firm of Charles Frodsham. The latter firm's products were of particular interest to Dana and his collection of Frodsham chronometers and watches stood as one of America's finest, if not the largest, and Dana was able to contribute much information for Vaudrey Mercer's book about the different Frodsham firms, published by the Antiquarian Horological Society in 1981.


    Such a full and giving life deserves to be better recorded but for now I should just like to add that the membership of every Association and Society needs a few good men and women to whom it can turn to for guidance. Dana J Blackwell was certainly of that breed. Always careful in his choice of words, yet unstinting in his willingness to share correct knowledge on a large and varied list of horological topics, both antiquarian and practical, he will me missed by many.


    David Penney
    Tom McIntyre Click me.
    If you don't learn to laugh at trouble,
    you won't have anything to laugh at when you're old.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    Tom,
    In 1992 I bought the E Howard no 59 Vienna regulator and the no 10 figure eight regulator at a yard sale. I wasn't aware of Dana Blackwell and how he had breathed new life into E Howard in re-issuing these master pieces of a by gone era.
    I was thumbing through an old bulletin and caught reference to Dana in one of the articles or perhaps the answer box. Having no sense of propriety I simply dialed long distance information got his number and called him to ask some questions regarding the clocks.
    Dana's wife called him to the phone and I told him my little story and he spent 30 minutes giving me the history of Howard and the story of recreating those classic clocks. Dana had a passion for clocks and people and he was very kind to a stranger on the phone asking questions he had probably already answered 10,000 times before.

    90 years old!!! I'd sign that contract today!

    Dana was kind to time and time was kind to him.

    Larry

  3. #3

    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    Yes,

    Dana was a true treasure to the world of horology. I haven't seen him in the last decade or so, but when I did see him years ago, whether he was giving a talk or I was eavesdropping a conversation, you could sense his command of the subject and willingness to share it.

    Another great loss, to his family, his friends and fellow enthusiasts.

    May he rest in peace

    Ralph

  4. #4

    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    A number of years ago my wife and I were traveling through Connecticut touring the early clock making towns. When we go to Bristol we of course went to the clock and watch museum, we were carrying pictures of a clock we owned that we had never found in catalogs or books, we asked at the desk and were referred to Dana. He looked at our Seth Thomas pictures and agreed he had never seen one either. He took us back into the vault and looked through all of the old original catalogs that they had, without luck, I would think he had lots to do, but spent his time freely with us. He was truly a gentleman and an asset to the whole world of horology, I and many will miss him, but his legacy will live on.

    Larry Pearson, FNAWCC* #35863
    Larry Pearson, FNAWCC* #35863

  5. #5
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    Dana was a wonderful man and a great contributor to the NAWCC. The prestigious Dana J. Blackwell Clock Award is named for him and he was its first recipient in 1986.

    Foster Campos, who also died just a short time ago, was a recipient of the Blackwell Award in 1992. Here is a table of all the winners. The award may be given annually but only is awarded if there is an outstanding candidate. It has been awarded 13 times in 22 years.

    Code:
    1986	237	D J BLACKWELL
    1989	43295	GERHARD M HUTTER
    1991	40522	HOWARD KLEIN
    1992	16332	FOSTER S	CAMPOS
    1993	29585	RICHARD COX
    1995	98118	TREVOR BEATSON
    1996	46824	E W WILLARD
    1997	43445	DAVID M MUNRO
    1998	74672	RICHARD N BALZER
    2001	11096	LEE H DAVIS
    2003	28910	C E BEACHAM III
    2004	115653	BORIS VOJVODICH
    2005	115968	JOHN SHADLE
    Tom McIntyre Click me.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    I met Dana Blackwell in 1962, and I guess it was a fortuitous meeting for us both. I was attending Olivet College in Michigan and sang in the college Ensemble chorus and orchestra. The group made a biennial tour of New England that spring, singing concerts in Congregational churches, staying with church members. After one in a Connecticut town, I was taken home by the Blackwells. My mother and stepfather drove up from their home in White Plains for the concert and the tour of Mr. Blackwell's home -- and its clocks, its scores of clocks (he silenced three in my bedroom alone).
    I'm a descendant of Nels Johnson. A year or so after that concert, the Nels Johnson tall clock in my mother's home quit. My mother and stepfather arranged to take the clock to Mr. Blackwell. He fixed it, making a new gear, I was told, and wrote about the clock in an horological journal. He didn't charge my stepfather.
    The clock, made by Johnson in Manistee Michigan. had been in my grandmother's home in Detroit when I was a child. From White Plains it went to Tucson, then to Redding, Calif., and then home with me to Ferndale Michigan in 1990. I couldn't start it. I mentioned it to a neighbor of mine, Bill Ruffley, who built clocks. He knew Mr. Blackwell, perhaps through the NAWCC. He repaired the clock, again making a new gear for it, and charged me for the materials, $25. I'm now in Hillsdale County, Mich. The clock has stopped, and probably needs a good cleaning. I'll post on another part of this forum about that.
    Both Mr. Ruffley and Mr. Blackwell are gone. But I'm grateful to them both, and grateful for two coincidences and resulting care that have kept the clock running for so long.
    Those with knowledge of the Johnson tall clocks built for his children may know they don't chime. But my wife and I have three chiming clocks. One is in the bedroom. We don't silence it.

  7. #7
    Registered user. Lynne Gillette's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: bobball)

    He was a true gentleman and had a mind like a steel trap! I was fortunate to have met him in Madison, Wisconsin at a seminar. It was extremely entertaining to watch him and Henry Fried swap info!
    Some talented people have won the Dana Blackwell Award!!!!
    A loving wife, a treasured friend, and a dream proved a broken man could be repaired.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Dana Blackwell (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    Tom,
    In 1953 my parents moved from Brooklyn, NY to Naugatuck, CT. I attened Naugatuck H.S. for the next 2 yrs. Little did I know that, during the school year, I walked twice a day past Dana's home on Hillside avenue which was located below the high school. I was 18 yrs. old at the time. I started collecting clocks in 1975 and had the pleasure and privelege of meeting Dana several times at the Clock Museum in Bristol, CT. I attended Bob Schmitt's April,2008 auction which included some of Dana's clocks. I purchased an Salem Bridge shelf clock that had been restored by Dana. The label read in part: "S. Clark for Hill,Wells &Co., Straightville, CT." The clock now rests on the mantel over the fireplace in my home in Essex, CT. The clock keeps excellent time. I feel very honored and fortunate to have this clock and the memories that go with it from this great person. He is sorely missed. Respectfully, Robert Mills

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