An aluminium front on a US Clock Co iron

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
I recently bought this clock on eBay as a project to refurbish while I am in lockdown ( due to my age). The movement is original (US Clock Co 8 day alarm striking on a bell) but to my surprise, the case is made of aluminium . It is clearly a copy of the original iron case but who in their right mind would bother to do an elaborate and large casting job for something like this? Has anyone come across cases like this before. If so, do you know when they were made and why? I imagine it wasn’t done by Henry Terhune and Son whose clock paper is clearly visible on the wooden back casing. ( I’m new to the NAWCC- how do I add my photos?)
 

wow

NAWCC Member
Jun 24, 2008
5,068
509
113
75
Pineville, La. (central La.)
Country
Region
At the bottom of your post go to tools. Then edit. Then to from pc. Find photos and choose them. Then do save changes.
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
Is it because I’m on an iPad that the pictures won’t download? I have tried 3 times now but no pictures have appeared. ( Thanks for the advice everyone).
 

Steven Thornberry

User Administrator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Jan 15, 2004
23,345
1,463
113
Here and there
Country
Although I am not familiar with an IPad, ifyou can see a From PC button below the text box, you should be able to click on that to upload pictures stored on your device.
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
The last picture is not one of mine but I can’t delete it - sorry. So pleased to get the pictures on at last
 

Dave T

NAWCC Member
Dec 8, 2011
3,472
181
63
NC
Country
Region
Except for the finish on the case looks like a pretty nice clock to me. You could probably paint it!
Here's a little information on it. Yours looks legitimate to me.
The U.S. Clock co
 

Jim Hartog

NAWCC Member
Jan 6, 2010
756
75
28
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
Country
Region
Hello Essex ranger,

I won't believe aluminum but I would believe zinc or some alloy based on zinc which would be period correct. The word, spelter, is sometimes used for this stuff.

Jim
 

Steven Thornberry

User Administrator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Jan 15, 2004
23,345
1,463
113
Here and there
Country
I agree with Jim about the metal, something other than aluminum (see below). The clock itself was probably made in the 1870's. Terhune was associated with the United States Clock Co. for a lengthy period. The address I have for the United States Clock Co. is 18 Courtlandt St., and Henry Terhune & Son was formed in 1872 at 2 Courtlandt St. So, the 3 Courtlandt St. address is to me unusual for this company, though William S. Johnson was there for a time. Perhaps the address on your label is a misprint?

The clock itself seems to be the Dolphin, a clock designed by Nicholas Muller, which appeared in catalogues between 1858-76. (This from Arlyn Rath's book, Nicholas Muller, Horologist Extraordinaire. Its material was apparently either composition bronze or iron bronze. Perhaps yours is composition bronze? Muller died in 1873, and his business was carried on by his sons. Are there any markings anywhere on the case, perhaps around the oculus door or on the side edges?

The movement was made by Noah Pomeroy, who was in business in various companies between 1847 and 1878.

All in all, I suggest a date between 1872 and 1876/1878 for your clock.

Perhaps others will have more information.
 

zedric

NAWCC Member
Aug 8, 2012
1,520
257
83
Country
Region
Up until the late 1880s aluminium would have been very rare, and reportedly cost more than gold. So you can guarantee that aluminium wasn’t used for these clocks. On the other hand, spelter was cheap and commonly used to imitate bronze - it is a white metal that would either have been plated and patinated, or simply coloured to match the desired finish.
 

Jessk09

NAWCC Member
Feb 27, 2020
248
35
28
Country
They were called [Iron Fronts]. So i am guessing that your clock dates from 1852~1870[maybe]. Some iron fronts had the name ‘mother of pearl’ because of there fronts [painted].

image.jpg
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
View attachment 600108 [/QUOTE]
Thanks very much everyone for all the information. I really thought this was a repro front as all my searching in the books that I could get hold of ( being stuck indoors) and online searching , only produced lots of iron cased clocks from multiple companies and retailers. I think everyone on eBay thought it was reproduced too as it went very cheaply but maybe it’s not to everyone’s taste!
Can’t see any markings on the metal case , so I think your collective assessments are correct and it’s a Dolphin. Not very common in the UK?
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
Another related question - the centre of the clock face doesn’t look right - any ideas what should go there and what are the two holes in the centre disc for?
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
Up until the late 1880s aluminium would have been very rare, and reportedly cost more than gold. So you can guarantee that aluminium wasn’t used for these clocks. On the other hand, spelter was cheap and commonly used to imitate bronze - it is a white metal that would either have been plated and patinated, or simply coloured to match the desired finish.
Yes , I remember reading somewhere that one of the Czars of Russia had a dinner service made of aluminium as it was the most precious metal at that time. Probably looked like something you might take on a picnic nowadays,
 

Steven Thornberry

User Administrator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Jan 15, 2004
23,345
1,463
113
Here and there
Country
Another related question - the centre of the clock face doesn’t look right - any ideas what should go there and what are the two holes in the centre disc for?
The large cutout is to accommodate the alarm dial. From what I can see, it looks like someone trimmed off the center section of the dial paper, possibly in an attempt to provide a kind of replacement for a missing brass-colored metal disk that originally surrounded the opening. The metal disk would have had tabs that fit into the three (not two) holes in the dial. The look would have been similar to the dial shown on the clock in post # 39 of the Muller thread (which, of course, has a differently shaped center cutout).
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

NAWCC Member
Nov 26, 2009
5,776
1,151
113
Country
I recently bought this clock on eBay as a project to refurbish while I am in lockdown ( due to my age). The movement is original (US Clock Co 8 day alarm striking on a bell) but to my surprise, the case is made of aluminium . It is clearly a copy of the original iron case but who in their right mind would bother to do an elaborate and large casting job for something like this? Has anyone come across cases like this before. If so, do you know when they were made and why? I imagine it wasn’t done by Henry Terhune and Son whose clock paper is clearly visible on the wooden back casing. ( I’m new to the NAWCC- how do I add my photos?)
As others have said, I doubt very very much you clock's front is aluminum.

This discussion has occurred before on the Forums. See this thread:

Was silver ever used to gild a clock?

and this link:

History of aluminium - Wikipedia

There was a time when aluminum was considered a rather precious metal. As you point out, Napoleon ate off of aluminum plates. It was used to cap the Washington Monument. It wasn't until an electrolytic process for extracting aluminum from bauxite was developed that it would become an inexpensive metal used for everything from the skin of airplanes to frying pans to something to wrap sandwiches in. An electrolytic extraction process was first developed in 1856, but it seems that the processes which lead to the widespread availability of aluminum to the public weren't developed until the late 1880's.

One thing to check is the heft of the front of your clock. An aluminum one would be rather light. An iron front would have some weight to it.

To me, it looks like someone spray painted the front of the clock an ugly inappropriate color possibly over some sort of primer coat? Should have a gilt wash.

Yep, I have seen repop iron fronts, most likely from Asia. Production costs there are much lower making them economically feasible. A mold is made from the real one. I'm not sure what metal was used. A lot of scrap metal goes to places like China. That includes aluminum. So, to my way of thinking, an Asian repop of aluminum may not be totally inconceivable?

Anyhow, yours has been through the wars but I think it's real.

RM
 

Essex ranger

Registered User
Jul 9, 2020
24
1
3
74
Country
I agree with Jim about the metal, something other than aluminum (see below). The clock itself was probably made in the 1870's. Terhune was associated with the United States Clock Co. for a lengthy period. The address I have for the United States Clock Co. is 18 Courtlandt St., and Henry Terhune & Son was formed in 1872 at 2 Courtlandt St. So, the 3 Courtlandt St. address is to me unusual for this company, though William S. Johnson was there for a time. Perhaps the address on your label is a misprint?

The clock itself seems to be the Dolphin, a clock designed by Nicholas Muller, which appeared in catalogues between 1858-76. (This from Arlyn Rath's book, Nicholas Muller, Horologist Extraordinaire. Its material was apparently either composition bronze or iron bronze. Perhaps yours is composition bronze? Muller died in 1873, and his business was carried on by his sons. Are there any markings anywhere on the case, perhaps around the oculus door or on the side edges?

The movement was made by Noah Pomeroy, who was in business in various companies between 1847 and 1878.

All in all, I suggest a date between 1872 and 1876/1878 for your clock.

Perhaps others will have more information.
Do all the Muller castings have the model number and patent information under the bezel? I just removed the bezel and there is nothing there - just a plain flange. I am still very suspicious about the originality of the casting - I don’t think that it is aluminium , being too heavy( 2.5 kg) and very hard but it just doesn’t look right . It is a very bright silver metal and the casting details are not as sharp as they might be.Although the bezel and oculus are almost certainly original, the small bezel is fixed on with two copper rivets which look pretty new. ( Could be a recent repair I suppose). Unless someone damaged their original clock front and had a repro made specially using the damaged front as a mould former, I can’t figure out how this ‘marriage’ came about. Surely the Chinese wouldn’t go to all this trouble for just one clock and there can’t be much of a market for these fronts, as you need all the fittings and movement to make a clock out of it.
 

Steven Thornberry

User Administrator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Jan 15, 2004
23,345
1,463
113
Here and there
Country
Do all the Muller castings have the model number and patent information under the bezel?
I can't say with 100% certainty that all Muller castings were marked, and I think we've pretty much decided that the metal is not aluminum. It would not surprise me that the front of the clock (whether iron, composition bronze, iron bronze, or spelter) has been heavily restored. The copper rivets may be an indication of this; oculi can break off for one reason or another. If it attaches properly to the box, that is, I suppose, a point in favor of originality. As RM said above, yours has been through the wars. And, actually, if the front were an Asian repop, I might expect the whole thing to be, with an Asian movement etc. (I am going out on a bit of a limb there). Yours has what I will call an original label and an original movement (by Noah Pomeroy).
 

Forum statistics

Threads
165,460
Messages
1,440,293
Members
86,240
Latest member
Carolyn Reynolds
Encyclopedia Pages
1,101
Total wiki contributions
2,873
Last edit
Weekly News 7/7/19 by Tom McIntyre