December's Object - Joseph Eberman 18th Century Tower Clock Movement

Noel Poirier

NAWCC Member
Jul 30, 2007
December's Object - Joseph Eberman 18th Century Tower Clock Movement

The National Watch & Clock Museum recently negotiated the gift of this clock as a donation from the County of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It had been on display previously at the Lancaster Heritage Center in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once the clock is onsite, it will be photographed and documented in detail and the clock will soon after be on exhibit in the Museum’s lobby and rotunda area.

The following information excerpted from NAWCC Bulletin No. 283: April 1993, p. 146-148. (article is attached)


ln 1772, Eberman received his first pay for servicing the county's courthouse clock. He was to continue this responsibility for more than half a century (until 1824). It is possible that this movement was manufactured by the previously mentioned Rudy Stoner. On July 9, 1784, a disaster took place that might well have cost Eberman his reputation. While he was in the process of placing the driving weights of the clock in new wooden channels, a fire broke out that destroyed the building where it stood in Center Square, today the site of a Civil War monument. Three possible causes of the fire were put forth: 1) combustion resulting from slaked lime stored in the building by plasterer Caleb Cope (the father of clockmaker John Cope); 2) the work of an arsonist: or 3) the carelessness of clockmaker John Eberman, Jr.

The origin of the fire was never determined, and Eberman, at age 36, was commissioned the following year to make a new clock to be installed in the new courthouse for which he received the sum of £550 (approximately 1/6th of the total cost of the new building). The new courthouse was constructed on the site of the previous one and is said to have greatly resembled the first building. This building was to serve as the home of the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1799 until 1812, the period when Lancaster Borough served as the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. When the building was pulled down in 1854, following completion of a larger courthouse on the northwest corner of Duke and East King streets, the Eberman clock was moved to the new building and installed with a new bell. The venerable clock, replaced by a Seth Thomas movement in 1898, is now located in the Heritage Center of Lancaster County on Lancaster's Center Square.

The Lancaster Eberman tower clock 8-day movement has an iron frame, time and hour strike trains, and utilizes a count wheel. It had a deadbeat escapement that was replaced with the present pinwheel, possibly by son Joseph (1785-1860) whose name appears on the dials of a number of 8-day tall case movements with pinwheel escapements. Dimensions of the clock frame are: 46" wide, 53" high and 19" deep. It has been rebuilt at least twice: in 1854 by John Eberman's son Joseph and in 1878 by Godfried M. Zahm (1817-1895). It is said that Jacob, another son of John. Jr. had his clockmaking career come to an abrupt end around 1796 when he lost his own hand while helping his father replace the clock’s hands.”


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