Herschede Clock History

National Clock Repair prides itself in being the foremost leader in Herschede Grandfather Clock restorations.

Frank Herschede was born on July 30, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of 16, he started to work as an apprentice watch and clock repairman.

In 1877, he went into business for himself and moved to Vine and 5th Street. He branched out to jewelry, watches, diamonds, ect., and in 1885, the store moved to larger quarters at the corner of Arcade and Vine. In this same year, he started to import movements and have his cases made in a cabinet shop on Front Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. The clock business expanded to the point that Frank bought out the cabinet shop in 1900.

In 1901, he exhibited in the South Carolina and West Indian Exposition at Charleston, South Carolina, where he received a gold medal for his hall clocks. This was the first of several.

Frank's son, Walter, graduated from high school in 1902, and went into the cabinet shop to work. On December 29 of this same year, steps were taken to incorporate the Herschede Hall Clock Company.

The factory moved from Front Street to 1011-1015 Plum Street in 1903. Several medals were won by Herschede in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904; a gold medal for the best hall clock, a gold medal for the best hall clock cases, and a silver medal for tubular chimes.

In 1909, the company leased the building next door at 1007-1009 Plum Street to make clock movements. The first movement was assembled and passed final inspection on January 10, 1911. In 1913, the third melody was added to the Whittington and Westminster chimes. "Cantebury Chimes" was composed by Charles Eisen, "a gifted American pianist," especially for Herschede.

At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the quality of the line again resulted in two major awards: grand prize was presented to the Herschede Hall Clock Company for chime hall clocks and mantel clocks, and a gold medal was awarded for the hall clock cabinets manufactured by the company.

By the early 1920's branch sales offices were opened, first in New York City, then in Chicago and San Francisco. Frank Herschede died on September 15, 1922, and Walter was named president in January of 1923.

In 1925, Walter started to work with Mr. Warren with the electric movement chime clocks. By April of 1926, the Revere Clock Company came into being.

On February 4, 1934, Walter's son, Dick Herschede, started full time employment with his father. Many years later, in 1959, contact was made with the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association and the plant moved to Starkville, Mississippi in May of 1960.

In 1973, Herschede merged with Howard Furniture and Briarwood Lamps into Arnold Industries, Inc.

September 23, 1983, Herschede implemented a plan to restructure the Herschede Hall Clock division from a manufacturer of the finished clocks to a supplier of quality tubular bell movements to the industry.

Herschede sold both mechanical and electric clocks in 1929. The quality of materials and craftsmanship found in both types of clocks was the same: they spared no expense! Collectors will be surprised to see that the mechanical clocks were originally less expensive than the electric clocks. The electric motor winds a small mainspring which provides power to keep the pendulum oscillating. The motor also makes the chimes and strike mechanisms work. A system of cams and levers causes two gears to engage the center wheel when the chimes are supposed to begin, and move away when the chimes are supposed to end, and similarly for the strike mechanism. While this differs from conventional mechanical chime and strike designs, it is not difficult to repair and adjust these mechanisms.

Revere clocks were similar to Herschede clocks, except that there was no pendulum or balance wheel in the clock: the timekeeping was controlled by the electric motor, which was controlled by the frequency of the electricity. This meant that the time was incorrect in the event of an interruption of electric current. Whereas Herschede clocks would run for about 24 hours without electricity, Revere clocks would stop until the electric current was restored: this is why Revere clocks were not sold with the Herschede name. The designs of the mechanisms were based on the mechanical Herschede clocks and they shared some parts and design features. The cases, dials, hands, chime rods, and tubular bells were all of the same exquisite quality.

The principles that make an electric clock like the Revere, which has no mainsprings or weights, superior in function to a mechanical clock are simple. The mainsprings or weights in a mechanical clock provide much more power than is needed to accomplish the task: making the clock chime, making it strike, or keeping the pendulum oscillating. Because of gear reduction, there is enormous torque applied to the first two wheels of each train of gears, and therefore a lot of friction in the bearings (or bushings). The electric clock uses only as much torque from the motor as is needed to accomplish the task because the applied torque only needs to equal the resistance to accomplish the tasks. With much lower torque levels in the gear trains, the clock can be expected to last much longer, and Revere clocks are certainly built to last.

The second principle is lubrication. In a mechanical clock, each bushing has less than half a drop of oil, though the largest bushings may have as much as a drop of oil. A Herschede with Westminster chimes has about 40 locations that require lubrication, providing a total of about 20 drops of oil. The clock mechanism is essentially exposed, since the clock case is not sealed, so the oil is free to evaporate. Compare that with the automatic transmission in your car, which benefits from a bath of oil splashing around in a closed and sealed transmission. If a clock could be submerged in five quarts of automatic transmission fluid, the fluid would not only lubricate, but also wash away contaminants. Open the drain plug and change the fluid every ten years or so. Surely the clock would run for decades! The only clocks which attempted to apply this principle were those clocks made by Herschede, Revere, Telechron, and General Electric with Telechron B motors and Hammond clocks with Hammond motors. The Hammond motors did not, however, have enough torque to use a chime or strike mechanism, nor were Hammond motors self-starting: you have to turn a knob to start the motor. The Telechron B motor was the best on the market.

Most collectors do not want electric clocks; however, because they like to wind their clocks and listen to them tick. They are fascinated by the escapement. The part I like the most is the chimes: Herschede and Revere clocks have the highest quality chime rods and tubular bells available. As a collector, I like a nice assortment of clocks, such as a few Herschedes, a few Reveres, a few French clocks, a few grandfather clocks, a few ships’ clocks, a few Atmos clocks. The ticking and chiming create a very pleasant atmosphere. Though Revere clocks have the obvious disadvantage of stopping when the electricity fails, the Herschede clocks cost much more today because of name brand recognition, just like Rolex. Revere clocks are much less complicated than their Herschede electric cousins, and therefore much easier to repair. Two of my favourite clocks in my collection are Reveres with dual chimes (Canterbury and Westminster).

I should mention a few disadvantages with these clocks, to be fair. As with all old clocks, parts are becoming scarce. Telechron motors are sometimes not available. The newer Telechron motors are not of the same quality as the older ones, and do not benefit from the same bath of oil, so are not as durable. (Parts for Atmos clocks are also becoming difficult to find, and some parts are not available, but this has not dampened the hot demand for Atmos clocks.) Another issue with Herschede and Revere clocks (and also Atmos clocks) is that they are unusual and few repairmen know how to repair them correctly. If you have ever had a difficult time finding a competent car mechanic to work on your car, you know what I mean.

Other Telechron clocks should not be compared with Revere and Herschede electric clocks; even though they have Telechron motors. It would not be fair to compare a Telechron model 711 with a Revere 104, since this Telechron originally cost $10, whereas this Revere cost $74. The quality of this Telechron simply does not compare. The craftsmanship in the Revere is so much more substantial, the materials used, the dial, the hands, the mechanism, the gears, (though both have similar Telechron B motors). In short, the Telechrons are very good, but the Reveres and Herschedes are fantastic! Telechrons with F and H motors were clearly attempts to reduce costs. One problem with these F and H clocks is that wear in the gear train may cause excessive play (end-shake), so you may need to install a small washer between the center-shaft and the back plate. Though the B, F and H motors have similar gear trains inside, the F and H motors do not appear to have been intended to have a bath of oil inside since they were not sealed with solder as the B motors were. The B motors sealed with solder could therefore be expected to last longer.

The Herschede catalog was issued in 1929, months before the stock market crash and the Great Depression. These circumstances, combined with the exceptionally high cost of these clocks, resulted in few being produced, so these wondeful clocks are very scarce. Herschede came out with much less expensive versions of their mechanical and electric clocks during the Great Depression in a desperate effort to cut costs and increase sales. Revere clocks became smaller and much less expensive. They also looked less expensive, but they sold in large numbers. Ironically, the newer Revere mechanism was a considerable improvement mechanically over the older and larger mechanisms. Around 1958, Herschede began to produce an even smaller mechanism with a Telechron H motor, which works well, despite its obviously unimpressive appearance. By about 1970, Herschede was no longer producing electric clocks. By about 1985, Herschede was no longer producing clocks at all.


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