Seth Thomas Clock History

Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut
(After 1865) Thomaston, Connecticut

The Seth Thomas Clock Company was organized as a joint stock corporation on May 3, 1853 to succeed the earlier clock making operation of the founder. Seth Thomas (1785-1859) had been manufacturing clocks at the site since 1814.

After Thomas’ death in 1859, his son Aaron became President and began to add new products to a conservative line. About 1862, the firm purchased the patent rights of Wait T. Huntington and Harvey Platts of Ithaca, New York and added three models to their line that year. The earliest of the clocks indicate only three patent dates on the dials, September 19, 1854, November 17, 1857 and January 31, 1860. The fourth and final patent of March 1, 1862 is carried on most of their calendar clocks manufactured until 1875 or 1876. On February 15, 1876 Randall T. Andrews, Jr., a Thomas relative and workman in the factory, received a patent on an improved mechanism. This was put into production and utilized on all later perpetual calendar clocks until the last model was dropped in 1917.

The Seth Thomas Clock Company was very prosperous into the 20th Century and was considered the “Tiffany’s” of Connecticut clock manufacture, even by their competitors. Between 1865 and 1879 they operated a subsidiary firm known as Seth Thomas' Sons & Company that manufactured a higher-grade 15-day mantel clock movement and during that period were major supporters of a New York sales outlet known as the American Clock Company. They also became a major manufacturer of tower and street clocks after 1872 and in between 1915 were manufacturers of jeweled watches.

On January 1, 1931, the firm became a subsidiary of General Time Instruments Corporation and soon passed from family control. The firm's decline was gradual over the next 50 years and culminated in the firm's removal from Connecticut to Norcross, Georgia about 1975. It was reported in 1988 that the firm was all but dissolved and, in 2003, the in-house collection of the firm was sold to private collectors.

More history about the Seth Thomas Company History

Seth Thomas Clock Company was one of the most prolific and long lived clock companies. The quality of their products was always maintained at an above average level. Seth Thomas must have sold many clocks in the Lafayette, Indiana area, for out of all the antique clocks we repair, about 40% are made by Seth Thomas.

Many American clock factories in the 19th century suffered factory fires but Seth Thomas was fortunate in this respect. Through conservative growth and taking advantage of the new ideas of others, Seth Thomas was able to enjoy financial stability, whereas many other companies faced financial difficulties.

Seth Thomas was born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1785, went to work for clockmaker Eli Terry in 1807, bought out Terry’s factory (together with Silas Hoadley) in 1810, and in December 1813 bought out Heman Clark’s clock making business in Plymouth Hollow.

Thomas continued Clark’s wooden movement tall clock production, and about 1817 began making the wooden movement shelf clock. These were cased in pillar and scroll cases until 1830, when the bronze looking glass and other styles became popular. In 1842, brass movements were introduced, and first cased in the popular O.G. case (which was made until 1913). Wood movements were phased out in 1845. In 1853 Mr. Thomas incorporated the Seth Thomas Clock Company, so that the business would outlive him. Mr. Thomas died in 1859, and Plymouth Hollow was renamed Thomaston in his honor in 1865.

Mr. Thomas was very conservative, and after his death many new styles of clocks were introduced by his sons. Regulator clocks were introduced in 1860. The patterns and machinery for these had been purchased in 1859 from the creditors of bankrupt clockmaker Silas B. Terry. Spring driven clocks were introduced ca. 1855–1860. Perpetual calendar clocks were made from ca. 1863–1917. Some of the most popular later types include walnut kitchen clocks, made from 1884–1909; marble clocks, 1887–ca. 1895; black (Adamantine finish) wood mantel clocks, ca. 1885–1917; black enameled iron cased clocks, 1892–ca. 1895; oak kitchen clocks, 1890–ca. 1915; tambour clocks, introduced in 1904; chime clocks, introduced in 1909; and electric A/C clocks, introduced in 1928.

Many Seth Thomas clocks from 1881 to 1918 have a date code stamped in ink on the case back or bottom. Usually, the year is done in reverse, followed by a letter A–L representing the month. For example, April 1897 would appear as 7981 D.

In 1930 a holding company named General Time Instruments Corporation was formed to unite Seth Thomas Clock Company with Western Clock Company.

In 1955, a flood badly damaged the Seth Thomas factory. They phased out movement manufacturing and began importing many movements from Germany. Hermle, in the Black forest of Germany, has made many movements for Seth Thomas clocks.

In 1968, General Time was bought by Talley Industries, and in 1979 the headquarters was moved to Norcross, GA.

In June 2001 General Time announced that it was closing its entire operation. The Colibri Group acquired Seth Thomas. The NAWCC (the National Association of Watch and Clock collectors) purchased from Seth Thomas their collection of historical records, drawings, photographs, advertisements and documents.

 

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