The wonderful band "Chicago" once sang, "Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?" And to that I would have to say yes... absolutely! Whether you have too much time on your hands, or not enough, take just a second to look at this simply wonderful vintage clock I found at a recent New England Antique Show's event! (And make sure to take the time to attend their next big show on January 21st and 22nd in Wilmington, MA!)
Just the phrase "banjo clock" should sound like music to your ears. This style of clock was first patented in 1802 by brothers Aaron and Simon Willard. The design was a big hit right away and although patented, was quickly copied with minor modifications by other clock makers of the time. This clock design became known as a "banjo" because of its analogous shape to the musical instrument of the same name. Traditional banjo clocks, like the one featured above, were designed to hang on a wall and usually featured a white circular face, long tapering neck, square base, reverse painted scenes, brass detailing, and a brass "crowning" feature such as an eagle or other ornamental shape. Many had movements that only required winding every eight days. In order to capitalize on the popularity of banjo clocks, manufacturers began producing mantel style banjo clocks, huge versions for train stations, as well as other additional designs based on other musical instruments, including the lyre.
Many banjo clocks, like the one featured in the writeup above, were made by Chelsea Clock. This company, which had its beginnings in the 1880's, is the only remaining American clock company in existence today. The company is still located at its original headquarters in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and has a long and storied history of producing extremely durable and accurate timepieces for maritime, military, airborne, and exploration purposes. Today, Chelsea Clock is primarily known for its exquisitely hand manufactured timepieces, which are often given as executive or presidential level gifts. According to Chelsea Clock, President Obama has worked with the company to create a special version of their "Dartmouth" model (pictured to the left) to give to hosting dignitaries while travelling overseas.
I would like to thank Bob Frishman, owner of Bell-Time Clocks from Andover, Massachusetts for keeping us up with the times concerning this amazing vintage banjo clock. Bob founded Bell-Time Clocks in 1992, has repaired more than 7,000 antique clocks, and sold more than 1,400 timepieces. He writes and lectures about the history, culture, and science of timekeeping. The company is a regular exhibitor at New England Antique Shows events and will be attending the upcoming Boston Antiques and Design Show and Sale in Wilmington, MA on January 21st and 22nd. For more information on this and other vintage timepieces, please contact Bob directly at 978-475-5001 or email@example.com.