Monumental Clocks (2)

Monumental Clocks 

 

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Late 19th Century

 

A short-lived breed of clock enchanted the American public—the monumental clock. Large, complicated, and painstakingly handcrafted clocks were made to awe and entertain. Between 1875 and 1900, more than two dozen such creations toured the United States and Europe, amusing and amazing crowds.

 

Inspiration

 

The Strasbourg Cathedral's clock (originally completed in 1354; rebuilt in 1574) enacted Biblical and mythological narratives. Much like Strasbourg's clock, monumental clocks went way beyond the norm to include astronomical indicators, animated panels, automata, and mechanical music. They teemed with classical and Christian symbolism while incorporating distinctly American characters and motifs.

 

Engle Clock

 

The Engle Clock was the first known American-made monumental clock. Made entirely by Stephen D. Engle (1837-1921) in Hazleton Pennsylvania, it was completed around 1878. It took a little over 20 years to build. Engle was more interested in invention than showmanship. Therefore Philadelphia entrepreneurs Captain and Mrs. Jacob Reid took over management of the clock, pronouncing it "The Eighth Wonder of the World." The Reids exhibited the clock throughout the Eastern United States, charging 25- and 15-cent admissions for adults and children, respectively.

 

The clock toured around the Eastern US almost continuously over the next 70 years until it disappeared from public view after a 1951 showing at the Ohio State Fair. Members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors spent years searching for it, and after tracking it down, they were able to acquire it in 1988. Museum staff and volunteers conducted a lengthy restoration process that returned the clock to its original splendor.