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The English long case clock, better known today as the grandfather or grandmother clock, became known to the civilized world during the last part of the 17th and throughout the 18th century.  This was the "Golden Age" of English clock making. You may have seen our Clocks other places but never at our prices. E-mail us!

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All About Clocks!   

History of Grandfather Clocks

The centuries of struggle and discovery, frustrations and triumphs spent by man in his attempts to measure time accurately are behind every graceful and precise grandfather or grandmother clock.  It is indeed the culmination of a rich history, which we are happy to share with you here.

Early man noticed that a shadow, cast by a mountain or a tree, pointed in a different direction at various times of the day.  From this observation, the idea of the sundial evolved.  Sundials were employed for centuries and many ruins of these ancient timekeepers can be seen throughout Europe.

The Chaldeans of Biblical times hit upon the idea of dividing the day and night into two 12-hour periods.  But it took the Egyptians to discover an improvement in timekeeping.  Through trial and error, they invented a clepsydra or water clock.  These clocks usually operated by the escape of water from a funnel-shaped reservoir into a second chamber.  This chamber, equipped with a float, measured the hours of day and night as the water level raised the float.

The beginning of clock making and the eventual end of other horological devices began when the Chinese discovered a method of preventing the power of any time device from running away unchecked.  What the Chinese invented became known as an "escapement", and it is still an integral part of all clock making.  The escapement is a small brake or check that stops the wheels of the clock regularly.  Thus, the wheels cannot build up momentum and race when the clock is first wound, then go slowly as the clock runs down.  This stop-and-go movement of the clock works is quite literally what makes the clock tick.

Galileo, the famous astronomer and mathematician, developed the thesis of a pendulum; however, a Dutch scientist, Christian Huygens, is credited with putting theory into practice in 1657.

Other parts of the clock were soon invented.  It took a German, Peter Hole of Nuremburg, to devise the principle of the spring.  This was a tremendous step in making clocks more accurate.  Soon, minute hands were added; later came the long-hanging pendulum and detached lever escapement.

The English long case clock, better known today as the grandfather or grandmother clock, became known to the civilized world during the last part of the 17th and throughout the 18th century.  This was the "golden age" of English clock making.

The heritage of the grandfather and grandmother clocks was carried across the ocean by American colonists.  Soon Americans were manufacturing their own clocks with the same careful attention to detail practiced by their English forebearers.

The demand for floor clocks has been revived in this country.  And with reason, these clocks help make any house a home.  Their resonant ticking and their mellow chimes evoke memories of a more romantic and less hurried era, when the art of being a good host rivaled that of the clockmaker.  Indeed clocks are experiencing a renaissance, and we hope you enjoy this renaissance as well.

The Moon Dial

Before the calendar was developed, men judged the passing time by phases of the moon.  The arch above the moon dial indicates the 29 1/2 days of every lunar month (not to be confused with the calendar month). The half-globe of the left represents the Western Hemisphere;...the half-globe on the right, the Eastern Hemisphere.  As the Disc moves clockwise behind these globes, it tells the phases of the moon.

Today, it is difficult for us to realize just how important the ever-changing phases of the moon were in times gone by.  In the late 17th century the moon dial was added to most long case clocks so people could plan ahead for when the moon was full and travel at night was not so hazardous.  Clockmasters endeavored to simulate and approximate the appearance of the moon in the heavens on the face of clocks.

The arched dial was first used in clocks in the beginning of the 18th century and presented a real challenge to the makers of fine clocks.  In approximately 1720, moving figures began to appear in this space, figures which moved back and forth with the swing of the pendulum.  They used prancing deer, rocking ships and Father Time with his scythe.  At that time, there was no practical value of this feature on the clock; it was simply a pleasing way of showing motion and life.

After motion had been added in the arch above the dial the next step was to reproduce the progress of the moon from phase to phase.  The proverbial "Man in the Moon" was used on most dials with a landscape and/or seascape on the other half of the circle - symbols of sea - the rocking ship, and of  land - the prancing deer.

The moving moon dial performed a functional purpose to the early settlers and farmers by telling them of the various phases of the lunar month.  Crops were both planted and harvested according to the lunar cycle.  Many beliefs concerning the moon and its effects have been recorded.  Some of these include:

  • Sweep the house in the dark of the moon and you will have neither moths nor spiders.
  • Trees planted at Full Moon will bear well
  • Plant peas and potatoes in the increase of the moon.
  • The number of snows during winter is indicated by the number of days from the first snow fall to the following Full Moon.

 In our very modern world today, the moving moon section of the dial is more decorative than useful, but it is still a very sought after feature.  While the moon itself has remained a vital part of the dial, now other "signs of our times" are also depicted.



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Will Rogers Clocks   5970 E. 31st St.   Tulsa, OK 74135
Phone: 918-622-5575     Fax: 918-270-2040
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