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The First One for February 2010
A New York Member
My first clock, purchased in about 1962 for $40, was a wooden faced “wag-on-the wall” clock with rather well-made brass weights and a heavy brass bezel. I purchased it from an old antique dealer located on the edge of Oxford, MA, named Jack Williamson. Jack was a very loquacious fellow, who, though he looked slightly disreputable, had what struck me as an almost encyclopedic knowledge of old clocks—and he spent a lot of time telling me about them. It was old Jack, and his enthusiasm for his subject, that first got me interested in clocks.
As for this particular clock, similar ones are often called “Postman’s Clocks” and were made, I believe, well into the twentieth century. This one runs for 30 hours and sounds an extremely loud bell on the hour. The clock’s wheels are brass, but the front and back plates are wooden (walnut?), which leads me to think it is an older form of this general style of clock made in the Black Forest region of Germany from the mid-nineteenth century—perhaps this one is as early as 1850-1875. At least I like to think so.
A Pennsylvania Member
It was during my 1969 sabbatical year in Berkeley, CA: following a friend’s directions, I had managed to locate an out-of-the-way warehouse, whose dimly lit interior housed dozens of old European longcase clocks. Even in the dark, their decrepit state was evident. But I had come determined to purchase my first clock, urged on by a lifelong interest in all things mechanical. The question was which clock to choose. In my state of complete horological innocence, I made my selection based solely on pleasing case proportions and the hint of an interesting dial.
Once at home in my basement workshop, I embarked on a campaign of part-time clock therapy. A pitch-like sludge entombing the gears gradually succumbed to a series of chemical solvents and judicious polishing, yielding a sparkling, intact movement. Next, a thick brown-black layer of ancient varnish was coaxed from the case, revealing quartersawn honey-colored oak with banding and inlay work. Finally, the dial was liberated from accumulated dirt and grime, whereupon it proudly proclaimed its maker’s name and workplace: Wm. Toleman - Carnarvon. And when set up, the clock performed wonderfully!
Which would have been the end of the story, but for another sabbatical year in 1976, this time in England. While touring in Wales, we stopped at a pub in Carnarvon, and inquired whether there were any Tolemans living in town. The publican pointed through the open door toward an old white house at the top of a rise, saying “There’s a Dr. Toleman lives up there; try calling him.” Minutes later we were having tea with the great-greatgrandson of the craftsman who had made our clock! After we described our “Toleman,” we were introduced by our host to his collection of clocks and barometers made by his forebears. Dr. Toleman was even then composing an account of his family’s clockmakers — they comprised four successive generations, the earliest being another William, born 1730 and died 1803. “Our” William, probably the most prolific of them all, lived from 1765 to 1849. Dr. Toleman and I later exchanged information, photos, and family lore. His history of Toleman family clocks and clockmakers was published in the May 1986 issue of Clocks magazine.
Thus my first clock adventure conferred numerous blessings: introduction to the fascinating world of horology; confidence-building first experience in clock restoration; excitement at befriending the descendent of our old clock’s maker; pleasure of restoring life to an almost-expired artifact aged 175 years; and not least, possession of a newly minted family heirloom.
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