It was my mother’s clock

I hear this so often when I am purchasing clocks for my collection. Time and time again (pun not intended) I walk into someone’s home with the intent to purchase an antique clock and I am greeted by the same words more often than not, “It was my mother’s clock” or a variation, “My grandmother had this clock” or “My wife loved this clock”.

Some time ago (April 2016) my wife and I took a trip to the Bridgewater which is located about two hours from our home in Nova Scotia, Canada. I knocked on the door walked into a modest home and spoke with the seller who explained that the clock he was about to say goodbye to had been in his family for over 70 years, perhaps longer. When I was “so high”, he motioned with his hand, “I remember this clock in my grandmother’s home”. Although I did not ask him why he was selling it I could not understand his motivation for parting with this “family” clock.

Mothers and grandmothers seem to be the keepers of the the flame, the maternal spirit of sentimentality. No doubt the clocks were originally purchased by the “man of the house” because it was the man’s station to life to make important decisions for the home though the person who invested emotionally in the acquisition was the wife. Has this changed?

RS Ingraham Huron1
Ingraham Huron

Another example. We traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia to see a grandfather clock. Now, I have always wanted a grandfather clock. Twenty five years ago my wife and I put a deposit on a beautiful grandfather clock with the hope that it would one day be proudly displayed in our home and our homes to come. Life got in the way, the money was required for a deposit on a new home so we canceled the order. That has always been a deep regret. Fast forward to three years ago. That grandfather clock that I always wanted was staring me in the face when I saw it on a for-sale site. The price was very reasonable. On the phone I asked the seller. “What condition is in in?” and he replied, “You have to see it to believe it”. We visited the seller who explained that the clock was his mothers. He was sorry to see it go but it and several other beautiful clocks just had to go to make room for the “next phase of my life”, whatever he intended that to be. It was in truly exceptional condition so we bought it. I often wonder what he must have told his mother or if he had any regrets when we walked out the door.

RS Ridgeway clock_2
Ridgeway tall case clock circa 1996

We were in the Annapolis valley (about 3 hours from our home) checking out an Ansonia Short drop schoolhouse wall clock in the fall of 2015 and settled on a price with the seller on the phone. When we arrived the seller explained that the clock had been in the family for a number of years. His mother had passed on and they were in the process of managing her estate. I asked him if he knew anything about the clock. The seller was in his late fifties and said,”I remember it hanging on the wall of my mother’s home when I was a kid, but I never actually saw it running”. “She loved it and she brought it especially to Nova Scotia from a school in Ontario”. We bought it.

RS April 16
Ansonia Short drop schoolhouse clock

We saw an ad on a local for sale site. It was for a spring driven Mauthe wall clock with a horse crown (top piece) made in about 1895. An elderly couple was in the process of down-sizing and made the decision to divest themselves of some of their keepsakes, his mostly it seemed. He was obviously in a new relationship and explained that his wife had passed away some three years ago and she always loved the Mauthe clock which she considered a family heirloom but it as well as other keepsakes had to go.

RS Mauthe
Mauthe clock with middle finial missing

He told the story about how she had brought it and a number of other items in a suitcase from the Netherlands in the 1980s. The bottom middle final was missing because I suspect that it simply did not fit in the suitcase and somehow got lost over the years. It was the only thing amiss with the clock. It must have been hard for him to see the clock go but he seemed heartened to see that it was going to a good home.

We were on our way to Tantallon (near Halifax, Nova Scotia) to look at a small wall clock, a Waterbury Arion short drop schoolhouse / office clock. The gentleman we spoke to on the phone said that he wanted to reduce his collection of clocks. We arrived and I was quite surprised at the size of this particular clock. It is really quite diminutive with a dial of less than 8 inches and 19 inches from top to bottom. It was missing the glass and bezel but the oak case was in excellent condition. The dial face was in poor condition with barely readable numerals from 6 to 10, however, the price was right. I then asked, “Where did you get this clock”. He replied,”I didn’t; my wife bought it from a fellow in Debert”. “She buys them and I fix them”, he said. I looked around the house and there were some truly beautiful clocks of all types and they were all well cared for and each one was purchased by his wife and cared for by him. A truly symbiotic relationship!

Waterbury Arion short drop wall clock

In my journeys throughout Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada I have been amazed at how many clocks were collected and cherished by women. In many cases the clocks are in excellent condition, a tribute to those who cared for them, the Mothers.