Profile My Clock: Seth Thomas Column and Cornice clock

Carole Ann Bennett of Ottawa, Canada asked me to profile her latest clock acquisition which was bought at auction and advertised as a triple-decker clock. It is, in fact, a column and cornice clock.

Seth Thomas column and cornice
Seth Thomas column and cornice

This lovely Seth Thomas time and strike eight-day weight-driven column and cornice clock with hour strike features a mahogany veneer case with cove molded crest, ¾ columns in painted gold and two reverse painted doors opening to the interior clock works which reveals a tin painted dial and the original printed and illustrated Seth Thomas clock makers label. It is 32″ tall, 18″ wide and 5“ deep.

The painted tin Roman Numeral dial has hand-decorated flower spandrels in all four corners with the centre portion of the brass lyre movement visible though the dial.

Brass lyre movment
Brass lyre movment

There is a small amount of chipping around the winding holes and face mounts. The hour and minute hands are in an Ogee style and original to the clock. The movement is clean and running well.

Painted tine dial face
Painted tine dial face

The upper tablet has a hand-painted fruit bowl framed within a clear rectangular section with an onion top surround by a gold laurel design. The lower tablet shows a headless eagle framed in an clear oval centre with clustered gold berry spandrels in all 4 corners and encircling the oval section is a gold wreath made of berries and leaves. The headless eagle has clawed feet, one holding a sheaf of arrows while the other holds what appears to be a holly bush. There are 13 stars above the wings presumably representing the original 13 colonies. There is the expected amount of flaking consistent with the age of the clock which seems to disappear when the doors are closed. The missing paint areas blend into the remaining design and look good in spite of the minor issues.  A red banner runs through the centre. It appears to be a very loose interpretation of the eagle on the presidential seal.

Upper tablet
Upper tablet
Lower tablet

My first impression is that the top and bottom tablets are not a match because of the different themes on each panel however the blue paint is identical.

It has a very good interior label with the name J. M. Paterson, Hamilton, Canada West which appears to have been pasted over an original label.

Canada West, previously known as Upper Canada, formed one-half of the British colony of the Province of Canada. The region was governed jointly along with Canada East (formerly Lower Canada) from 1841 to 1867, when Canada West became the province of Ontario under Confederation. This would put the clock between 1841 and 1867.

More research is required. Below the added label are instructions for the operation of the clock. It has newer 6 ¾ lb cast iron replacement weights which are correct for an eight-day clock. The pendulum is a replacement as the original would have had a rate adjustment screw as per the last line of the instructions.

Clock instructions and label
Clock instructions and label

Minor areas of paint around the main designs on the top and lower tablets are beginning to flake, however most of the original paintwork shows very well. The case has some scuffs and a little veneer chipping as one would expect. The deep grained mahogany veneer adds to the overall look of this big and beautiful shelf clock.

There are newer softwood strips attached by Robertson screws on the top and very bottom of the back of the case which appear to have been added either as a repair or to strengthen the case. There are 4 holes on the backboard just below the movement which may indicate the presence of an alarm mechanism at one time.

All in all it is a good looking clock that reflects the period and a fine acquisition.


4 thoughts on “Profile My Clock: Seth Thomas Column and Cornice clock

  1. Hi Ron, I don’t necessarily like to be “that guy” pointing out the errors, but there are several in this post that I thought I would point out simply for clarification.

    This case is Rosewood veneer, not mahogany. Rosewood has those thin black stripes in it, and sometimes the grain tends to resemble certain cuts of oak (like the sleigh front curve in the last photo). It also tends to have a striping effect on certain cuts (light – dark – light – dark) a small example of this effect is in the thin strips flanking the bottom door.

    The dials on all these early American clocks are usually painted zinc sheeting, and not tin. Tin wasn’t used until around the 1880s (on things like gingerbread clock dial pans). Zinc sheeting was originally brought over from France by the American manufacturers, and some even have the original factory stampings on the backs (or more rarely on the front), which often read “Vielle Montagne Liege” (Old Mountain, Liege France).

    The columns are half columns, not 3/4. In most cases, the columns are either half (almost all shelf clocks and wall clocks like Viennas), or Full columns (like on Hollow Column clocks, or other things like portico clocks).

    I guess that’s the most of it. The rest is just general comments:

    I think you will find that the tablets on this style of clock rarely tend to match. This is especially true on earlier clocks from the 1840s and 50s. You will often see one tablet with stencil decoration, and the other will be freehand. The themes also don’t always match, nor the colours.

    Another side note: I believe almost all the clocks sold in Canada were sold through only a handful of resellers, one is Vantassel, another is the Hamilton Clock Co, Patterson, and I believe there’s another one in Brockville. Most of the clocks often tend to be Seth Thomas clocks. I don’t know if there was a special arrangement with Seth Thomas, but I will often see these 8 day column clocks as well as Seth Thomas ogee clocks with canadian overpasted labels.


    1. Thanks JC. I appreciate any comments you might have. It becomes part of my learning. JM Patterson was a re-seller form Hamilton and Toronto. I did some research at the Canadian Clock museum in Deep River and JM Patterson was operating up to 1849 which puts the clock at around that period. The labels were re-pasted by Seth Thomas in their Plymouth factor. Previous to around 1840 the movements were made by Birge, Peck and Co, and afterwards, of course, with Seth Thomas.


  2. the dial is metal with rings drawn around the minute marks and dots for the minute marks .that dial was in use
    from 1855-1860


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