E. N. Welch Whittier model parlor clock Part I – E. N. Welch history

Among the most common parlour clocks you will find few E N Welch clocks. Why. A good reason is that the company was absorbed by Sessions in 1903. The history of Welch is interesting because Welch Spring and Co. began by making higher end clocks but eventually produced cheaper, heavily discounted mass market clocks which likely hastened its decline.

E. N. Welsh Whittier model
E. N. Welsh Whittier model

This time and strike American clock with a count wheel strike is an antique store find. I  found it at what I would call a higher end antique store in a small village in Quebec during one of our day travels from our summer cottage. I liked it so much I bought it. Because the strike side did not function there was a slight reduction in price.

The clock ran for several days and kept good time but it desperately needed a cleaning. I was unsuccessful getting the strike side to run but I thought I might be able to some day. All the strike-side parts seemed to be there but somebody obviously had fun bending the levers. It is impossible to know what I was dealing with until I take the movement apart.

Barely readable label
Barely readable label and someone determined that this clock should be hung on a wall

History of E N Welch

The E. N. Welch Mfg. Co. was formed on July 6, 1864 to succeed an older private firm making clocks under the name of E. N. Welch. Elisha N. Welch (1809 to 1887) had been making clocks at a factory site on East Main Street at Forestville, Conn. since taking over the bankrupt business of J. C. Brown in about 1856.

A movement shop was established in 1869, adding to the two factories already in use by the firm. Between 1868 and 1884, a subsidiary firm called Welch, Spring & Company was formed to produce a more expensive line of clocks. The company was formed by three clock enthusiasts; Welch, Solomon Crosby Spring and Benjamin Bennet Lewis. The Welch firm was well known for its handsome rosewood cases, though in 1885, with changing styles in furniture, the surviving firm began to introduce new models with solid walnut cases and discontinued some of the older rosewood veneered cases.

Elisha Welch was enamored of a lovely (but very liberal-thinking) diva of the day from Spain by the name of Adelina Patti. He named his best quality movement after her, called the “Patti” movement. Clocks with this movement are highly sought after by serious collectors. However, Examples of “Patti” clocks at any of the international auction sites are rare.

E. N. Welch clocks made before 1880 are considerably more expensive as these represent the height of the company’s clock making

After the death of Elisha Welch in 1887, the firm steadily declined, selling off some of its assets and issuing new stock to raise much needed capital. A new line of clocks was introduced for 1893, which were cheaper in quality than their already discounted line. In May of that year the factory was closed down and a receiver was appointed The receiver spent nearly two years selling off stock and settling the debts of the firm. It was not until 1896 that the firm resumed production.

The name was changed to the Sessions Clock Company on January 9, 1903

In 1899, two fires, one in March and a second in December reduced most of the Welch manufacturing complex to ashes. Despite the completion of a new brick factory in 1900, the company could not meet its liabilities. Meanwhile members of the wealthy Sessions family were buying out former stockholders and eventually took control of the firm in 1902. They changed the name to the Sessions Clock Company on January 9, 1903.

E. N. Welch clocks made before 1880 are considerably more desirable as these represent the height of the company’s clock making. Clocks made prior to 1880 generally command higher auction prices. Compared to companies like Seth Thomas and Waterbury instances of E. N. Welsh clocks coming up on auction sites are becoming quite uncommon.

Stay tuned for more. In Part II I will describe the Whittier and some of it’s features. In Part III I will report on my progress and any challenges as I service the movement.


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