Elisha Manross Steeple Clock – the early days of the American clock

I acquired four old clocks in a barn find. Two, a 30 hour ogee and a mantel clock were salvageable only that I was able to take veneer, case parts, one movement and a few pieces.

The two other clocks are worth preserving. Though it is missing some case parts one of them is an Ansonia Drop Extra wall clock. It is the subject of a future article.

Steeple clocks of the 1840s signaled the design of later steeple clocks
Ansonia Extra short drop wall clock
Ansonia Drop Extra wall clock

The fourth clock is an American Elisha Manross 30 hour steeple clock which is the subject of this article.

Elisha Manross 30 hour steeple clock
Elisha Manross 30 hour steeple clock on right

This is an interesting variant of the sharp Gothic steeple clock. These early Steeple clocks though simple in style, influenced the design of later steeple clocks.

Veneer could use some cleaning
Veneer could use some cleaning, right steeple is missing, door is off

The clock has accumulated years of dust and grime. The movement though dirty runs remarkably well. The case is scuffed, has a myriad of marks and scratches and one or two deeper gouges. This clock has seen its share of abuse and neglect over the years.

I took the access door off and found the bottom door pin to be original but the top pin has been replaced with a finishing nail. A piece of pinion wire was fashioned and glued in place. It is missing the right side steeple base and the spire. It is also missing the minute hand which appears to have been snapped off at some point and lost. Also missing is the bottom tablet with plain glass fixed in its place. The pendulum bob appears to be original as is the coil gong. The dial face has a nice patina and is in good condition with some losses. It has readable Roman numerals but covered with shellac or varnish at one point. The numerals have also been touched up.

Exotic woods were used to cover the pine case. Elisha Manross clocks were either clad in Rosewood veneer or Mahogany. The Mahogany veneer on this clock is much thicker than the veneers typically used today. Manross clocks are produced with the Mahogany veneer in a vertical orientation and Rosewood veneer in a horizontal orientation. Manross made two steeple clocks. One is 20″ high and 10″ wide, the other is 19 1/2 inches high by 9 1/2 inches wide. The larger case would have made for other labels but the smaller size (this is the smaller mahogany clock) was produced in the Manross factory.

Nice aged patine, numbers have been touched up
Nice aged patine, numbers have been touched up

On the back of the door, left side of the upper tablet is the inscription 8/43, not once but twice. My first thought was an inventory or part number but if this is the month and date the clock was made it would be consistent with the brass mainsprings on the movement which makers used between 1836 and 1850. The label on the clock is in remarkable condition for a 175+ year old clock. However, the date (8/43) is inconsistent with the label which was printed by Elihu Geer at his shop on 10 State Street, Hartford Conn. According to one source Elihu Geer operated the print shop at this location after 1850. Perhaps but it seems reasonable that the clock was made in 1843.

8/43 inscribed on the back door
8/43 inscribed on the back door

Although Elisha Manross had been active in Bristol clock-making since 1812 or earlier he shows in the Bristol tax records as making clocks from 1842-1851. His business was dissolved in 1854 and the factory was purchased in 1855 by E.N. Welch.

Well preserved label
Well preserved label

Brass springs were invented and first used in 1836 by Joseph Shaylor Ives. Brass for mainsprings was evidently cheaper and more accessible than steel in the mid 1830s and 1840s. Silas B. Terry developed steel springs for clock use in the Bristol area circa 1847, and as steel improved and became cheaper brass springs quickly disappeared. In the history of the American clock brass springs had a very short life. The brass springs on the movement have survived a very long time which is unusual since most clocks of this age have had replacement steel springs.

The movement will be cleaned up and the case will be reconditioned including the replacement of the right steeple and base. I do not foresee the clock as being a daily runner.

Have you brought an old antique back to life be it a clock or a piece of furniture? Leave a comment about your own experiences.