New Haven 30 hour Sharp Gothic (Steeple) – a curious fact

This is a recent acquisition bought at a local online estate auction site. It has a curious fact that I found quite intriguing.

My wife and I saw a very attractive colonial style Stickley writers desk and while browsing further through the online catalogue I noticed 2 clocks. One was an IBM style time clock and the other was this, a 30 hour New Haven Sharp Gothic (steeple) time and strike clock.

Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we do not get caught up in the fever of bidding

Early in the day we put a maximum bid of $60 on the Stickley desk and $40 on the steeple clock. As we often do, we let the bids stand while we go about our day. Our usual strategy is to apply the most we think we would pay. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but we do not get caught up in the fever of bidding. At the end of the bidding day, we discovered that we had won both items. Of course, as auction goers know there is a buyers premium and a tax on anything you “win” which adds to the price.

Stickley is an American maker of fine furniture and is best known for their timeless mission style designs. We are pleased to have won a well-made and attractive little desk that is a great addition to our sun-room. The fact that It is in exceptional condition is a plus.

Stickley writing desk
Stickley writing desk circa 1940
The New Haven Clock Company was founded in New Haven, Connecticut by Hiram Camp (1811‑1892) and other clock-makers

The other win was a $40 steeple clock. Steeple clocks, otherwise known at the time as Sharp Gothics, were made from about the 1830s to around 1900. This is a 30-hour clock which is easily recognizable from the front face by the close proximity of the winding holes to the centre arbour.

History of the New Haven Clock Co.

The New Haven clock Co. produced clocks for over 100 years. In 1853 the Haven Clock Company was founded in New Haven, Connecticut by Hiram Camp (1811‑1892) and other clock-makers. The company’s mission was to mass produce inexpensive brass clock movements for use in clocks. In April, 1856 The New Haven Clock Company eventually bought out the Jerome Clock Company. They moved their production to the former Jerome factory and New Haven began making clocks under their own trademark. In 1870 some of New Haven’s clocks were marketed under the Jerome & Co. brand. Early unmarked movements were Jerome designed.

In 1885 the company stopped selling clocks other than their own New Haven brand. In 1890 the company developed serious financial problems and efforts were made to keep it solvent until 1897 at which time the company emerged after reorganization. In 1902 Walter Chauncey Camp (1859-1925) began to turn the company around. In 1923 Walter Camp stepped down as head of the company and was succeeded by Edwin P. Root.

In 1929 Richard H. Whitehead replaced Root as president of the company but New Haven again faced financial difficulties compounded by the Great Depression in November, 1929. Whitehead was able to keep the company afloat during these troubled times and the firm regained profitability. From 1943 to 1945 the company turned to the war effort, producing products almost exclusively for military use. In March of 1946 The New Haven Clock and Watch Company became the new name of the firm after it reorganized once again. It returned to what it did best before the War, making clocks and watches.

The 1946 reorganization eventually leaves the company vulnerable to foreign investors and it lost control to a consortium of Swiss watchmakers. The man who had successfully shepherded the company through the hard times of the Depression years, resigned as president. In 1956 the New Haven Clock and Watch Company filed Chapter 10 bankruptcy in a U.S. court. Its fortunes had declined precipitously since Whitehead’s departure and it never recovered. In 1960 the company went out of business and the production lines closed. The facilities were sold through a combination of public auction and private negotiation in March of 1960. After over 100 years the company was no more.

My auction win

This New Haven clock is in very good condition apart from minor veneer issues on the base and the columns. The clock is also missing the very tip of the right finial although it might be hard to tell from the photo. It measures 20 1/2 inches tall with a 5-inch dial. The movement appears to be original to the case. The dial is original and has some loss that would be expected in a 148-year-old clock. What I thought was a photograph taped to the lower glass is the original tablet. The tablet is interesting because it features a sailboat against Greek (?) temples surrounded by gold foliage on a black background. The design of the tablet was used in other New Haven clocks of the time. Though likely intended for European export the clock found its way to Canada instead.

Eight-day clocks eventually replaced 30-hour clocks 1865 to 1870 seems about right
Lower tablet
Lower tablet

Now for a curious fact!

In my attempt to date the clock I found some information that narrows the time frame somewhat. It has an almost perfect label save for some staining on the bottom left. There is an over-pasted square blue coloured label on the bottom centre from a clock retailer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. As regular readers know, Halifax is only an hours drive from my home.

The small blue label says, “Thomas D. Spike, watchmaker and jeweler”. I accessed an online database and found that the business was listed in the 1869-70 City of Halifax business directory, however, I could not find how long the business was in operation. Logically, I can assume the clock came from his shop and is from that period.

Thomas D. Spike, watchmaker and jeweler, Halifax, Nova Scotia

According to one source the tapered escape wheel bridge was introduced around 1870. The tablet style is typical of the 1870s, so 1870 is very close to the date it was made.

Label in very good condition
Label in very good condition

The movement is a count wheel strike. The clock runs and keeps time but the strike side fails to stop. Once the clock starts striking it keeps on until the mainspring runs down. This is a common problem. In most cases, the warning wheel misses the locking lever even though the count lever in the deep notch and the maintenance lever is in the maintenance-cam notch. Bending a lever or two is a relatively easy fix but the clock must be dis-assembled in order to make this adjustment.

30 hour time and strike movement
30 hour time and strike movement

However, I must put the clock aside for now as I have a Mauthe wall clock and a Jerome Ogee on the workbench. Once those projects are out of the way I can focus on repairing the veneer and servicing the movement of this fine example of an American sharp Gothic shelf clock from 1870.

2 thoughts on “New Haven 30 hour Sharp Gothic (Steeple) – a curious fact

  1. Wow! What a beautiful New Haven steeple clock! That was a great deal! I really love the New Haven clocks. The designs and craftsmanship are just amazing.


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