I have worked on several Gilbert clocks in the past few months which is unusual for me. Certain makes of clocks seem to come in bunches. This clock is a 6 column time and strike antique Gilbert mantel clock made in 1913, and reflects a period when every American maker had a similar style. Some parts of the case have an Adamantine finish but those particular areas are not in good shape.
A family relation asked me if I could get it running. Sure, I said.
History of the Gilbert Clock Company
The Gilbert Clock Company began making clocks in December of 1828 and produced clocks over a span of 130 years.
In 1837, John Birge joined the firm, and the name was changed to Birge, Gilbert, & Company. Shortly thereafter, Chauncey and Nobel Jerome and Zelotus Grant became partners with Gilbert, and in 1837 the company was know as Jerome, Grant, Gilbert, & Company. This company manufactured Jerome’s cheap brass-movement clocks.
In October of 1841, Gilbert moved to Winchester (called Winsted at that time), Connecticut and purchased a clock factory with Lucius Clarke. This new partnership was named Clarke, Gilbert, & Company. In 1851, the company was re-named W. L. Gilbert & Company, and continued the production of the brass-movement clocks until 1866.
Just three months after a disastrous fire in July of 1871, Gilbert bounced back and formed another corporation, William L. Gilbert Clock Company. William L. Gilbert died in 1890, but the company retained its name and continued operations.
After the turn of the century, the company continued profitably and added more buildings and a larger inventory of clocks until the recession of 1907. From then to 1914, business continued to fall off and the company nearly went bankrupt, but was allowed to continue operations by its creditors.
The company was put into bankruptcy in 1932 when hit hard by the great depression. After two years of receivership, the company worked its way out of debt, and changed its name to the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation.
During World War II, the company was one of the few American clock companies permitted to continue producing clocks. They made mostly alarm clocks. People needed to get to their war-related jobs on time. Since metal was needed for the war effort, Gilbert had to use pressed paper or papier-mâché for the cases of these alarm clocks.
Trying to stem off another bankruptcy, the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation began making adding machines in 1953. Finally, in 1957 the company was taken over by the General Computing Machines Company and the name was changed to General-Gilbert Corporation. In 1964 the clock division of the corporation was sold to Spartus Corporation of Chicago, Illinois.
A more complete history of the Gilbert Clock Company can be found here.
A common style in the early part of the 20th century
This clock was a very common style in the early part of the 20th century. Sessions, Seth Thomas, Waterbury and others made similarly styled clocks. The ubiquitous 8-day time and strike Gilbert movement could be found in a variety of cases. It was reliable, dependable and relatively simple to repair. It is an hour gong strike with a passing strike on a bell for the half hour. Most Gilbert movements are date-stamped and this particular movement was made in 1913.
Thousands were made and today many can be found in antique stores, online for-sale sites, flea markets and auction houses.
Servicing the movement and case refreshing
This clock was bought at auction and offered as a non-working clock. Many clocks such as this have not seen servicing in many years and usually a combination of bushing wear and old oil buildup will cause these clocks to stop. A complete tear down, immersing the parts in an ultrasonic cleaner followed by the installation of 5 bushings is all that was required to bring this clock to top running condition. The mainsprings were in great shape and have plenty of power to easily maintain an 8-day cycle.
The columns had been painted at one point and I had no qualms applying acrylic gold paint to spruce up the case along with two coats of shellac mixed in the traditional way. Otherwise, the dial pan had to be soldered to the brass bezel.
I also filled in the scrolling design with gold paint. The effect is subtle but it enhances the look of the clock.
This Gilbert mantel clock reflects the period it was made and thousands found their way into the living rooms and front parlours of American homes. Not the most desirable or attractive clock in the world but practical and utilitarian and certainly deserving of a few more years of life. Taking the time to address the movement and refresh the case was worth the effort.