A 1847 Elisha Manross steeple clock with rare brass mainsprings

Among American clocks, the name Elisha Manross does not immediately come to mind unlike well-known clockmakers such as Seth Thomas, New Haven or Waterbury. However, Elisha Manross (1792-1856) was an important pioneer of the Connecticut clock.

Brass mainsprings are very rare. It is possible for a clockmaker to go through their entire career without seeing brass mainsprings. Why? Because brass was used for a very short period as a mainspring in clocks. From 1836 to 1850 brass mainsprings were used because steel was considered very expensive. It was not until 1847 that the tempered steel mainspring developed for everyday clocks was introduced and with it, the brass mainspring faded into clock history.

Tempered brass mainspring, American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol Connecticut, June 2019

Quite often 30-hour time and strike Gothic Steeple clocks such as this one by Elisha Manross (Ca. 1847) have steel mainsprings because the original brass mainsprings broke and were replaced. That the mainsprings in this clock are original and still in excellent condition tells me that this clock did not have a particularly hard life.

Elisha Manross 30 hour movement
Elisha Manross 30 hour movement, as found

My plan is to preserve the brass mainsprings. Some might be tempted to replace them with steel ones. My interest is in preserving the brass mainsprings in this clock because they represents a very important part of the history of American clocks and should be back in the movement where they belong.

It is not easy to work with brass mainsprings. Care must be taken. Unlike steel springs brass mainsprings cannot be stretched out to clean. Once out of the ultrasonic cleaner I dried them with strips of terry cloth, working the strips in the coil as far centre as I could manage.

Terry cloth strips used to clean the brass mainsprings
Cleaned brass mainsprings, notice how tight the brass is in the centre

Now, on to servicing the movement

They were a couple of pivot holes such as the one below with punch marks. Despite the punch marks the pivot holes are functional and did not have to be bushed, so I left them. My intent was only to bush only those that were the most problematic.

While the clock runs well, it will be preserved for its historical value
Punch marks to close a hole

I installed 4 bushings all on the strike side which had the worst wear (it is not uncommon to have more wear on the strike side). Below is a tooth repair. It looks sturdy and a bit rough but it functions well.

Main wheel tooth repair

Here is the movement assembled and tested.

Assembled and tested

And finally, it is back into its case.

New minute and hour hands

While the clock runs well, it will be preserved for its historical value. It is the only clock I have with rare brass mainsprings and consequently, it will not be a daily runner.


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