E. Ingraham Grecian shelf clock – first look and action plan

This article is the first look at one of my latest online auction finds, an E. Ingraham & Company shelf clock known as the Grecian.

The Ingraham Clock Company operated under a number of minor name variations over the years, E. Ingraham, E & A Ingraham, the E. Ingraham Company, E. Ingraham and Company from 1844 to 1885. Later The Ingraham Company made electric clocks and wristwatches. McGraw-Edison now owns the company and quartz clocks bearing the Ingraham name are still manufactured.

Ingraham Grecian shelf clock
Ingraham Grecian shelf clock, a day after the auction purchase

Although not rare the Grecian is quite collectible. Patent dates on the label date the clock to around 1871. The only other one I have seen is at the American Watch and Clock Museum in Bristol Connecticut, a mosaic maple and walnut version.

American Watch and Clock Museum in Bristol Connecticut

It is a handsome clock with clean lines. The E. Ingraham Grecian 8-day time and strike shelf clock is neoclassical in design. It is not only aesthetically pleasing to patrons of the nineteenth century but remains so today.

It is a distinctive clock. It has a moulded Rosewood bezel, carved volutes below the dial frame (or rosettes as Ingraham called them in his patent letters), and a Rosewood veneered case. The dial frame and bezel are one section that makes up the hinged front access door. There are walnut cased versions and mosaic as well but Rosewood has a certain exotic allure. Elias Ingraham was a case designer and no doubt had a hand not only in the design but the choice of woods used for case construction.

This clock was bought at an online auction in early January 2021. From the auction photos, I expected a clock that needed work and now, after having received it, I am pleasantly surprised that will not take much to service the movement and clean the case.

General condition 

The case is Rosewood but because of the buildup of dirt and grime over the years, the grain and texture of the wood are hidden. Upon closer examination, there are some small chips of veneer missing from the corner edges of the base, not surprising given the age of the clock. The rounded top and volutes are perfect.

There is some wear on the top part of the base under the door and that is to be expected. The curved wood bezel is in very nice condition. The backboard has age-related cracks in two places but will not require a repair. There is a slight corner separation on the left side of the base but everything else is tight. The door clasp looks good.

Ingraham Grecian shelf clock
Ingraham Grecian shelf clock

The dial screws came out too easily and the screw holes are well worn. The dial has been taken off more than a few times to make adjustments. The dial is also misaligned as a result of the new screw holes. Both the minute and hour hands are incorrect. The moon hour hand is too short and the minute hand is a slender spade. Both will be replaced.

Ingraham Grecian shelf clock
Ingraham Grecian shelf clock

The painted zinc dial face, which for some reason is detached from the brass bezel, appears to be original with some flaking on the edges. There is a missing time side grommet. The alarm dial is loose, not seemingly attached to anything, and came off easily once the hands were detached. The brass bezel needs a good cleaning.

Ingraham Grecian shelf clock
Ingraham Grecian shelf clock, fair label, cast brass bell

The unique green triangular label inside the case is in fair condition with pieces missing at the lower cracked section of the backboard. I found a loose 3cm piece at the bottom of the case which can easily be glued back in place. The alarm mechanism is in excellent condition. The spring on the alarm is typically broken on these old clocks; this one is fine. I doubt if it has seen much use. The bell is cast brass and there are two strike hammers; one on the inside, which is for the alarm, and one on the outside, the hour-strike hammer.

I was told by the seller that the clock would run for a few minutes, even strike but then it stops, which tells me that nothing is broken. The crutch loop is twisted around the pendulum rod and since there is no impulse it is not surprising the clock would stop. I doubt it ran more than a few seconds.

It is a pinned movement. Later movements have screws or bolts holding the plates together. The movement might have been worked on in the past although it is hard to tell. The two lower pins look original but the top pins look like replacements. If it was worked on it was done with care. There are no tell-tale signs such as marks, scratches, and punch marks that indicate past servicing. Since the mainsprings are wound tight I won’t know the extent of wear until I take the movement apart.

I can only guess that the butchered crutch and the detached dial are the results of someone who did not know what they were doing when making an attempt to get the clock to run.

The plan of action

The case: clean all wood surfaces thoroughly with Murphy’s Soap. Cleaning will no doubt remove remnants of the old shellac and new shellac prepared in the traditional manner (flakes and alcohol) will be applied to all the exterior surfaces. The finish will then be dulled with 4X0 steel wool.

The movement: The movement will be completely disassembled and inspected for wear, and cleaned. New bushings will be installed if needed. I made some adjustments to the crutch and ran the clock for two days and it was striking correctly during that period. The mainsprings look to be in good condition and provide plenty of power. The alarm mechanism which might never have been operational, will be taken apart and cleaned. The alarm dial is a friction fit and will be tightened up once the movement is reinstalled and should work as intended. The crutch loop will be repaired.

The dial: I will leave the dial as-is despite a little paint loss on the edges. Once the dial is aligned properly these should be hidden, for the most part. The dial pan has separated from the bezel. A past tinkerer used cellophane tape to secure the dial pan to the bezel and even attempted to solder two of the tabs, poorly I might add. These are fixable. More difficult is sourcing a 2 3/4 inch moon minute hand.

Well, that’s it for now. I plan to get started fairly soon. The only thing stopping me is a Seth Thomas #2 that has stopped and needs a look-see. There will be more on the Ingraham clock later.