Grand Assortment by Sessions – is the assortment really that grand?

This is not the first Grand Assortment clock from the Sessions Clock Co. that I have worked on. In June 2019 I repaired a family member’s clock. It is exactly the same model.

Auction photo

The Grand Assortment was sold “six in a case” to retailers who then sold them separately. The name “assortment” seems appropriate and I am not surprised that some collectors refer to them simply as the Grand. Selling clocks in lots of 6 was a fairly common practice in the early part of the 20th century. An individual could probably order one of the clocks either directly from Sessions or working through a retailer but would normally select one from a retailer’s shelf.

Styles of Grand Assortment

Tran Duy Ly shows this Assortment model from the 1915 catalogue. It was likely made earlier but this style of clock was well on its way out by about 1915. This is Grand No. 3 and the price was $4.00, a day’s salary for a working man. All were eight-day runners but could be ordered with alarm (45 cents extra), cathedral bell (45 cents more), or standard wire bell.

This one was purchased at auction for $35 and listed as “not-tested”. “Not-tested” is an interesting auction term for “it may or may not work and it probably doesn’t”.

The note came with the clock (1903 is the year Sessions began making clocks)

Gingerbread clocks also called “kitchen clocks” were introduced after the American Civil War and remained popular until the end of World War I. The term is derived from the tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses which began in Germany in the early 1800s. The broad application of the gingerbread style applied to almost anything including clocks.

However, gingerbread clocks have polarizing designs. Collectors either love them or hate them. I am not particularly fond of the design of this one but I can see how many at the time were attracted to the style.

The clocks’ cases were steam-pressed oak and occasionally other hardwoods were used. Various designs were pressed by a heat-bond process which was quite advanced for the time. It was a time-saver, spectacular designs were pressed within seconds and it saved on labour costs. Hundreds of thousands of these steam-pressed oak-cased clocks were made and all are now well over 100+ years old.

The clock is 22 inches tall, ten inches wide with a 6-inch dial. It is a time-and-strike movement striking the hour and half-hour on a coiled wire gong.

I am not a huge fan of Sessions’ movements, particularly from this vintage. Too many helper springs, frustrating to re-assemble, and setting up the strike side is always finicky plus the poorly designed weak clicks are prone to failure (yet they’ve lasted this long!). Set up properly they will run reliably for years and are reasonably good time-keepers for a spring-driven clock.

Is it worth fixing? Certainly, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the movement but the case is in rough shape and will require considerable intervention. The paper dial on tin is also in poor condition. Quite often the crown is broken, pieces missing or cracked which is the case for this one and unfortunately, it is not very well glued back together.

The Plan

The movement should be fairly easy to service. I don’t see a lot wrong with it upon initial inspection. As expected it is quite dirty but I don’t see a lot of wear. I won’t know conclusively until I take it apart. The plan is to put the movement in proper running order.

A dirty movement but there does not seem to be a lot of wear

The finish is badly aligorated and will need a lot of work. “Aligorated” means that over time the surface of the case was exposed to heat and high humidity causing the shellac to coagulate in clumps resulting in a mottled finish. I will attempt to renew the finish which might involve stripping the finish. That may sound extreme but it may be the only solution.

The dial is in poor condition

Rust has bled through the paper dial and as such it is beyond hope and will be impossible to restore. I may change out the Roman numeral dial with an Arabic dial from an E. Ingraham gingerbread clock from the same period. The dial size is exactly the same and the centre canon and winding arbours fit perfectly. Checking on the internet I note that there are several Grand Assortments with Arabic dials.

Once the movement is serviced and the case is redone, there should be a dramatic improvement. I have already decided that I will not be keeping it as it will be resold to offset equipment costs.


3 thoughts on “Grand Assortment by Sessions – is the assortment really that grand?

  1. I was successful in smoothing an alligatered shellac finish by rubbing down with alcohol. Alligators all disappeared.

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    1. Sometimes they are easy enough to remove simply with alcohol but the finish on this clock is somewhat more of a challenge.

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