The Canadian Clock Museum – a must-see for clock fans and museum lovers!

A museum is an institution dedicated to the display of objects of lasting interest or historic value. A museum can display just about anything but The Canadian Clock Museum, located in Deep River, Ontario (Canada) focuses on Canadian clocks or clocks that have a Canadian connection.

Canadian Clock museum
Canadian Clock Museum

Most are mechanical clocks as you would expect but the most extensive collection of (Toronto-based) Snider electric clocks is contained within its walls.

This Snider clock is located in the foyer of a Quebec City boutique hotel
Display of Snider clocks in the entry foyer of the museum

There are static displays that change very little over the years but Curator Allan Symons continues to acquire new and interesting clocks of all types and it seems that in the past two years some large hall and grandfather clocks have been added. Interesting, because they take up a lot of space and space is at a premium in this tightly packed museum.

Despite the museum’s diminutive size, there is a relaxing flow as one explores many manufacturers and thematic displays. It is easy to get lost in the history of the many clocks on display. There is just enough information on the description cards adjacent to each clock to keep the visitor’s interest without getting too deep into the weeds.

Many clocks come with interesting stories that Allan will happily relate but some histories are, unfortunately, incomplete. Clock collectors know that as clocks pass from hand to hand some or all of the history is lost forever.

The clock that intrigued me most in this, my seventh trip to the museum, is a top-of-the-line grandfather clock made by the Blackforest Clock Company of Toronto and donated to the museum. Founded in 1928 by Leopold and Sarah Stossel the Blackforest Clock Company and later the Forestville Clock Company was a prolific producer of clocks for Canadian Homes. Complete clocks were imported from Germany or movements were imported and installed in locally made cases.

The company continued as the Blackforest Clock Company until 1941 at which point the Second World War and the unfortunate association with Germany led to a name change to the Forestville Clock Company. During the war years, movements were sourced from England, France, and the US. As factories ramped up production Forestville resumed importing movements from Germany. Ed Stossel retired in 1979 and the company could not survive much longer without his leadership.

Blackforest hall clock

This imposing floor clock stands about 7 1/2 feet tall and is a majestic piece of mahogany cabinetry with carved bonnet and capitals, fluted columns, hand-painted moon dial, carved feet, and a large central finial over a carved head of a young woman(?).

Stunning top piece with carvings

The weights are cable wound by inserting a winding crank in the 3 arbours on the dial face. The case was not made in-house at the Blackforest Clock Co. but by a smaller firm specializing in grandfather clock cases (Westminster Time & Clock Industries from Scarborough, perhaps?).

However, the unique feature of this clock is the Westminster chimes on five tubular bells, one tube extending all the way to the inside bottom of the case. The chime hammers are driven by a large pin drum located on the top of the movement. The sound is not overly loud but melodious.

Westminster 3-train movement

If you have but a casual interest in clocks there are other displays of interest, one of which is an old phonograph made by the Victor Talking Machine Company, Camden, New Jersey, USA) and sold as the Victrola brand by the Ormes Furniture Company Limited of Ottawa.

Victrola was a brand name for the many table and floor models made by the Victor Talking Machine Company starting around 1927. The new models promoted the latest recordings made via microphone for the first time starting in the mid-1920s.

The museum’s large floor model is one version of the Credenza model.

Starting around 1900, before electricity availability, records were both recorded and played back acoustically.  Microphones and electric motors changed the music recording industry.

In the late 1920s, the Credenza was considered a state-of-the-art player for 78rpm records and it was available in either an electric version or a 4-spring wind-up. The museum has the electric version. The fidelity of this stand-up model is remarkable as it capably projects the music into a large room.

Victrola record player, the Credenza

Allan played a 78rpm disc recorded in 1951 by Mary Ford and Les Paul, yes the same Les Paul of guitar fame. The song was How High the Moon and the Victrola filled the room despite the limitations of a steel needle (stylus) and an acoustic trumpet (folded 6-foot wood horn).

Not only is the museum worth at least a one-time visit for clock lovers but return visitors will always be rewarded with some new and, of course, fascinating additions.

However, if you are unable to visit the museum Allan will take you on a virtual tour that will no doubt pique your interest to come and enjoy the museum’s many offerings.

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