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Whimsical Clocks in "Keeping Time: Clockmakers and Collectors," Opening October 10, 2015

W. H. MacKenzie
Shelf Clock, 1919. Unknown maker and Phinney-Walker Co., Inc. (ca. 1900–ca. 1960). New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 95.029a-c. Photograph by David Bohl.

Starting October 10, 2015, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library will open a new exhibition “Keeping Time:  Clockmakers and Collectors,” featuring clocks from the Museum’s rich collection of timepieces. Along with tall case clocks from the 1700s, material related to the collectors Ruth and Michael Willis and clocks from the 1800s and 1900s, this exhibition features a section devoted to whimsical clocks.

From the mid-1800s on, American consumers enjoyed many choices in factory-produced clocks. Different makers produced a wonderful variety of clocks and sold them at a range prices to appeal to every taste and budget. Clock makers also added novel and useful features, such as illumination and alarms, to help their offerings stand out in the marketplace. Against this backdrop, some clockmakers took a different tack; they crafted clocks that expressed creativity and enthusiasm one-by-one or in small numbers. One example, at left, is this clock with a drawer made for or crafted by W. H. Mackenzie. Its maker demonstrated his creativity in how he decorated this clock and how he used the materials he had at hand. He incorporated a round metal clock, originally designed for a car dashboard, into this object. He also repurposed an evaporated milk crate to serve as the foundation the body of the clock. The maker attached carved wooden ornaments to the crate, many of them in the shape of symbols associated with Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship, to create what must have been particularly designed to reflect the interests of its owner.

Other whimsical clocks will be on view in “Keeping Time.” A few, like this tall case clock pictured to the

Tall Case Clock, 1972. George F. McFadden (1904-1991), Winchester, Massachusetts. Gift of the Estate of George F. McFadden, 91.018.4. Photograph by David Bohl.

right and made and decorated with Pennsylvania Dutch inspired motifs, were crafted by museum goer and staff favorite, George McFadden (1904-1991). McFadden’s clocks are folk art—unique objects made from available materials that explore an idea--that were also functioning timepieces. Other whimsical clocks on display show ingenuity in how makers employed their creativity to interest certain consumers, like parents or members of fraternal organizations. For example, sparked by his daughter Emily’s love of a classic nursery rhyme, Elmer Ellsworth Dungan (1862–1930) created the Dickory, Dickory, Dock Clock in the early 1900s. Twice a day, a mouse runs up the side of the clock, tracking the time along side ruled numbers and then falls down. You can see a detail of the carved mouse on the clock below at left. With a partner Dungan patented and promoted the clock. The New Haven Clock Company manufactured it. Expensive to produce, the clock did not bring the partnership much, if

Detail Dickory Dickory Dock Clock
Detail, Dickory, Dickory, Dock Clock, ca. 1910. New Haven Clock Co. (1853–1960), New Haven, Connecticut. Gift of Mrs. Willis R. Michael, 75.66.10a-c. Photograph by David Bohl.

any, income. The clock, however, charms collectors today. We think it, along with the other clocks on view in “Keeping Time,” reflect the talent and vision of their makers—as well as their makers’ passion for clocks. Be sure to make time to come see the exhibition starting Saturday, October 10.




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