The History of the Chelsea Clock Company
The beautiful Chelsea Clocks have been around for a long time and with a fascinating history.
How the Chelsea Clock Company Started
Throughout the history of time, mankind has been inventing timepieces. Some of the earliest clocks made in the United States were by two brothers, Aaron and Simon Willard in the late 1790s. An excellent clockmaker, Simon Willard is best known for making the eight-day patent timepiece 1802, also known as the gallery or banjo clock, which became the first widely sold wall clock in the United States.
Edward Howard, who was an apprentice of Simon Willard’s nephew, Aaron Willard, Jr. started his own company in 1840. After having several partners and businesses, the company finally became the E. Howard Clock & Watch Company in 1857.
An apprentice of Edward Howard was Joseph Eastman who in 1886 started the Eastman Clock Company in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The company changed its name to the Boston Clock Company when in 1897; Charles Person bought the company and changed its name to the Chelsea Clock Company.
1938 banjo clock. Enlargement of picture in clock. Image source
The First Chelsea Clocks
From the beginning, the Chelsea Clock Company always made the finest clocks and refused to deviate from that plan, even if the costs were high to make and to sell.
The first popular clock Chelsea made was in 1900, called the Ship’s Bell clock. These clocks are still being made and can be found in almost every port in the world today. They are not only popular in ships and ports, but also in homes and government offices.
Starting in 1903, Chelsea made what might be the very first clock in automobiles with customers like Rolls Royce and Studebaker. In 1906 they published their first catalog.
What really propelled the Chelsea Clock Company was in 1906, when the United States Navy started ordering the Chelsea marine clocks. Since the US Navy was ordering these clocks, other branches of the military followed. The US Treasury Department then ordered hundreds of Chelsea clocks for their offices.
1906 Chelsea Library Desk Clock
Chelsea Clocks Moves into the 20th Century
Prior to 1910, the most precise time regulators used for astronomy and scientific applications were made by Waltham Clock Company, Seth Thomas Clock Company and E. Howard and Company. In 1911, Chelsea decided to prove that it had the ability and the best clock makers to produce the most accurate time pieces in the world. And they did prove it.
Chelsea not only made clocks to tell time, but the instruments to record weather and the altimeters in airplanes. By the mid 1920s, almost every airplane had a Chelsea clock and altimeter in it.
In the 1920s, Chelsea Clocks made it both to the North Pole and South Pole. In 1922 Chelsea clocks were used to find and measure the magnetic north pole and in 1928, Admiral Byrd used Chelsea clocks and instruments to record temperature, humidity and barometric pressure at the South Pole.
In 1928, the owner of Chelsea Clock, Charles Person passed away and William Neagle assumed ownership. When the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression started, William Neagle was able to keep the company going even with diminishing sales. In 1930, Chelsea started to make and sell electric clocks to meet the consumers increasing demands for them
1932 Chelsea Electric Clock World War II 24-Hour Clock
When World War II started in 1941, the US government ordered thousands of Chelsea clocks and movements. Their clocks were found in every ship at sea including destroyers, submarines, battleships and aircraft carriers. The movements that Chelsea made and sold to the government were used for fire control and tracers. In 1943, they received the government’s E award for wartime production excellence (before 1961, these were called E pennants).
William Neagle retired in 1945 and longtime employees Walter Mutz and George King bought the company. After the war, the government continued to buy and use Chelsea clocks and instruments. They were used in bombers, nuclear missile silos, ships and aircraft.
Chelsea Changes Owners Again
Walter Munz and George King sold Chelsea to Automation industries in 1970, who then sold it to the Bunker Ramo Corporation in 1972. In 1978 it was sold to Richard Leavitt. In 2005 Mr. Leavitt sold Chelsea to entrepreneur JK Nicholas who still owns the company today.
Chelsea Clock Today
Ever since President Woodrow Wilson, US presidents have had Chelsea clocks in the White House and given Chelsea clocks to visiting dignitaries. The company still makes beautifully crafted clocks and jewelry at the same location where it started in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Today you can buy antique, vintage or new Chelsea clocks along with accurate and beautiful barometers.
Quartz clock and barometer with base.
Collecting Chelsea Clocks
These clocks have long been a favorite of antiques and clock collectors. The Chelsea Clock Museum also sells clocks to collectors. You can see what they have for sale on their Vintage Chelsea Clocks for sale website. Serial numbers are important to validate the years that certain clocks were made; you can check the serial numbers for Chelsea Clocks on their web site.
© August 14, 2010 Sam Montana
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