Tag Archives: Smithsonian

After sitting in a barn in New Hampshire for decades, the Great Historical Clock of America has been restored.

Little is known about the origins of the 13 foot tall clock, which also measures 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep.  The clock uses a number of weights totaling more than 100 pounds to drive both the timepiece itself and the many elaborate mechanical complications that display what were then regarded as some of the most important moments in our nation’s history.

great historical clock of americaThe clock was built sometime in the 1890s and is thought to have been built by a C. Chase of Boston.  The clock depicts the Statue of Liberty, but the dioramas also depict Niagara Falls, Pocahontas pleading to spare the life of John Smith, the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, and more.

The clock, though enormous, was designed to be disassembled so that it could be shipped around the world for display purposes.  The clock is known to have been displayed in far-away places such as New Zealand and Australia.

For reasons unknown, the clock was forgotten about decades ago, and sat in a barn in New England, where the owner of the barn charged people 25¢ to take a look at it.

At some point, the clock drew the attention of restorers at the Smithsonian.  It took the experts there hundreds of hours to restore the clock, and parts of it had to be recreated, such as the “flowing” water of the Niagara Falls.

The team of 9 conservators reportedly spent 300 hours just cleaning the clock, and yet more time getting it to run and keeping it running accurately.

The clock is now once again on display at the Smithsonian, as part of their “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” exhibition in the west wing of the museum, which until recently was closed for renovation.

It would be interesting to learn more about this clock.  Was it the work of just one man, or did a team build it?  Where there both artists and clockmakers working to build this impressive piece of timekeeping, or did one man alone have the skills to build both an elaborate clock mechanism as well as the detailed and colorful dioramas?

The clock really doesn’t describe particularly well; it’s one of those things that you have to see to fully understand.  Fortunately, we found a video that shows the intricate detail that went into this piece, which is the size of several automobiles.