RARE AND IMPORTANT EARLY AMERICAN CLOCKS FROM A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF ELI TERRY, ONE OF AMERICA’S FIRST CLOCK MAKERS, TO BE SOLD AT AUCTION MAY 2

. April 15, 2009

(TERRYVILLE, Conn.) – Quite possibly the most important collection of rare, early American Terry clocks ever to cross the block will be auctioned on Saturday, May 2, by Tim’s, Inc., of Bristol, Conn. The sale will be held on-site, at the home of Richard T. Baldwin, a direct descendant of Eli Terry, who patented his first clocks in the state in 1816. The auction address is 278 Main Street in Terryville.

watch-clock-collector.jpg Mr. Baldwin, who passed away in 1986, had been a member of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors. Upon his death, his wife became the custodian of his vast collections, presiding over a home that was a veritable museum of Terry clocks and other antique objects. Mrs. Baldwin passed away last year. Everything to be sold will be fresh to the market, never before offered.

“This auction will feature the most important and rarest collection of Terry clocks in our thirty years of business,” said Tim Chapulis of Tim’s, Inc. “Mr. Baldwin’s family collection represents a wide variety of fresh-to-the-market Terry clocks in all sizes and types, some we’ve never seen before. There will also be some early clocks by Seth Thomas, who worked with the Terrys, plus other rare examples.”

The day will actually be broken up into three sessions, preceded by a preview that begins at 10 a.m. The first session, starting at 11:30 a.m., will be an early bird pre-auction garage and basement sale. Then, at noon, Mr. Baldwin’s property will come up for bid. His vintage six-room home features a detached garage and has commercial potential, zoned C-1 Commercial on busy Main Street (Rte. 6).

At about 12:15 p.m., the clocks will come up for bid, each one as an individual lot. But there is more to the Baldwin estate that will pique bidder interest. Mr. Baldwin was also an avid collector of art pottery (to include Rookwood, Roseville, Bennington and Van Briggle). All of it will be sold, as will an early lock collection (including local Eagle locks) and a massive collection of about 1,000 cup plates.

marbles.jpg In addition, Mr. Baldwin also amassed a large marble collection (to include sulfide marbles); glass paperweights; glass insulators; early inkwells and bottles; pocket watches; and master salts. Stack-on bookcases and furnishings from the home will also be sold, as will items of local historical significance, to include early Plymouth, Conn., school records and documents from the 1830s-1860s, possibly to include Terry family children; a large daguerreotype of a gentleman (4-1/2 inches by three inches, possibly a Terry family member) in a beautiful leather case; and early school autograph books.

But the Terry clocks (and yes, Terryville was named after the Terry family) promise to be the undisputed heavyweight lots in the sale. Some of the expected stars of the group include the following:

A Silas B. Terry 30-hour tandem wind time-and-strike “Steeple” shelf clock (circa 1845) in mahogany, with four spiers, an excellent case and painted wood dial.
A Silas B. Terry keyhole-shaped mahogany wall clock (circa 1840), 26 inches tall, with 11-inch round painted wood dial and beautiful original Terry horologist label inside.

terry-octagon.jpgA Terry Clock Co. (Waterbury, Conn.) octagon-top drop model #100 wall clock (circa 1875), 21 inches tall, with cast-iron case, pointed octagonal top, original dial, nice black and gilt label inside and original black painted finish.

Terry Downs & Co. (Bristol, Conn.) clock (circa 1852) with large painted and pearl inlay iron front Gothic-shaped case, 8-day brass striking movement, original dial and nice label.

A walnut and pine case shelf clock, most likely by Silas B. Terry (circa 1850), with 8-day solid plate time movement and nice original dial.

A painted cast-iron novelty clock (circa 1870), possibly by Terry Clock Co., in the shape of a basket of flowers, with wooden case back, S.B. Terry tic-tac escape movement, original dial, and paint and stenciled decoration on cast iron.

Anticipated top earners that aren’t Terry clocks include an early Seth Thomas piece (Plymouth, Conn., circa 1840), with wooden movement; a Henry Sperry & Co. (N.Y., circa 1855) clock with 30-hour time-only brass movement; and examples by M. E. Blakeslee and H. Whelton & Co. In all, about 150 rare and vintage clocks will be sold to the highest bidder, the most coveted of them made by Eli Terry, his son Silas and Silas’s several sons. Also auctioned will be vintage watches and watch parts.

terry-steeple.jpg In the early 19th century, a handful of Connecticut inventors and entrepreneurs transformed the way clocks were made in this country. Eli Terry – along with associates Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley – applied water-powered machinery to clock making. What was once a craft turned into a factory process, one in which machines mass-produced uniform, interchangeable clock parts.

This new process, which became known as the “American system” of clock manufacturing, created a whole new product for the fledgling and mostly rural early American market. Eli Terry, around 1816, designed a distinctly American clock small enough to set on a mantel shelf. Sold to rural buyers by itinerant merchants, these clocks helped transform the North into a modern market society.

These clocks demonstrated Eli Terry’s determination to make his clocks as economical to the buying public as possible. The case was a simple wooden box, and the glass doors bore reverse-painted numbers that served as a dial. Terry’s success spawned imitators eager to capture their own share of the machine-made clock market. By 1830, western Connecticut was home to over 100 clock making firms.

Silas Burnham Terry (1807-1876) was trained by his famous clock making father, Eli, and in 1852 he formed a partnership with a nephew and another relative called S.B. Terry & Co. That firm ran for about a year and turned into a joint stock corporation called the Terryville Mfg. Co. That firm went bankrupt in 1859, but in 1867 Silas and his four sons formed the Terry Clock Company in Waterbury.

The Terry Clock Company produced some early wooden case clocks, but the majority of their production prior to 1880 was for clocks with cast-iron cases. These were generally painted black, and had varying degrees of hand-striping and decoration. During this period, the company received patents for movement escapements and cast-iron case fronts, as well as for fishing reels, which it also made.

After Silas B. Terry died of heart disease in 1876, his sons continued to run the company until 1880, when it entered into bankruptcy. It was purchased by a group of investors from Pittsfield, Mass., which relocated the firm there in 1883. Three of the Terry brothers ran the operation (still called the Terry Clock Company) until 1888, when creditors took over the firm and changed the name to the Russell & Jones Clock Company. It operated for several more years, but shut down for good in 1892.

Terms for the May 2 auction will be a 15 percent buyer’s premium for cash and known checks and 18 percent for major credit cards. Admission will come in the form of a suggested $5 donation to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, in memory of Peter W. Chapulis. To date, Tim’s, Inc., has raised over $18,000 for the charity. There will be no online biding, but phone and absentee bids will be accepted.

Terryville is located between Litchfield and Hartford, above Waterbury. Consult Mapquest or Google Maps for directions. Tim’s, Inc., is always accepting quality consignments for future sales.

To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call them directly, at (860) 459-0964, or toll-free, (800) 255-8467. Or, you can e-mail them at tims.inc@snet.net. The firm is celebrating 30 years in business.

To learn more about the firm and the upcoming May 2 auction, and to view hundreds of photos of the lots to be sold, you may log on to www.timsauction.com.

The mailing address is Tim’s, Inc., 1185 Farmington Ave., Bristol, CT 06010.

Category: Auction News

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