From 70,000 to 100,000 wooden clock works were manufactured in and around Hartford, Vienna and Warren over 23 years starting nearly 200 years ago. The production of this luxury item (costing $4 retail) was far greater than could be purchased and used locally. That created wealth from exports and an age of achievement.
The Hartford Historical Society is celebrating the period of the 30-hour wooden clock with the offering of a wonderfully attractive, "must have" 8 1/2 x 11 inch wall calendar for 2010. The richly colored, creative photographs of clocks and their components that accompany each month's calendar page were achieved by the artistry of Diane Klingemier. Her photos of 11 clocks are included in this calendar.
Her husband, Chris Klingemier, a vice president of the Hartford Historical Society, and an authority on early Trumbull County wooden clock works, offers a valuable one-page history of wooden clocks of that time inside the cover of the calendar. He is also an authority on pre-Victorian Trumbull County architecture and early Trumbull County furniture.
Chris is an adjunct professor at YSU and has roots as a grocer and general store merchant that go back four generations to Fred Klingemier's general store in Champion in 1886.
As Klingemier explains in his page of history, "The years following the close of the War of 1812 were good years for northeastern Ohio. The immigrants, mostly from New England, came without means, spurred economic activity by bartering their labor for land, farm animals, housing and possessions they needed to start over. Some immigrants from western Connecticut brought with them knowledge of wooden clockworks. In Trumbull County, the largest industry didn't revolve about a 'need,' but rather a 'want.' Everyone, it seemed, wanted a clock.
"Handmade brass clocks, always a status symbol, were priced out of the reach of an ordinary farmer or wage earner. The Industrial Revolution changed that in the first decade of the 19th century with Eli Terry's mass produced wooden clocks. Terry's success brought competitors and imitators. By 1826, Alvah Hart and his brother-in-law Robinson Truesdale had started a small clock factory in Hartford. It was one of an estimated five to seven factories that formed the region's clock industry. Laborers cut, sawed and kiln dried the lumber, workers fabricated and assembled the clockworks, whitesmiths cast the pewter hands, and iron workers, probably from Niles, drew the wire and cast the bells and pendulum bobs.
"Clocks were used as currency in place of cash and used as surety for loans. Peddlers ranged into Michigan, New York, Canada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky and New Orleans. Cabinetry arrangements were made by the purchaser at some distance from Trumbull County. The peddlers, (some were Sutliffs - Calvin, Flavel, Levi), returned with cash and bartered goods. The manufacture and peddling of wooden clock works became the industrial engine for the economic expansion of Trumbull County through the 1820s. Hart and Truesdale's factory in Hartford operated from 1826 through 1833. Tall clocks were produced initially and later shelf clocks."
Sadly, the names of most of the early factory workers and decorators are currently unknown. By 1835, with mass produced brass clocks from the east becoming available, plus overproduction of the local wooden works, the industry collapsed, taking the regional economy with it. Klingemier thinks that the national economic panic of 1837, which caused the Sandy and Beaver River Canal construction through Hanoverton, south of Trumbull County, to close down for three years, may have been precipitated in part by the demise of the wooden clock works two years earlier. Klingemier estimates that 50 to 150 Hartford made clocks may remain today. He attributes some of his knowledge about clocks to the 1991 monograph written by Rebecca M. Rogers titled "Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1835."
"It is exciting to see this collector's-piece calendar being made available in an outreach and community education project," Judy Yeager, president of the historical society said. The calendars are available for $10 each. They may be purchased at the Sutliff Museum, at the Hartford Apple Festival Sept. 18-20 and from Hartford Historical Society members. For information about other sale locations or calendar mail orders (at $12.50 per calendar) call 330-772-3582.