HARTFORD - A piece of Trumbull County history is being rediscovered - all it took was a little time.
In the early 1800s, settlers coming from New England brought their skills and products with them, including the ability to make clocks. Today, the Hartford Historical Society has produced a calendar celebrating the history of these wooden timepieces.
Of the few thousand clocks produced in this area, nearly all have disappeared.
Tribune Chronicle / Michelle Robbins
Chris Klingemier of Hartford shows a dial of a clock with wooden works from his collection. Also shown are the gears of the clock behind the face. The item is from the 1820s.
"They're very transient," said Chris Klingemier of Hartford. "It's dials and bits and pieces that survive."
Klingemier and his wife, Diane, designed the glossy calendar, "Hands of Time - The Folk Art of Wooden Works Clocks from Hartford, Ohio," for sale by the society.
When the couple moved into their Hartford house about three decades ago, they began looking into the history of the home. They found T.A. Bushnell's book about the history of Hartford. The inside page of the calendar features the following information from the book:
How to get the calendar
WHAT:?"Hands of Time - The Folk Art of Wooden Works Clocks from Hartford, Ohio"
WHERE:?Available at the Sutliff Museum in Warren and Judy's Flower Basket in Fowler
MORE?INFORMATION:?For more information or mail orders ($12.50 per calendar), call Chris at 330-772-3582 (evenings), Marie at 330-772-6308 or Judy at 330-772-4531 (daytime).
"A carding mill 'was built by C. & R. Silliman, a little north of the center, and was soon after changed into a clock factory by Hart & Truesdale. For some years quite a business was done in the manufacture of wooden works clocks.'"
The statement sparked an interest that started the couple on a long collectors' journey that has since filled their home with several works from the local clock industry.
Acccording to the brief history in the calendar, handmade brass clocks in the 1820s were expensive status symbols. In 1826 Alvah Hart, a merchant, and Robinson Truesdale, a cabinet maker, had started a small clock factory in Hartford. In the early 1900s, Eli Terry began mass-producing wooden clocks.
"I think they saw an advantage, a market," said Klingemier, owner of Sparkle Supermarkets in Champion and Cortland.
The Hart & Truesdale facility was one of five to seven factories in the area. Two or three, Klingemier said, were run by four Lewis brothers. He said there was a factory near what is now Oakwood Cemetery, L.W. Lewis had one in Vienna Center, and close to his was one owned by by Ansel Merrell. Those two business owners apparently did not get along, Klingemier said.
"If you think 'factory,' in this case it's not a very big thing," Klingemier said.
Workers would stack disks, using a lathe to make the gears. Klingemier said there also was "three-arbor wheel-cutting engine."
He said in 1800 a brass clock made by hand may have cost $13 to $14, while a wooden works clock would run about $9. Along came Terry, who made a deal with two brothers that he would make 4,000 clocks if they would purchase them at a much lower price. Terry's equipment, with belts and pulleys and driven by water power, used wood-turning tools, drills and saws to produce up to 12 wheels at once.
"He is the innovator so these things can be made relatively quickly and marketed," Klingemier said. "We've always been told it's guns that were mass-produced."
Key information, researched by Rebecca Rogers and presented in the monograph "Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1835," was found in a deposition of court records of a suit between two Lewis brothers.
Tax records also have been important, Klingemier said. Taxing of property began in 1826, and the factories are listed in the 1830s records as the most valuable properties in the area.
"Unless you look at 1832 or '33 you don't see clock factory in the tax records," Klingemier said.
A large number of people were involved in the industry. They included "laborers who cut, sawed and kiln-dried the lumber, factory workers who fabricated and assembled the clockworks, the whitesmith who cast the pewter hands, and the local iron workers who drew the wire and cast the bells and pendulum bobs," all listed in the calendar.
In addition, young women decorated the clock dials, some using fine metallic powder and reverse-painted glass, techniques unique to the area.
Once dials and works were complete, peddlers took them took them to be sold. The tall cases were generally manufactured where the clockworks were sold, and the tin can weights were filled with sand or shot and capped with wood at their destination.
Klingemier said the layout of the mechanism in Hart and Truesdale's clocks is different than all the others in Trumbull County, probably because they copied a different Hartford, Conn., model than the others.
Technology took over as it does today - by 1835, inexpensive brass clocks were being mass produced. Hart and Truesdale went on to make shelf clocks.
"There's a wider web of folks involved," Klingemier said. "When this economy goes, it just knocks Warren flat."
Klingemier guesses there are between 50 and 150 clocks remaining from Trumbull County's time in the industry. He is collecting faces, noting that each clockmaker may have used a different template.
Often the face is what survives. The Sutliff Museum in Warren has on display a face made in the area.
"I don't think that's unusual," Klingemier said, offering a possible thought process. "It worked, it doesn't work, I don't need this whole thing, this is pretty, let's keep it."