Tick Tock It’s history o’clock

Couple collects Trumbull-made memorabilia


Special to the

Tribune Chronicle

While Trumbull County is known for iron and steel production, its first major industry rose out of a want rather than a need, local architectural historian Chris Klingemier says.

Clockmaking spurred Trumbull County’s economy, operating on a massive scale between approximately 1815 to 1834. Between 50,000 to 100,000 clock parts were produced primarily in Hartford, Vienna and Warren, and created economic opportunity for entrepreneurs as well as dozens of dial painters and cabinetmakers.

Chris Klingemier and his wife, Diane, have collected Trumbull County-made clocks and memorabilia for the past 40 years. They house a collection of nearly 50 clocks, and have vastly added to our local knowledge of the types of clocks that were produced here and the men and women who created them.

Chris notes that the boom in the clock industry was possible due to the mechanization of wooden works.

“Eli Terry starts designing machines that could cut dozens of these wheels at one time. Instead of producing four or five clocks, they would produce elements for 500,” he said.

Eli Terry, operating during the industrial revolution, created a process by which wooden works were no longer a craft trade, but a job for a mechanic.

Workers would then “just take and assemble,” Chris notes, “and at the end of a season, they would have created a batch of several hundred clocks, all of which would have had interchangeable parts. Now next year’s batches may not match this year’s batches, so there were changes from year to year.”

When he talks of batches of clocks, Chris refers to the wooden works and the painted dials. The cases for the tall clocks, or common clocks, would have been produced by local cabinetmakers that were skilled in planning and turning wood.

This process also allowed the clock industry to flourish in areas where workers did not have to be trained in the wooden clock trade. The workers at a clock factory ranged from young women and girls who would decorate and paint the dials, to the whitesmith who would create the pewter hands, to laborers who cut, sawed and dried the lumber and could learn to use the clock machines.

“If you are a competent mechanic,” Chris explains, “you can set the machine up to do the wheels and everything you need. Mechanization opens up the industry very quickly to everyone who is copying Eli Terry.”

During its height, Trumbull County housed five to seven clock factories.

Vienna formed the hub of the clock industry, with factories in the surrounding communities of Hartford, Brookfield, Howland and Warren. Tens of thousands of clocks were manufactured there in the 20 years of production.

Trumbull County clockworks have been found in cases made locally as well as in southern Ohio, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, New York and others.

By 1835, the wooden works clock industry had ended, the victim of improvements in technology and changing fashions.

The clock that can be seen on display during tours of the John Stark Edwards House was created in Vienna by clockmaker Ansel Merrell. Merrell commonly used Masonic elements in his work, as he joined a local Masonic Lodge after moving here.

The clock on display was created for James Scott, an early settler of Warren who arrived in 1801 and became the contractor for Warren’s first courthouse. The clock would have sat in his home, originally located on the corner of High Street and Park Avenue.

Only a small percent of the clock industry’s output survives. To date, 13 different nameplates, some makers and some merchants, have been found on Trumbull County clocks. While continuing research has made several of these names known, others, including the companies that supported their work and the women who painted the dials, remain lost to history.

To experience the John Stark Edwards house and to hear Chris Klingemier’s recording about the clock industry, visit the Trumbull County Historical Society at 303 Monroe Street NW, Warren, OH 44483. We are open by appointment for tours until we resume our normal 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays schedule for April through December.

Visit our website at www.trum bullcountyhistory.org or call us at 330-394-4653 for details.

Reed is director of the Trumbull County Historical Society.