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New England Clockmakers - Thomas Harland

The New England States America in the number of clockmakers they produced and the value of the improvements and inventions which were perfected by her sons. Of all the States, Connecticut leads the way as to the value and permanence of her works in this line. Her beginnings were small, but her final performance, like the shot fired at Concord, is now heard round the world. Not till after the Revolution, and when peace had allowed men to turn their attention once more to their trades, did the wonderful progress, which in the next thirty years revolutionized the clockmaking business, advance with giant strides.

There are half a dozen names of Connecticut men which stand prominently forth in clockmaking annals. They are Daniel Burnap, Eli Terry, Eli Terry Jr., Silas Hoadley, Seth Thomas, and Chauncey Jerome. Of course there were many others who contributed to the fame of Connecticut in the clockmaking industry, but these are undoubtedly the greatest.

A valuable little pamphlet which has become very scarce, called "American Clockmaking, Its Early History, by Henry Terry, Waterbury, Conn., 1872", contains much information concerning the connection of the Terry family with clockmaking, and sets at rest all doubts as to who instructed Eli Terry in his trade. Thomas Harland of England was the man, and his descendants still live in Norwich, Conn., where Thomas Harland settled. Mr. Henry Terry received the following letter from General Harland of Norwich, concerning his grandfather, Thomas Harland:

NORWICH, Feby. 27, 1872. HENRY TERRY, ESQ.
Dear Sir:
I should have answered your letter of the 21st before, if I had not been obliged to wait for a copy of my grandfather's advertisement, from the Norwich paper of that date, which I now send.
My grandfather came to this town in 1773, having arrived at Boston the same year, in the ship from which the tea was thrown over in Boston Harbour. He came at once to Norwich and opened the business in which he continued until his death in 1807. I have always been told he had a large number of apprentices. On his arrival in Norwich he boarded with my grandmother's grandfather on my mother's side, Samuel Leffingwell, and made a clock for him which now stands in my hall. It has the name of the maker engraved on the face and shows the day of the month and the age of the moon. There are also other clocks of his in town.
Yours truly,

This clock is shown in Figure 56 and is still owned by General Harland. The advertisement of Thomas Harland to which reference is made in General Harland's letter, appeared in The Norwich Packet for December 9, 1773, and reads as follows:

Thomas Harland, Watch and Clock-maker from London, Begs leave to acquaint the public that he has opened a shop near the store of Christopher Leffing-well, in Norwich, where he makes in the neatest manner and on the most approved principles, horizontal, repeating and plain watches in gold, silver, metal or covered cases. Spring, musical and plain clocks; church clocks; regulators, etc. He also cleans and repairs watches and clocks with the greatest care and dispatch, and upon reasonable terms.
N.B. Clock faces engraved and finished for the trade. Watch wheels and fuzees of all sorts and dimensions, cut and finished upon the shortest notice, neat as in London, and at the same price.

Thomas Harland's fame as an expert clockmaker must have been wide-spread through the colonies, for apprentices flocked to him from all parts of the colonial New England states. In a quaint and curious book called "The Mechanic's Festival and Historical Sketches" published in Providence, R. I., in 1860, there is a reference to some of Harland's apprentices, who like their master became distinguished. Seril Dodge of Providence, R. I., a well-known watch and clock maker, learned his trade of Harland and was admitted to the Mechanicsˆ Association of Providence in 1788.

Among his fellow apprentices were Henry and Rufus Farnum, William Cleveland, son of the Rev. Aaron Cleveland of Connecticut, and Jedediah Baldwin. The Farnums set up business in Boston. Mr. Baldwin went to Hanover, N. H., where he was also postmaster. Mr. Cleveland commenced business in Salem, Mass., and was succeeded by Jabez Baldwin, brother of Jedediah, who established the well-known firm of Baldwin and Jones in Boston, about the close of the year 1812.

The Baldwin family seems to have had a partiality for the "trade and mystery" of clockmaking, for there were several members of it who pursued that calling, and in 1834 another Jedediah Baldwin was at work, this time in Rochester, N. Y. Cleveland was twenty-three years old when he began to serve his apprenticeship in the shop of Thomas Harland; they generally began to learn a trade much earlier.

The clocks made by Harland and his apprentices, as well as by other makers of the period, had brass works, with a pendulum 40 inches long, vibrating in one second of time, and adapted to standing on the floor in a case 6 feet long. These were similar to the clocks made in European countries for many years and still common there.

These domestic brass clocks were excellent timepieces, not in the least inferior to the imported ones, and indeed there was no reason why they should have been inferior, for in many cases they were made by men who had learned their trade abroad.

The machinery used in Europe was scanty, and American clockmakers used the same kind of hand engine as that used in England. This machine was employed till 1803, when water-power was used, and from this period dated the making of antique clocks by the thousand.

The long case clocks were sold by travelling pedlars who transported them from place to place on horseback, the buyers being expected to furnish their own cases. Often this was not done, and the dial and works hung on the wall till dirt and dust clogged the wheels.

All writers on the history of Connecticut mention of course the clockmaking industry of that State, and equally of course the history of the Terry family. No two histories give the same facts or dates. The following account, which was made with the sanction of the family, and is based on the account in Atwater's "History of Plymouth" is the correct one.

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