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Seth Thomas Antique Clocks & Biography

Seth Thomas was born in Wolcott, Conn., in 1785. Like many of his associates who later achieved distinction in their branches of business, his education was meagre, and consisted of such knowledge as he could acquire at a public school. He was apprenticed to a carpenter and joiner, learned his trade, and upon his majority, with his kit of tools and a very little money, he formed a partnership with Eli Terry and Silas Hoadley under the firm name of Terry, Thomas et Hoadley.

The account books of Eli Terry, which are still preserved, show what part Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley took at first in the new business. In the years 1808, 1809, and 1810 Thomas did what was called the "joiner work" that is, he made the cases, and he also "put together" clocks, that is, fitted the wheels and different parts together and got the clocks, one at a time, into running order.

In 1810 Terry sold out his interest and the firm became Thomas et Hoadley. They made only long case clocks. This partnership lasted two years and then Seth Thomas sold his interest to Mr. Hoadley and came to Plymouth Hollow where he began the manufacture of clocks on his own account. The business which Thomas built up from very small beginnings shows that he was not only a good mechanic but a clever business man as well. Besides his clock works he built a cotton mill, also one for brass rolling and wire making. He was twice married and had a family of nine children, six of whom survived him.

In 1853, having acquired a fortune, he organised the Seth Thomas Clock Company under the joint stock laws of Connecticut. After his death, which occurred January 29, 1859, the town of Plymouth was divided and that portion where the works were situated was named Thomaston in his honour. The works are still in operation.

By 1814 the making of long case clocks in large numbers was dropped, and all clock manufacturers hurried to make the popular shelf clock which had been perfected by Eli Terry. Brass clocks, too, were made in fewer numbers, since the cost was heavy. All united in turning out clocks with wood wheels, and the competition was so keen that they were sold at a very low price. Plymouth was not the only town where the making of clocks was the chief industry. At Waterbury, Winsted, and Bristol the shelf clock was made in large numbers and sent all over the country. In Bristol the Ives Brothers, Joseph, Chauncey, and Lawson, made what was known as the "rolling-leaf pinion", a clock with brass works. When, however, the use of the lantern or cheap wire pinion became general, the manufacture of these clocks stopped.

Seth Thomas, however, remains the most famous still today and Seth Thomas antiques and reproductions are still much in demand.

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