Seth Thomas Antique Clocks
Seth Thomas Clock Company History

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Seth Thomas Antique Clocks History and Timeline

August 19, 1785 - Seth Thomas is born to James and Martha Thomas in the town of Wolcott, Connecticut, located in area known of western Connecticut known for its many manufacturers of wooden clock movements.
According to one 19th century biography of Thomas,

"His advantages for education were very meagre, consisting of a very few days' attendance upon a distant public school. He served an apprenticeship to the trade of a carpenter and joiner; a considerable portion of the time was spent in the construction of Long Wharf, in New Haven [Connecticut]."

1799 - Now 14 years old, Seth Thomas begins an apprenticeship as a carpenter and "joiner" under the tutelage of Daniel Tuttle. This prepares him well for turning to the manufacture of clock movements and clock cases. According to Wikipedia, "a joiner differs from a carpenter in that he or she cuts and fits joints in wood that do not use nails, usually in a workshop environment since the formation of the various joints generally requires non-portable machinery. A carpenter would normally work on site, whereas joiners would work in a workshop or plant. Cabinet makers who specialize in manufacturing furniture are regarded as producing fine joinery."

1807 - Thomas begins his clockmaking apprenticeship by working with one of the foremost early American clockmakers, Eli Terry. Terry had received an order to produce 4,000 clocks in three years, a challenge that led to inventing methods of mass production necessary to complete the order on time. Terry's plant is located near Waterbury, Conn.

He and Silas Hoadley make the wooden tall case ("grandfather") clock movements for use in Terry's clocks. They use Terry's innovation of using interchangeable clock parts to mass produce the movements, an idea that Terry got from Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin.

The name of the business at this time is Terry, Thomas and Hoadley.

1810 - Thomas and Hoadley buy out Eli Terry's share of the business and continue making long case clocks in the same location.

1813 - Seth Thomas sells his partnership interest to Hoadley and moves to Plymouth Hollow, Conn. to set up his own factory. He begins by buying Herman Clark's clockmaking business which was focused on tall case clock production using wooden movements.

1816 - Seth Thomas begins producing clocks using Eli Terry's newly patented wooden 30 hour shelf clock movement. The patent was granted on June 12, 1816. Thomas licenses the rights to use Terry's movement designs in his clock. His labels read "E. Terry's Patent Clock Made and Sold by Seth Thomas, Plymouth, Con." (see label, below) These clocks were housed in the popular Pillar and Scroll type cases until around 1830, when other styles were introduced.

1842 - Thomas begins using brass movements, first using them in the popular Ogee style cases with curved, mold rectangular wood frames.

1845 - By this time spring driven brass movements become the de-facto standard of American 19th century clockmakers, leading Thomas to discontinue production of his famed wooden clock movements and use brass movements exclusively.

1853 - Seth Thomas incorporates his business as the Seth Thomas Clock Company.

1859 - Seth Thomas dies. His three sons, Seth Thomas, Jr., Aaron, and Edward continue the business.

1866 - The town of Plymouth Hollow honors the legacy of Seth Thomas, Sr., by changing its name to Thomaston. You will find this change reflected in the labels on Seth Thomas clocks made after this time. A new company was formed at that time named Seth Thomas Sons and Company. It specialized in making movements for marine clocks as well as high quality 15 day spring wound movements for mantel clocks.

1872 - Seth Thomas Sons and Company adds a line of street clocks and tower clocks, becoming the leader for these types of clocks.

1879 - The two companies merged to become the originally named Seth Thomas Clock Company.

1884 - The Seth Thomas Watch Company is formed to manufacture jeweled pocket watches. Their first model used 11 jewel movements. By 1886 the line had expanded to 7 jewel, 11 jewel, 15 jewel and 17 jewel models.

1915 - Seth Thomas ends its production of pocket watches.

1931 - The Seth Thomas Clock Company becomes a subsidiary of The General Time Instrument Company with Seth E. Thomas, Jr. (great grandson of Seth Thomas) as chairman of the board. GTIC is a holding company that also acquires Western Vlock Company, combining them into one entity.

1932 - Seth E. Thomas, Jr., dies. The Thomas family's control of the GTIC ends.

1949 - The Seth Thomas Clock Company became a subsidiary of General Time Corporation.

1968 - General Time Corp. becomes a subsidiary of Talley Industries.

1979 - Its headquarters move from Thomaston, Conn to Norcross, GA

2001 - The Colibri Group buys Seth Thomas' assets after General Time ends its operations.

2009 - The Colibri Group goes into receivership. They reorganize and now sell lighters and accessories. It is unknown to me what happened to the Seth Thomas brand - a visit to brings up Colibri's home page. I couldn't find any mention of Seth Thomas clocks.