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Mission clock a century old

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This attractive Mission-style clock has flared feet and a cornice top.

This attractive Mission-style clock has flared feet and a cornice top.

Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Helaine and Joe: This photo is of a clock that belonged to my grandmother. It works and it gongs. It is 19 inches tall and 10 inches wide with brass hands and numbers. There is a label on the back that reads "San Pedro Mantel Mission Gong Patented 16th Feb. 1904 New Haven Clock Company New Haven Conn U.S.A." The case appears to be mahogany.

Any information would be appreciated. —J.L.H., Smock, Pa.

Dear J.L.H.: The New Haven Clock Co. of New Haven, Conn., was incorporated on Feb. 7, 1853, with the purpose of making clock movements for the Jerome Manufacturing Co.

Just three years later, in 1856, fate stepped in when Jerome Manufacturing went bankrupt. New Haven managed to raise enough money to purchase the defunct operation, and by 1860 the company was producing about 170,000 clocks a year.

Then in 1866 the old Jerome factory burned to the ground. But a new brick factory was built quickly and operations resumed. New Haven ran into financial problems in the late 1880s and early 1890s because the company's directors had been paying dividends that drained the firm's resources.

By 1894 bankruptcy was looming, but enough money was raised to stay in business and the company was reorganized in 1897. In 1902, Walter Chauncey Camp (1859-1925) became New Haven's new president, but Camp is probably best known as the "Father of American Football." He was the first football coach at Yale and at Stanford University, and Camp is said to have been the one largely responsible for turning European rugby into the game of American football.

New Haven was hit hard by the Great Depression but survived. During World War II, the company manufactured war material, but switched back to clock making in 1946 under the new name of the New Haven Clock and Watch Co. The company went out of business in 1960.

The clock belonging to J.L.H. is New Haven's San Pedro model and is in the so-called "Mission" style that is also associated with the American Arts and Crafts Movement. There is some disagreement as to where the term "Mission" comes from — some say it is derived from the simple style used in the Franciscan Missions of California, while others say that those who worked in this style felt they were "on a mission" to reform American tastes.

A number of clock companies made these Mission-style mantel or shelf clocks in the early years of the 20th century. Most were made circa 1910, but since this one has a patent date of 1904, it was probably manufactured no later than about 1907.

The case of this particular clock is made from oak, not mahogany, but we understand the mistake because the finish on this particular example is very dark from years of grime. Under no circumstances, however, should this piece be refinished. New Haven's San Pedro model is very attractive with its flared feet and simple cornice top. It should be valued for insurance replacement purposes in the range of $275 to $350.

Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Country Living: American Glassware — What is it? What is it Worth?" (House of Collectibles, $19.95). Questions can be mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.