The Tin Can Alarm Clocks

The other day, I picked up a book that sounded quite interesting to me. The author, Dennis Sagvold, is a master watch and clockmaker, who has been practicing his trade since 1965. Dennis owned and operated his own shop for nineteen years. For the past thirty years, he has been researching, and collecting legged alarm clocks.

The tin can, or nickel alarm clocks, as they were called during 1880 through 1935, were actually legged alarm clocks. They were nickel plated, and years later other finishes were applied. These clocks were popular, and were made by most of the clock manufacturers.

When the styles changed, you would find bells mounted on top of the case, and they were also mounted on the back. Brass cases are not common. Some legged clocks have brass trim on the legs, and on top of the ornaments. Pie-crusted bezels are hard to locate. Calendar alarms cannot be located. Striking alarms that strike on the hour and half hour are rare.Luminous dials are much harder to locate than white ones. There are private label dials that are among the rarities, whereby a retailer could have his name placed on the dial of a clock at no additional cost, if he ordered a required number of clocks. The minimum order was one case

Speaking about private label dials, Big Ben clocks have these labels than any other alarms. Aside from making this particular clock scarcer, it disclosed a very important part of history because the private label told when a jeweler became in business, and where he was located.

Some of the manufacturers of these clocks are as follows: The Ansonia Clock Co. was located in Ansonia, Connecticut from 1851-1878. In 1851, Anson G. Phelps started the company. It became a separate company in 1859, and later on incorporated in 1873. The company moved to New York in 1878, and, a year later, fire damaged the company. However, business was resumed in 1880. Ansonia was a very successful company. In 1930, everything was sold, including machinery, to Russia.

New Haven Clock Co. originated in 1853, in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1875, marine clocks were made that used a balance-wheel control instead of a pendulum. In 1880, they produced back-wind nickel alarms. Wristwatch movements were produced in 1915. In 1929, the production of electric clocks was started, and by 1950, they were producing 3 million timepieces a year. They went out of business in 1959.

Waterbury Clock Co. was organized in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1857, as a branch of Benedict and Burham. In 1892, they began manufacturing watches for Robert Ingersoll, and in 1924, Ingersoll and his brother purchased the company. In 1944, the company became U.S. Time Corp.

In 1887, Westclox was known as Western Clock Manufacturing Company, and was originated in Peru, Illinois. The company changed its name to Western Clock Co. in 1895. In 1910, Western Clock Co. became Westclox. The company became the largest alarm clock producer in the United States.

Dennis indicates that the legged alarm clocks, or tin can alarm clocks, are hard to find today. The last ones were manufactured in the late 1930’s.