Joseph Ives of Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn Model shelf clock.

The Brooklyn Model was made between the years of 1825 and 1830. Joseph Ives had moved from Bristol, Connecticut to Brooklyn sometime before 1825. This clock is a fine representation of the types of clocks he was producing. They are not only interesting looking but incorporate a number of interesting features in their movement design.

The movement is constructed with narrow straps of rolled brass that are riveted together. Brass was not readily available in large quantities and this structure was economically feasible. Another attempt to conserve valuable brass material is the process of punching out circular holes in the gears plates instead of being left solid. The main wheels have five cutouts each suggesting that this movement may be a transitional example. The latter clocks features only four holes in this location. The earliest Brooklyn models features 5 holes but are framed differently. The strike side features a great wheel that is fitted with a 24 hour countwheel. This is riveted in place. The pinion design features rollers. This movement is powered with a unique system of cantilever-actuated springs. These are essentially leaf springs. They are secured to the bottom board of the case with a bracket and bolt. The power from the leaves when tensioned is transferred to the movement through a hoist and a lever. Enough power is tensioned in the eight iron leaves to run this model for eight days. 30 hour examples of this leaf or wagon spring power source require as few as 4 leaves. This eight version also features a strike train that will strike each hour on a a cast iron bell mounted inside the case.

The case is constructed of mahogany which is veneered over pine. The form is influenced in the new tradition of the very stylish and up to date Duncan Phyfe furniture being produced in New York.

The case is raised up on four feet. The two located at the back are simply turned in a cone design and are doweled into the bottom board. The front feet are carved in the form of animal feet. The hairy paws consist of four toes and are skillfully formed. The lower section or the base features a large door. Through this one can access the pendulum and view the very interesting power system. Pasted to the backboard is the Maker’s label which includes the set up instructions for this model. The label is in good overall original condition. The lower door frames a wonderfully figured mahogany veneered panel. The middle section of this clock is decorated with repousse brass medallions. The design is floral in nature and they are framed in circular wooden turned moldings that are stained black. The dial is protected by a brass bezel that is fitted with glass. This opens to access the hands and the winding squares. The dial is paper and applied to a wooden blank. This paper dial is in excellent original condition and features the Maker’s name and working location. The time ring measures 10 in diameter. It has two minute rings that frame the large Roman style hour numerals.

This very interesting clock has the following dimensions. The case measures approximately 29 inches tall, 15 inches wide and is under 4 inches deep. The dial measures approximately 10.5 inches in diameter.

About Joseph Ives of Bristol, Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York.

Joseph Ives was born on September 21, 1782. He was one of six children born to Amasa Ives who married into the Roberts family of Bristol, Connecticut. Gideon Roberts is recorded as the first clockmaker to have worked Bristol and it is now thought that he trained his five sons in clockmaking and possibly trained Joseph and his brothers in the trade as well. They all would have been trained before Gideon died of typhoid fever in 1813.

It appears the Joseph Ives began making wooden geared clocks clocks about 1811 in East Bristol and shortly thereafter, he moved to Bristol and continued in the trade. The type of clocks being manufactured were called “wag-on-the wall” or hang ups.” These were sold across the countryside by peddlers who could carry a small number of them on horse back. A hang up consisted of a movement, dial, hands, weights and pendulum. They were general sold without cases because of the added cost and the difficulty in transportation. As a result most cases were made locally if one could afford to have one built. Ives clocks are distinctive in that they typically feature a rolling lantern pinions instead of leaf pinions in their movement design . This was an Ives improvement that was patented.

By 1820, Eli terry was enjoying great success in selling his 30 hour wooden geared shelf clocks of his own design. Terry’s clocks were powered by weights and Ives began to experiment with a spring powered version having roller pinions attached to a wooden movement. Due to financial difficulties, Joseph moves to Brooklyn, New York about 1825 and is working on Poplar Street. Here he begins the production of a movement that is constructed with rolled brass strips which are then riveted together to form the movement frame. Roller pinions and the leaf spring power is also used. The case of these clocks have a Ducan Phyfe furniture influence.

In 1830, Ives creditors catch up with him again and he on the verge of being sent to debtors prison. John Birge hears of this and travels from Bristol to Brooklyn to settle his debts and to persuaded Ives to return to Connecticut to make clocks. First with C. & L.C. Ives who were using his strap frame design and then with John Birge under Birge & Fuller name. This company used the leaf or wagon spring power in many of their clocks. This design of power was also patented by Ives.

Joseph Ives sold the rights to his patents and continued to work in the clock fields under various firms. He was never financially successful but is credited as being one of the most ingenious Connecticut horologists. Joseph dies in 1862.

For a more complete description of Joseph Ives and his working career, please read, The Contributions of Joseph Ives to Connecticut Clock Technology 1810-1862 written by Kenneth Roberts.


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