Review by HENRY B. FRIED
Tran Duy Ly, the editor-publisher of various clock identification guides has wisely followed the format of the first volume. This method of organizing the material has proven very positive in the manner in which even random searches for items or details are quickly and successfully rewarded.
Mr. Ly has recruited a team of acknowledged specialists-experts who are leaders in the various areas of clock history and technology. Among these are clock dealers, auctioneers, evaluators, repairers, museum curators as well as those with notable collections. All have contributed to this second volume of American Clocks.
The 336 pages and their 1000 plus illustrations are all from original factory catalogues. Thus, these clocks are pictured in sharp detail and should be used with the utmost confidence in guiding the diligent restorer. It also should be used by a prospective buyer as the model to which an offered clock should be compared. This will aid the buyer in discovering whether the offered clock is all original, or, carelessly or even cleverly altered from its original exact appearance.
This new addition to American Clocks contains clocks none of which appear in Volume 1. In addition, it contains 152 illustrations of Chelsea clocks alone, most of which have not been included in prior publications.
The section on New Haven has 48 eye-appealing figured and novelty models while Ansonia's 83 rarer porcelain clocks are those which it is claimed, have not been shown elsewhere.
Few collectors are aware of the existence of the Seth Thomas and Sons company that made clocks from 1865 to 1879. This was a separate company from the famed and long-lived Seth Thomas Clock Co. The separate company produced high grade, quality clocks. Shown in this edition are 127 of these clocks, faithfully pictured.
Electrically - wound clocks from Poole, Landis, Sempire and E. Howard as well as clocks from the United States (electric) Clock Company of Hudson St., New York and Prentiss are included among other clocks by these makers whose positions in this book are in alphabetical order. There are also a few battery alarm clocks by Darche and night-light clocks by Gilbert.
Volume 1 of American Clocks pictured 87 Howard models. In this new companion book, there are 63 additional clocks illustrated in fine detail.
There is a special section on self winding clocks, commencing with the history of the company and followed by 19 pages of invaluable repair and adjustment procedures, followed by another 89 pages depicting 135 models with illustrations of movements, dials, pendulums, hands and accessories. The clocks of the Self Winding Clock Company were considered the most reliable self winding, self-correcting timepieces. Their accuracy was assured by The Western Union Telegraph Company's hook-up to the time period signals of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The writer is familiar with this company, having taught watch and clockmaking just a few street blocks away and was called upon by them during the wars years for consulting on special governmental projects. This portion of volume 2 is, without question, the most complete treatise on Self-Winding available anywhere.
The history of this company which prefaces its vast section in the book was compiled by Martin Swetsky, a Fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and president of the Electrical Horological Society. It was only natural for Mr. Swetsky, a lifelong native of Brooklyn, to immerse himself in the background and history of that prolific Brooklyn manufacturer.
Assisting in the pricing of each of the 184 self winding clocks, as well as others in the book, were Mr. Swetsky together with Mr. Art Bjornestad, and Elmer Crum. Mr. Bjornestad is president of the Western Electrics Group (horology) with a very fine collection of such clocks. Mr. Elmer Crum of Skokie, Illinois, president of the Mid-Western Electrical (horological) Society is an avid collector and restorer of such clocks.
Examining the page of acknowledgments with its 39 named experts who have contributed to this edition is like comparing it to a "Who's Who" in the collecting community.
Chris Bailey, former Curator of the American Clock Museum at Bristol, Connecticut and an author of books on American clocks and watches, has supplied an introductory history for the prefaces of the Ansonia, Boston, Gilbert, E. Howard, New Haven, Seth Thomas and Sons and Waltham clock companies.
Generally, the preface of a book introduces the reader to its contents. It also serves as guidance so the reader may best profit from its contents. This writer can do no better than to urge the reader to study pages 8 through 12, "IMPORTANT TIPS."
Mr. Tran Duy Ly, the editor-publisher of numerous identification and price guides is most knowledgeable in the areas of collecting. In this early section of the book, his five pages of instruction should be a great aid to the beginning collector as well as to the more experienced, be he a collector, restorer or dealer.
His sound advice is the result of years of active participation and experience. He explains how to choose a clock for collection or investment. He furthermore urges the reader to establish relationships with dealers and how to select them. He explains factors which establish prices for various types of clocks, the desirability of other items, and what makes them attractive to the buyer. Also, he covers considerations such as historical significance and importance. Regional factors are mentioned as are name brands.
Mr. Ly outlines the grades of clock condition from 'original mint' to poor and what details should beg for your attention. Grading porcelain cased clocks are covered here as well as what standards should gain your attention. Glass tablets and how to grade the artwork, buying and selling tips and the caveats when investing or speculating are important parts of these pages of instruction to help in avoiding the disappointments of the beginner as well as some more experienced collectors.
How to best profit at auctions and further tips in bidding as well as how to acquire the 'savoir-faire' of a sophisticated auction-goer, are among the ideas he shares, so that the mysteries of clock collecting are dissolved into enriching discoveries.