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Friday, December 9, 2016

The "Time And Time Again: Part II - The Monumental Clock" Story


Entrance to the National Clock and Watch Museum in Columbia, PA
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at the display of pocket watches that were made for railroad transporta- tion in the early 1900s when someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that he was beginning a talk on the Engle clock in a few minutes. If I cared to join him and the other two museum guests, I should be at the Monument Clock display around the next corner of the museum.   Today I am in the National Clock and Watch Museum in nearby Columbia, Pennsylvania.  
Mr. Stephen Decatur Engle
The museum is an unbelievable collection of time pieces in history and is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive horological collection in North America.  And, all this in the tiny Susquehanna River borough, or town, of Wright's Ferry, now known as Columbia, which was founded in 1726 by Colonial English Quakers and sits between the cities of Lancaster and York.  Well, I headed to the Monumental Clock display and met the other two museum visitors, a husband and wife, and the museum guide began his talk about the Engle clock.  During the last quarter of the 19th century a novel and short lived style of clock grew in favor with the American public.
Stephen Engle's Monumental Clock
 The monumental clock was meant to do more than tell time, it was meant to entertain.  During 1875 and 1900 about two dozen clocks toured the United States and Europe and amazed and entertained the public.  The first known American-made clock was built by Stephen Decatur Engle in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  It was completed around 1878 after twenty years of off-and-on construction.  Mr. Engle, more an inventor than showman, turned over the clock to Philadelphia entrepreneurs Captain and Mrs. Jacob Reid for exhibiting it.  The pair billed the clock as "The Eighth Wonder of the World."  The clock was exhibited throughout the eastern United States, charging anywhere from 15 to 25 cents to view it.  
The clock as it appears in the museum.
It toured for the next 70 years and then disappeared from public view after being shown at the 1951 Ohio State Fair.  Eventually it was found in 1988 and was transferred to Columbia for restoration.  As the three of us sat in front of it, we were amazed with the size of the clock.  Stands 11 feet high, is 8 feet wide and 3 feet deep.  I contains three towers with the side towers holding organ movements.  There are 48 moving figures, a tellurian that illustrates the positions of the moon, constellations and zodiac relative to the rotating earth.  The clock also displays the day of the week, month of the year, phase of the moon and current tides.  Some of the moving figures include Jesus Christ, the twelve Apostles, the three Marys, Satan, Father Time, the three Ages of Man, Death, Justice Orpheus and Linus.  On the hour, a skeleton representing Death strikes a bone against a skull attached to the column of the clock.  
This is an advertisement for the clock.
It is a colored lithograph on paper.
Every fifteen minutes, Father Time strikes a bell with a scythe and turns his sandglass while the central figures of Youth, Middle Age, and Old Age revolve in the arch above the clock dial.  Oh yeah, Mr Engle made an image of himself as the figure that represents Middle Age.  At 40 minutes past the hour, a group of revolutionary soldiers and Molly Pitcher appear on the top left tower while a barrel organ plays "patriotic tunes."  At five minutes before the hour, the three Marys come out of the central tower as a procession of the Apostles takes place accompanied by hymns.  When Judas Iscariot finally appears and revolves past Jesus, a devil figure appears from another door.  On the very top of the entire clock is a sentry soldier marching back and forth at all times.  The three of us watched and watched as our guide made one thing after another move.  
Our tour guide preparing to turn the clock's hands to
show us that will happen at 2:40.
Hard to see everything in one go-around, so he did it again.  Then we were asked to follow him behind the clock as he opened the rear doors and showed us the movements from the rear.  Unbelievable!!  The clock's main movement was not working, but he was still able to show us just about everything by manually moving the hands on the clock.  The clock was recently restored by a professional who had to rebuild many of the parts as well as refurbish the characters and just about everything that moved.  The "Eighth Wonder of the World" is worth the price of admission to the museum.  Well, back to the rest of my tour.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on photos to enlarge them.  

This is Jesus who appeared and his first Disciple preparing to walk in front of him.


This photograph shows Judas Iscariot as he passes Jesus and the Devil has appeared in the upper right-hand window.
This shows the clock's face with Father Time above the 12 as well as the skeleton striking the skull with a bone to signify death.
Looking at some of the mechanism that runs the clock and it's many pieces.
One of the barrel organs is pointed out.  Looks much like a cylinder on a player piano.
A view of Molly Pitcher and the soldiers from inside the clock as they prepare to exit onto the front of the clock. 
This photo shows the skeleton, representing death, strikes a bone in hand against a skull.

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