Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ansonia Clock Company

Ansonia Clocks were made by a clock manufacturing business which started in Ansonia, Connecticut, in 1851 and which moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1878. An enormously successful business, it turned out thousands of clocks in a large number of styles.

In 1838, brass movements had mainly replaced wooden and cast iron movements in most clocks due to the volumes of supply of rolled brass. In 1844, metal dealer Anson Greene Phelps formed the Ansonia Brass company in Connecticut, to supply the expanding clock business - nine companies were producing clocks in Connecticut.

 Ansonia model: C.1904, SANTIAGO, color caoba.

In 1850 the Ansonia Clock Company was formed as a subsidiary of the Ansonia Brass Company by Phelps and two Bristol, Connecticut clockmakers, Theodore Terry and Franklin C. Andrews. Terry & Andrews were the largest clock manufacturers in Bristol, with more than 50 employees using 58 tons of brass in the production of about 25,000 clocks in 1849. Phelps decided to get into the clockmaking business to expand the market for his brass, while Terry and Andrews got access to better quality brass at better prices. They had resultantly sold 50% of their business to Phelps, and moved the business to Ansonia.

In 1877 the clock company purchased a factory in New York, and moved most of its production there after being spun off from the brass company. Henry J. Davies of Brooklyn, himself a clockmaker, inventor and case designer, joins the newly reconstituted company as one of its founders. As President, he is thought to be largely responsible for the figurine clocks, swing clocks and other unusual and desirable novelties for which the Ansonia firm became known.

Thomas Edison visited the factory in 1878 to experiment combining clocks with his newly developed phonograph. But the experiments proved unviable.

By 1879, a second factory is opened in Brooklyn, New York and by June 1880 employs 360 workers, while the Connecticut factory continues producing clocks as well with a work force of 100 men and 25 women. Hence, clocks marked "Connecticut" were generally produced before 1879, while those marked "New York" were all produced after 1880

The peak years
After the New York factory burnt down in 1880 - the loss is reported to be $750,000 with only $395,000 insured. The company rebuilt the factory on the same site, and reopened the expanded factory in 1881, with capacity to exceed that of the Connecticut factory - which closed completely in 1883. By 1886, the company has sales offices in New York, Chicago and London, and more than 225 different clock models are being manufactured. The prosperous and debt free Ansonia Clock Company reports having an inventory worth $600,000 and receivables valued at $250,000. In 1904, Ansonia added non-jeweled watches to their line, and produces an estimated 10 million of these by 1929

In 1899, Phelps grandson William Earle Dodge Stokes commissioned architect Duboy to build the "greatest and grandest hotel in Manhattan, New York" New York's first air conditioned building, the Ansonia Hotel still stands at 2107 Broadway, albeit as a condominium apartment block.

In early 1914, just before World War I, Ansonia were producing 440 different models. However, the novelty clock became subject to fierce competition. As Ansonia’s strongest selling line, rather than maintain profit, Ansonia attempted to gain volume by offering clocks at "old pricing".

This tactic racked up huge debts, and by 1920 the number of models was down to 136 models, and 47 by 1927. In 1926 the company sold its Brooklyn warehouse, but this could not stem the inevitable. In 1929 the majority of the timekeeping machinery and tooling were sold to the Soviet government's US trading company Amtorg, just before the stock market crash. The parts, machinery and key skilled workers were shipped out of the USA to form the basis (along with the remains of a watch company purchased a year later) of the clock and watch industry in Moscow - e.g.: Poljot, Sekonda.

In 1969, the rights to the use of the name, trade marks, and goodwill were transferred to Ansonia Clock Co., Inc., Lynnwood, Washington.