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Old Harmonite Clock

From The American Horologist magazine, October 1938


Old Harmonite Clock

By A. J. WHITEHILL

ADVERTISING is something that a store must have to stay in business especially in these days of close competition and in my way of thinking, no better advertising can be bought than that received from a job well done and a satisfied customer.


The above facts are responsible for my remodeling and restoring the old clock; the "Old Harmonite Clock," now known all over the world by collectors of antiques and historians, which I will try to tell you about in this short article.

The Harmonite Society was originally made up of some 1500 German emigrants that came to the present site of Harmony, Butler County, Pennsylvania, early in the 1800s and founded a semi-religious sect whose aim was to provide jointly all the benefits of the new world by each and every member working together as one family with all property and worldly goods being used and owned jointly.

This sect prospered for a few years and then moved to New Harmony, Ind., and then to Economy, Pa., and after about eighty years of such existence the society disbanded and all goods and money divided among those remaining; the amount paid each is said to amount to about $75,000.


In the year of 1808, Father Rapp, a leader of the movement, returned to Germany and purchased in the second-hand market the old Harmonite Clock that has been acclaimed all over the country as one of the oldest if not the oldest tower clock in the western hemisphere.  This clock, no doubt, has been the timekeeper of some German monastery in ages long since forgotten and the age of the clock has been decided upon by authorities of such subjects as being made around 1650.

I undertook to repair and replace the missing parts of this clock about fifteen months ago and have devoted practically all my spare time to the task and have at last reached that place where I can go back to my easy chair and golf clubs.  I believe all the mowing machines and plows in and around Harmony have sometime or other had a piece of the old clock forged around it to make some repair or other as there were quite a few missing parts, the old clock not having run for over forty years.

The frame work was made of puddled iron and there are no two pieces of metal that are the same thickness or width as they were all made separately and were not all cut out of a single bar as would be the custom today. The corner posts are square and have a square hole forged in the ends so that the side rails will be held mechanically secure and the side rails are equipped with nuts that make them doubly rigid.

Each nut and bolt are mated and try as you might a nut will fit one and only one bolt as each thread is filed out and the nuts are hogged out to fit them.

The wheels are all cast brass and the teeth are filed out so that they work on roller pinions. Roller pinions, by the way, were patented in this country early in the 1820's even though they were used in this old clock long"before the war of the rebellion. The method of fitting bearings, while crude, they served their purpose very well. The mechanic drove a punch through the side rail and then drove in a brass plug which in turn was also punched out to a desired hole size, the pivot was then inserted and brass shims were then drove in around so the pivot had the right side play.

The drums that furnished the power to the clockwork were made of logs with a brass sheath covering and these I removed and in their place substituted two ratchet wheels that I had cast due to the fact that the desired size was not sold on the market and these were so connected up with chain that an endless rotation was established in conjunction with the weights that the driving force was complete with the exception of the winding mechanism which I made so as to make the clock really automatic in its operation and not to require any attention outside of an occasional oiling.

The clock winds by turning the drum to the right and when the winding has been completed the works run the opposite direction thereby making it necessary to place a clutch between the winding mechanism and the clock proper.

The winding device acts like a ratchet wrench and is worked back and forth by a crank arm attached to a reduction gear and really works smoothly. For this clutch I attached an electrical solenoid coil that held the pall in place while the clock was winding and when it was wound up high enough for a float switch to shut the motor off the solenoid "kicked" the pall out of the way and thereby permitted the drum to reverse its direction.

Fun, worry and disappointment were my constant companions while I worked on this clock, and now, like the memory of last winter, all is forgotten and the job is completed and the results already have been felt.

On August 10th, the clock was rededicated over Radio Station KDKA of Pittsburgh, Pa., after being silent for over forty years it struck for the first time over radio and the response was wonderful. Over 3,000 people, from 8 to 10, climbed the ladder in the tower and leoked at the old clock; fifteen states were represented on the register and letters by the dozens filtered in from oldtime citizens of the community and from others wanting repair work done. I am swamped at present with real desirable clock repairing and as tower clocks are my specialty I expect to close a couple of contracts in the near future.

What advertisement could you insert in a newspaper or any place else that would give you the advertising that I received from this job? In closing, I want to offer this bit of advice: "Never pass up a gold mine of advertising because you are too shortsighted to recognize publicity in a tough and thankless job. 

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