Luman Watson: Cincinnati Clockmaker

Read & Watson 1815 Tall Case Clock

Throughout the centuries, humans have created objects to try and capture the passing of time. Examples of this craft can be seen at the Heritage Village Museum’s Antique Clock Exhibit. Did you know that Cincinnati challenged New England in clock making during the early 19th Century? After the Revolutionary War, there was a reduction in purchasing manufactured goods from Europe, as the former colonists began to produce their own merchandise. The craft of clock making quickly transformed into an American industry with Connecticut being the manufacturing center.
Since brass for the clock gearings was difficult to obtain in America, wooden movement clocks were constructed. Although hardwood could be substituted for brass in the gearing, the workings of these clocks were inferior so they needed winding about every 30 hours. Also, clocks made with wooden movements were more fragile than brass clocks and easily damaged when shipped to the newly expanding western United States. So, why did Cincinnati become a rival in clock making? Cincinnati had an abundance of hardwood to make these wooden movement clocks and being located further west, the shipping distance was greatly reduced.
Luman Watson is an example of a successful Cincinnati clock maker. Born in Connecticut in 1790, Watson moved to Ohio in 1809 and began marketing the new wooden works clocks to local makers. Watson then formed a partnership with Ezra Read and opened a factory in Cincinnati to manufacture wooden works clocks. Although business was profitable, the partnership with Read dissolved after six months and Watson continued alone. Ezra Read moved to Xenia, Ohio and made the majority of Watson’s clock cases. Watson’s clock factory was in existence from 1815-1834, when Watson passed away. Over 30,000 tall case (grandfather) clocks were manufactured in the 19 years the factory existed. Luman Watson also make shelf, or mantle clocks. These clocks generally had glass panels, which were painted with scenic landscapes, animals or portraits.
Heritage Village Museum has a tall case Read and Watson clock on display for our Antique Clock Exhibit. The clock was made during the short span Read and Watson worked together in 1815 and has the wooden movement. Also on display is a Watson mantle clock circa 1815-1834. Both clocks are beautiful examples of clock craftsmanship in Cincinnati during the 19th Century. The Antique Clock Exhibit is open Wednesday – Friday 10am-4pm in April and Wednesday – Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm May – June.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Richard Randolph on August 30, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I got a Luman Watson hall clock that I got about 4 years ago and it runs and this clock was made in 1820 .


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