(Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

October 5, 1998

New clock exhibit is worth the time

By KATE MAJERUS
The Tattoo

Got time on your hands?  Check out the new
exhibit at the American Clock and Watch Museum
and learn how the American industrial revolution
began.

This exhibit grabs your interest right away.

When you walk in, the first thing you see is an
original sign for Daniel Burnap's clock shop. By
pressing a button, you can hear a monologue done
by an actor representing Eli Terry when he was
14 and working under Burnap.  

Behind the sign it shows you what a clock shop
would have looked like, somewhere around 1800.
In the monologue Terry says, "Someday my dreams
will come true."

Indeed, Terry's dream for interchangeable parts
did come true. The rest of the exhibit tells how
that dream changed the face of American
manufacturing forever.

Eli Terry is a huge name in the history books
because he came up with the idea of
interchangeable parts, and thus started the
American industrial revolution.

He figured out that if parts were made
uniformly, then unskilled workers could each
produce a single part of a clock. Those pieces
were interchangeable -- they would fit together
easily -- and made it possible for clocks to be
made cheaply and quickly.

Instead of trained craftsmen making each one by
hand, the new factory line needed just one
knowledgeable overseer. 

In the 1800s hardly anything was mass produced,
but by the 1900's almost everything came off a
factory assembly line. That meant that clocks
and other former luxuries could be purchased by
any regular Joe, when before only rich folks
could buy such things.

Walk around the corner from Burnap's clock shop,
see how the clocks were transported, push
another button and hear a Yankee peddler "talk"
about his life selling clocks. Though the audio
wasn't yet set up when I visited, it will no
doubt add life to the scene.

Back then, four to eight clocks would typically
be shipped in a box. Sometimes peddlers tossed
in a comb or other trinket to entice people to
buy their clocks.

Terry's breakthrough came when he landed a
contract for 4,000 clocks. They were expected
within four years. At that time it normally took
one man a month to make a single clock.

Terry got to work on his plan for
interchangeable parts and presto -- mass
production.

Next, visitors see an original clock gear
assembly station, from the old Sessions factory
in Forestville, which I found to be a
fascinating display.

Though it wasn't ready when I toured the exhibit
in August, there are plans for a recorded dialog
between two teenage factory workers, a boy and a
girl at this station.

Their discussion gives a taste of the social
life of the times, the meager pay and the lure
of a city job over farm work.

Next to that is a TV that shows a three minute
video clip showing workers at their machines in
the Ingraham factory in Bristol. Turn around and
you'll see a huge photo of the old Sessions
factory, which once dominated Forestville.

The last section shows a history of clocks,
where you see how timepieces improved and
differed over the years.

So take some time and go learn your history.

The American Clock and Watch Museum, at 100
Maple St., is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5
p.m. through Nov. 30. Admission is $3.50 for
adults and $1.50 for children.

Majerus is a sophomore at Century High School in
Rochester, Minnesota. 


Click here to reach the American Clock and Watch Museum's web site


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