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Day 61 (11.01.07) - Hartford Writers & Clocks (Video Added)

Visited Harriet Beecher Stowe & Mark Twain homes in Hartford, CT and the American Watch & Clock Museum in nearby Bristol.

overcast 58 °F

Summary: Writers Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin) and Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn) were neighbors in Hartford, CT. We were able to tour both homes. About 15 miles to the west is the American Watch & Clock Museum in Briston, CT that we also toured.

Logistics: Miles Driven - 29, Weather - Overcast & Cool, but dry. Camped at Wal-mart in Bristol/Farmington area (the RV Campgrounds are all closed in this area now).

Details: What a difference a day makes! Yesterday at Old Mystic Seaport, I could take as many pictures as I wanted, and did. Today, two out of the three places we visited do not allow photography inside (the two historic homes in Hartford). If I can be allowed to digress for a moment, it would seem they might be missing an opportunity in the digital age? If my humble web log (e.g. blog) should inspire one to visit some of the places I've written about - which would be more tempting, to visit one they've seen lots of color photo's from or one with only dull text? Oh well, I do not make the policy.

In Concord, Massachusetts, we learned that the writers Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Alcott had all lived in the area and even known each other. A similar thing occured in Hartford, CT with Harriett Beecher Stowe and Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain).

Harriett Beecher Stowe actually wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851 in Maine, but moved to Hartford in 1872 after she had achieved world fame. She was 62 at the time and lived in a relatively modest home with her husband and two daughters. It was in the finest neighborhood in Hartford and had some features most people of that era could only dream of (such as gas waterheaters for the bathtub & kitchen).


I really didn't know much about her except that she wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin". She actually wrote 30 books in total and also painted for a hobby. We also learned that while it is true that she had never travelled in the south or visited a plantation, she did know quite a bit about slavery and it's impact from living in Cincinnatti earlier with her father. Once she decided to write about slavery, she also did a lot of research on the subject.


The house tour was quite interesting, but without photo's there probably isn't too much to describe. The Stowe's moved to the new house in Hartford in 1873, a year before Samual Clemen's and his family moved next door. The original house was sold after her death in1896. The museum has been able to obtain many objects from later generations or art auctions, but many of the items in the house are 'period' (antiques from the correct era, but not necessarily things from when she lived there).

While the Stowes and Clemen's were neighbors and did spend time together, they were different generations. Harriet Beecher Stowe was 62 when she moved into the new home in Harford, Samuel Clemens was 39.

Samuel Clemens took the name Mark Twain as his pen name. He was born relatively poor and had a difficult, but adventurous youth. However his wife was from a wealthier family and she inherited a substantial amount of money, which they used to purchase this home in Hartford.


The security guard's name is Robert. I went back to the RV after Mom, and when I got back he was standing by the door talking to Mom. I saw the uniform and immediately thought 'Oh No, What did I do now?' - fearing some sort of parking violation. However he had just seen our travel map on the side of the RV and was curious about our trip!

Back to work however (writing the blog that is), the Clemens house is much larger and fancier than the Stowe's house. Sam Clemens was not a famous author when they moved in, but wrote most of his best known works while living there. His study was on the third floor by the round balcony. While I couldn't take pictures inside, the website for the museum does have some pictures and additional information:


So having successfully visited two of our three objectives for today, we bravely set off for the third. The town of Bristol is only 15 miles from Hartford, but having experienced the freeway's in Harford first hand last night (ugly), I decided not to brave them again on my own and fired up the GPS software. I typed in the address of the "American Watch & Clock" museum that looked interesting in the brochures. Except for one minor "East" vs "West" error, the software got us out of Hartford and to the museum without too much difficulty.

This place did allow me to take pictures, so maybe I can share this with you a little more effectively! The outside of the building is rather plain by today's standards, so we drove right by it and had to circle around the block. That's probably because it was built in 1801 - so the building is impressive even if it doesn't look like it.


Inside we met Judy who was very nice. She signed us in and got us started on our tour and provided a lot more information about the background of the museum.


The museum was started by Edward Ingraham in 1952. He was the great grandson of Elias Ingraham, one of the original clock makers in Connecticut. Edward Ingraham had been collecting clocks most of his life, and donated his entire collection of 350 clocks to help get the museum started. While he retired from the Ingraham clock factory in 1955, he continued to work in the museum until he passed away in 1972.


The first room we toured is called "The Gateway". It has several exhibits showing how Clock making in Connecticut was transformed from a piecework industry to perhaps the first example of mass production in America. Eli Terry began making clocks in 1795 the same way everyone else did, by hand, one at a time or in small batches. His idea was to stamp out the gears and parts needed so every clock could essentially use the same parts. (There had been two other earlier advocates of interchangeable parts, one in Sweden and one in France, but the museum contends that Eli Terry is the first to do this in America. Eli Whitney gets credit for it and he was later a big advocate of interchangeable parts, but he didn't actually start using this process until later.) Terry continued to improve his manufacturing process. In 1802, he could only churn out about 200 clocks a year. By 1809, his factory was producing about 2,000 per year. He was a also a pioneer in developing methods so unskilled workers could assemble his clocks rather than having highly skilled craftsmen assemble everything - driving the prices down so more people could afford clocks.

Here is a picture of Eli Terry and what his clock assembly workshop might have looked when he first switched to mass production as well as his gear stamping machine (click to enlarge):


The museum's exhibits about the development of mass production of clocks are very informative. One of their signs reads:

"In 1800 practically nothing made in America was mass produced. By 1900 however, nearly everything was factory produced."

In addition to figuring out how to produce affordable clocks, Eli Terry had to figure out how to get them to customers. He decided to use "Yankee Peddlers", who would take a wagon from town to town, put up signs, and sell clocks. Notice the packing box in the right front - several clocks could be loaded in it for safe transport.


In addition to the multimedia presentations on how mass production first got started, there is a display of some of the clock components that were eventually 'outsourced', an early example of manufacturing methods we almost take for granted today.

The shift to mass production was not without problems of course. In 1880, workers were paid between $1.25 and $1.50 per day for a 10 hour workday, six days a week. Low pay and poor working conditions led the first labor strike in Bristol at the E. Ingraham Company clock shop in 1889.


After learning more about the emergance of the affordable clock and mass production in general, I headed to the basement where there are more exhibits. In the hall & stairwell to the basement exhibits is a two story clock. I had to take two photographs to show it, since the face is on one side, but the mechanics are below and on the back side...


In the basement, we saw a clock with two dials on it - one for local time, the other for 'Railroad' time. Prior to the railroads, most towns measured time based on their own latitude. So the time in one town could be 8 minutes faster than the next, etc. This didn't work too well for the railroads, so in 1883 they started using a single time for a region - 'standard' time zones. Although towns at first resisted, within 10 years just about everybody had switched to using standard time zones.

There are several more rooms with all sorts of displays. Here are just a few examples:


My favorite room in the museum had to be the back room upstairs however. What really makes it special is all the 'grandfather' or Tall Clocks it contains.

Many of them are in working order. Paul was there to wind them and reset the time for the end of daylight savings time. He was kind enough to stand by the tallest 'longcase' clock in the museum, it is 10 feet tall! Also, I couldn't resist a look at the tools of his trade. These were next to a table set up specifically so you could touch and play with clock type things (a 'hands on' exhibit).


They keep them set a few minutes apart so when they start chiming, they don't all go off at the same time. I think this makes it even nicer, since the chimes last longer that way - if you ever get a chance, just sit here around noon sometime and enjoy the most beautiful sound! I confess - I do have video editing software now, and even installed it this morning - but haven't had time to use it yet. Will try to replace later with an edited version when I can. In the meantime, give it a couple of minutes - it take takes a bit before they all start kicking in...

In case you want to know the 'real' story, it's probably better to check their web site anyway:


Tommorrow we'll start heading south again - not sure which route we'll take, but we don't have any plans or objectives for tomorrow yet so we 'll keep our eyes open.

ps - Longcase or Tall Clocks only became known as 'Grandfather' Clocks in the early 1900's after publication of the song, "My Grandfather's Clock". I found several video's on YouTube, here is one by Ken Hirai if you'd like to hear it:

Posted by jl98584 17:08 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Didn't Aunt Evelyn have a grandfather clock??
Very nice video, and very interesting..

by rllomas

Heh! The guy that works there must really hate Daylight Savings Time!

by TexasRTJ

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