Histories of The Eli Terry Company

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In 1792 to 1793, Eli Terry, Sr. showed that he was a man with creative ideas. He asked the question, “Why make one clock only?” It was easier to complete parts for several clocks at the same time, and Terry proceeded to do so. The floor clocks he made were originally called long-case or tall-case clocks. Now they are referred to as grandfather clocks. Shorter versions are called grandmother clocks.

From 1806 to 1809, Terry made four thousand hang-up clock movements, dials, hands, and pendulums. He invented machines that helped with his work, including one that cut gear wheel teeth. He harnessed the waterpower available in Waterbury, Connecticut, to run his machines, and his employees, Silas Hoadley and Seth Thomas, assisted him. In 1810, Silas Hoadley and Seth Thomas bought Temp’s plant. Terry moved to Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut, where he continued his work.

In approximately 1816, Tern’ patented a shelf clock that featured an outside escapement movement in a pillar-and-scroll case. Soon, around 1818 to 1824, the three men of the Terry family—Eli Sr., Eli Jr., and Henry— organized the firm Eli Terry and Sons of Plymouth, Connecticut. Their pillar-and-scroll clocks sold well. Each had a label that proclaimed: “Patent clock invented by Eli Terry made and sold at Plymouth, Connecticut by Eli Terry and Sons.”

Eli Terry

Eli Terry pendulum candlestick novelty clock with china base on wooden frame, 6″ d., 9″ h., time only, original glass dome missing $300.

Terry clock labels varied, and their dates frequently overlapped. For example, from 1824 to 1827, Eli and brother Samuel were both listed on some labels; yet, from 1824 to 1830, other labels listed only Eli Terry Jr. Furthermore, from 1825 to 1830, some labels listed Eli Terry and son Henry, while from 1830 to 1841, other labels record the name Eli Terry Jr. and Company. On December 22,1831, Plymouth changed changed its name to Terrysville to honor Eli Terry Sr. In about 1834, Tern’ retired after a financially profitable career. To keep occupied, however, he made brass-movement clocks during his retirement years.

In the late 1840s, Silas Burnham Terry, Eli’s youngest son, established the S. B. Terry Company to make clocks. Eli Terry Sr. died in 1852 in the town that changed its name to honor him. His descendants did not forget their heritage. In 1852, Silas Burnham Terry and his son founded the Terry Clock Company in Winsted, Connec-ticut. The company remained in business until 1876. Interestingly, the spelling of the town name was changed slightly in 1872. By deleting the “s,” Terrysville became Terryville.