Saturday, March 11, 2023

Tick-Tock the Grandfather Clock

 The Long Case Clock by Martha Rogers

I love Grandfather clocks and when our grandson asked about ours, I decided to do some research and loved what I found.

Keeping time goes back to ancient times--even to BC times. Sundials, also called shadow clocks, were used to keep time by the sun. Even when there were no sundials, people judged time of day by the position of the sun in the sky, so the times were not accurate. 

As time evolved, a more important need arose for more precise measurement. That led to the invention of the water clock and the hourglass, but they were limited because they relied on water and sand to function. 

Others began researching, but it was Galileo who discovered that a pendulum could be used to track time in 1582. He observed a pendulum swinging, and as he counted, he discovered that each swing of the pendulum equaled one second. Although he experimented and tried over and over again to come up with a workable pendulum clock, he was never able to do do. 

Finally, in 1656, a Dutchman named Christiaan Huygens put together a clock that used a longer pendulum and put Galileo's discovery to use. Although the clock did not keep an accurate measure of time, it was better than what was in use. Many clockmakers tried to improve on the design but had little luck.


In 1670, William Clement discovered the clocks worked better if they had a longer pendulum which meant he had to build a taller case to house the mechanism. He called it a "long-case clock" and was the original design for what later became known as the "grandfather clock" we know today.

Seth Thomas and Howard Miller became two companies known for their clocks. Howard Miller grandfather clocks are still in great demand.

Drawings of Grandfather Clock designs by companies making clocks.

Another interesting design.

An interesting story lies behind the name change to "grandfather clock." In 1875, a songwriter, Henry Clay Work, visited the George Hotel in New England. In the lobby stood a clock that seemed to serve no purpose is it didn't work. Upon inquiry, he was told the the clock had belonged to the inn's previous owners who were now deceased. When the Jenkins brothers brought the clock to the inn, it worked perfectly. When the first Jenkins brother died, the clock lost some of its accuracy, and when the second brother died, the clock stopped dead at the exact minute and second he died. Despite the efforts of the best repairmen, they couldn't get it going again. It broke beyond repair. What probably happened instead is that it stayed broke because the expense to repair it was too expensive to have it repaired. It looked nice, so the new owners most likely came up with the more interesting story for its remaining in the lobby.

That inspired Work, who thought it was a good story, and he went back home and in 1876, his song called "My Grandfather's Clock" released and became an instant hit. From that time on, the clock's name changed and remains the same today.

Here are the lyrics for the well-know song. I can't begin to count how many times I've sung it.

"My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf, 

So it stood ninety years on the floor. 

It was taller by half than the old man himself, 

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more. 

It was bought on the morn of the day he was born, 

And was always his treasure and pride, 

But it stopp'd short--never to go again--when the old man died."

I also learned from pictures that a grandfather clock could hang on the wall or sit on the mantle. Here is one of the pictures I found.

My husband was given a Howard Miller Grandfather clock when he retired in 1998. Here is a picture of it. Under it is a Seth Thomas Wall Grandfather clock we got in 1993.



Most information gathered from the following website:

“A Brief History of The Grandfather Clock.” The Well Made Clock, 21 Jan. 2014,

Have you had a Grandfather Clock in your family? We love ours, but turned off the chimes to keep it from waking us every hour during the night.

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author with over 65 novels and novellas in print. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church where Martha teaches a Ladies Bible Class on Sunday mornings. She has been a member of ACFW for over twenty years and writes the Verse of the Week devotional for the loop. Martha and her husband are the parents of three sons and grandparents to 9 grandchildren plus 3 spouses and great-grandparents to seven. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English.

Find Martha at:,  Twitter:  @martharogers2                   Facebook: Martha Rogers Author


  1. Thank you for posting today. As I read through the lyrics of that song I can remember the melody and I have no idea why I know it!! Those clocks are beautiful, and the old ones are much more hefty than the new versions.

  2. Ours is so heavy that it takes two men to move it on a sturdy dolly. That song got stuck in my head for days after I wrote it in the blog. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. thanks for sharing this wonderful information. No we have never had a grandfather clock. But I know some friends who have one and they did the same. It is so pretty. I have always loved them.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Lori. It's always fascinating to find fun info about everyday things. They can be loud in a quiet house in the middle of the night.