Important museum exhibit celebrates clockwork toys, toys, music boxes and automatons

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COLUMBIA, Pa. – Clockwork mechanisms are everywhere. Look around you – on your desk, in your office, your grandchild’s playroom, perhaps even in the parking meter you placed a quarter in this morning – and chances are you will find a device with a clockwork mechanism. The National Watch & Clock Museum has opened its exhibit of the clockwork mechanism, a device that has greatly influenced the operation of everyday items.

automata and mechanical toys
Automata and Mechanical Toys

Museum visitors will discover through the “Clockworks!” exhibit how many items are powered by the clockwork mechanism. Clockworks are powered by a coiled spring and regulated by some form of escapement; the power is transmitted through toothed gear wheels and for centuries has driven a variety of things, including complicated clocks, toys, music boxes, and automatons. From fanciful and fun toys to the clockwork bomb fuse, clockwork mechanisms are everywhere in everyday life.

“I think that most people don’t realize the impact that the invention of the clockwork mechanism has had on their daily lives. The everyday items that many of us are familiar with often incorporated a clockwork mechanism to make them more useful and in some cases, like toys, more fun. We feel it is important for our visitors to understand just how prevalent the technology was, and still is, throughout society,” states Museum Director Noel Poirier.

Items for the “Clockworks!” exhibit are on loan from several museums: toys primarily from the National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.; trains from the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pa.; and household pieces from the Landis Valley Farm Museum, Lancaster, Pa.

 Loans also came from individual members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors and from the National Watch and Clock Museum’s ongoing collection.
Marketing Coordinator Kim Craven states, “Without the interest and support of these organizations and individuals an exhibit like this one would be impossible. Bringing together pieces from other sources allows us to expand on our already amazing timepiece collection of close to 12,000 items and focus on a special exhibit like this one.”

The “Clockworks!” exhibit runs through December 2011 and is sponsored in part by the Donegal Insurance Group.

Program information, directions and general museum information is available online or by calling 717-684-8261.

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More Images:

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"Donald Duck and Little Dewey Duck," manufactured in Japan by Linemar Toys, about 1950. When the key is wound, Donald rolls forward, waddling from side to side and opening and closing his bill. His nephew Dewey, set on wheels, rolls on behind him. At mid-20th century, Japan exported lithographed-tinplate mechanical toys to the United States by the millions. On loan to the National Watch and Clock Museum from the National Museum of Play.
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This circa 1872 flytrap is operated by a clockwork mechanism. It consists of a rotating cylinder, operated by clock work, upon which bait is placed. The flies land on the cylinder and are carried around until a scraper brushes them off, when they enter a cage from which they cannot escape. On loan to the National Watch and Clock Museum from the Landis Valley Farm Museum.

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