Find the time to scour antique shows for vintage alarm clocks

“Tick tock…tick tock.” For some reason, this is one of the most vexatious and tumultuous sounds that send an unnerving chill up many spines. Some people often bury their heads in a pillow to escape the monotonous sounds and some even throw this object across the room. Not only is the “tick tock” so annoying that it drives you absolutely crazy and sends your blood soaring to the boiling point, but add the blaring sound of the alarm into the equation and there’s a disaster waiting to happen. Yes, it’s the sounds of the every day alarm clock that got the adrenaline running and led to many nights of restless sleep for people in earlier days. While these may have been annoying and troublesome sounds, we must admit we all need an alarm clock to wake us in the morning.

Alarm clocks date back to Plato (428-348 BC) who used what was considered to be a water clock that had an alarm similar to the sound of a water organ.

Although there are records showing the use of many clocks considered to be alarm clocks, the first mechanical alarm clock was designed by Taqi al-Din of the Ottoman Empire in 1559. However, New Hampshire native Levi Hutchins created the first mechanical alarm clock in the United States. Made to only ring at 4 a.m., he made this alarm clock for his own use in 1787. Sixty years later, Antoine Redier, a French inventor, was granted the patent for the first adjustable mechanical alarm clock.

Alarm clocks have many purposes other than waking us during morning hours. They are often used for naps or as a reminder of something coming up during the day such as meetings or breaks. A basic vintage alarm clock is similar to other clocks other than it has an extra hand that is used to set the time to activate the alarm. The obnoxious sound of the older style alarm clocks was achieved by a clacker moving back and forth between two bells or between the sides inside a single bell. The clacker got its motion from a mainspring driven gear.

Although many considered the alarm clock to be annoyingly loud, production was in high demand in the United States until the onslaught of World War II. Like most consumer goods during war time the production of alarm clocks ceased in the spring of 1942. Due to a discerning shortage of alarm clocks, production resumed two years later. This was due in part to older clocks wearing out or breaking down, causing workers to be late or miss their scheduled shifts in jobs crucial to the war. Overseen by the Office of Price Administration, clock companies started producing new clocks, some with previous or prewar designs and some with new designs. Soon the clock industry became known as the first “postwar” consumer goods to be made before World War II ended.

During the 1940s the radio alarm clock was invented by James F. Reynolds as well as Paul L. Schroth Sr. However, the Office of Price Administration remained in control of the regulations as well as the pricing.

Throughout the years, alarm clocks have changed (for the better, of course). While some of us still use the loud and obnoxious alarm clock from days of our past, others have resorted to the soothing sounds of the digital alarm clock. The digital alarm clocks feature a radio alarm or beeping or buzzing alarm, which allows the sleeper to awaken to music or news rather than the blaring sound of bells ringing. Most digital alarm clocks also have a snooze button which allows the sleeper to catch a few more winks before rising for the day.

Vintage alarm clocks are still in demand by many collectors. Alarm clocks of every kind and style can be found at Scott Antique Markets in Ohio and Georgia.

Shoppers will find every name brand and style from Westclox to Waterbury clocks, as well as many other designs. Terri Osborne and Kathy Stantz of Mansfield, Ohio, are two antique vendors who collect and sell vintage alarm clocks at the Ohio market. Little did these two women realize that a little day trip to an estate auction would soon change their career path and lead them into an unforgettable adventure of the past.

Although the two women have only been dealing in vintage alarm clocks for a short time, they have over 2,800 alarm clocks in their collection. Most were purchased at the estate sale and date back to the early 1900s. According to Osborne, 90 percent of the clocks are in working condition. On their first trip to an auction the women hauled away 200 clocks. They were soon invited back and bought the whole “kit-and-caboodle” according to Stantz. Their final “haul” consisted of alarm clocks, travel clocks, mantel and anniversary clocks for a grand total of 2,700 clocks. Not bad for a day’s worth of work.

Most of their clocks sell from $10 to $40. Osborne said, “A lot of people buy just for the look or to add to a current collection, but we find a lot of people purchase to actually use the clock on a day to day basis.” Why do people collect vintage alarm clocks? Osborne added, “To use, but it can certainly become addictive!”

According to the women, Westclox and Waterbury clocks are very popular with collectors. Osborne added, “I can’t really say one is better than another but it really is hard to beat the reliability of a Big Ben by Westclox. They are made to last!”

The Big Ben alarm clock movement was first patented in 1908 by the Western Clock Manufacturing Company (known as Westclox after the company shortened its name to Western Clock Company). The movement has a bell back design, which means the bell mechanism is inherent or essential to the clock’s case.

The Big Ben was first marketed in 1909 and was the first alarm clock advertised nationally with ads in the Saturday Evening Post. Westclox soon became a name well-known throughout the country, associated with only the finest-quality alarm clocks. Westclox, the trademark of the company first appeared on the backs of the Big Ben clocks in 1910.

Big Ben and other “Ben” alarm clocks are synonymous with the 13 1/2 ton bell in the clock tower of Britain’s House of Parliament. The bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, London’s Commissioner of Works in the late 1850s.

Be sure to look for Osborne and Stantz at the Ohio Scott Antique Market with their many “vintage” alarm clocks and other collectibles. Whether it’s a Big Ben, Baby Ben or other design or style of alarm clock, you are sure to find it at Scott Antique Markets.

For more information on Scott Antique Markets, visit our website at or call 740-569-4912. ?

     You might also enjoy:

     •  Graniteware featured at Scott Antique Markets
     •  Clocks and Watches from the National Heritage Museum
     •  Design fuels antique and vintage watch collecting
     •  Pardon me, but do you have the time?
     •  Collectors drawn to the butter churn


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