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Clock & Watch Museum Publishes Book About Innovative Bristol Clockmaker

The American Clock & Watch Museum announced the publication of the new book, Joseph Ives and the Looking Glass Clock. Author Mary Jane Dapkus presents a trove of never-before-published primary source information and relates previously untold stories about one of Bristol’s best-loved clock makers. Included in the book is an addendum analyzing Ives’ looking glass clock movements written by Peter Gosnell, retired Professor of Applied Technology at the University of the Arts, London.

Joseph Ives (1782-1862) was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, one of ten children born to Amasa and Huldah Shaylor Ives. The family was related by marriage to the Roberts family of Bristol, Connecticut. Gideon Roberts is recorded as the first clock maker to have worked in Bristol, and it is likely that he trained Joseph and his brothers in the clock making trade. 

Joseph Ives possessed a keen and inventive mind. During his career, he was granted six United States patents pertaining to clocks. He started making wooden gear clocks about 1811. Around 1818, Ives began producing looking glass clocks. Since clocks at that time were typically smaller and had 30-hour wooden works movements, Ives’ looking glass clocks were unusual because of their 8-day, iron plate roller pinion movements and the use of a large mirror glass in the case. These mirror clocks were also at the center of a scandal involving Lott Newell, the Lewis family, and the Miles Lewis House (now the Museum’s headquarters). Their production caused chaos in the lives of Ives and his partners long after the last of them was made. Joseph Ives and the Looking Glass Clock tells this story and more.

In 1825, Ives moved to Brooklyn, New York, hoping to find a successful market for his clocks. By 1830, Ives was on the verge of being sent to debtor’s prison. He returned to Connecticut where he sold the rights to his patents to pay his debts. Although Ives was never financially successful, he is credited as being one of the most ingenious Connecticut horologists. 

Mary Jane Dapkus, author of Joseph Ives and the Looking Glass Clock, is an independent scholar and former curator at the American Clock & Watch Museum. She has previously published several other books on the history of early American clock making, including Middletown and Berlin, Connecticut, Wooden Movement Shelf Clock Makers: An Interpretive History and Antebellum Shelf Clock Making in Farmington and Unionville Villages, Connecticut (co-written with Snowden Taylor).

The American Clock & Watch Museum would like to thank the following people for their support of this project: anonymous donor; Colleen and David Houtz; Tom Manning; G. Russ Oechsle; NAWCC Chapter 8 (New England), in memory of Dick Trepp; NAWCC Chapter 148 (CT); Richard D. Saul; and Brendan Sullivan. 

Joseph Ives and the Looking Glass Clock has over 190 pages with color photographs of many of these stunning clocks. It retails for $35.99 (plus shipping and sales tax). American Clock & Watch Museum Members receive a 10% discount.

The book is available on-line at clockandwatchmuseum.org/apps/webstore or in the Museum Store, which is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information, call 860-583-6070 or go to http://www.clockandwatchmuseum.org.

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