Addison Clipson’s 8-day Ansonia Atlas clock, ca. 1885.
Addison H. Clipson (OH)
During the 1950s, I was a college student working in the engineering office of the Mead Corporation’s Excello paperboard plait in Cincinnati, OH. I often worked late hours on drawings for mill expansions. Occasionally, I would chat with Alice Gates, an elderly cleaning lady there. She wore a threadbare brown coat and an ancient felt hat that resembled a flattened brown derby. While recalling her days as a young girl in the nineteenth century, she sensed my interest in history and things obsolete. Sometimes, she would bring a cloth tote that contained something from her home, saying, “You like old things,” and then she would pull out lovely old walnut picture frames, Staffordshire pieces, and other such treasures. One evening, Mrs. Gates pulled out a walnut shelf clock. It was, I later learned, an 8-day Ansonia “Atlas,” ca. 1885.My student days ended, I married, and the clock went into the attic when I entered military service. Years later, I put the Ansonia in the dining room, and there it kindled my interest in antique clocks and their stories. With a membership in the NAWCC beginning in 1963, horology became a passion in me. Arrival of the Bulletin is anxiously awaited still. Clocks and clock books were acquired. Special interest in the Seth Thomas saga developed.
I repaired clocks late at night and on weekends for myself and some antiques dealers. As an architect, I designed the Carrol Chimes Clock Tower in Covington, KY, in 1979. As part of my work on the buildings for the brand new Northern Kentucky University, I designed the Gnomonium Polaris Nordum, a 20-ton concrete sundial with an Equation of Time plaque attached, for the center of the campus. A two-dial public clock was included with the design of the Administration Building as well. Later, I was priviledged to design an all-glass clock tower for the Town Center renovation in Raleigh, NC.
My horological journey connected me with then NAWCC Executive Director Tom Bartels, who sought help with design of a Memorial Clock Tower for the National Watch and Clock Museum. I was so lucky to have been given that job, and I was soon in the Museum’s storage room measuring the parts of a disassembled tower clock so that it could be reassembled on paper. Placement of the movement, arrangement of its rigging, and placement of the bells were worked out, thus dictating the form and dimensions of the tower.It was a great day in 1993 when the Tower was dedicated.
The old Ansonia led me on to further adventures there. I worked on the School of Horology a year or so later, followed by an assignment to design the Phase III addition to the Museum, which was completed and dedicated in 1999. What a huge delight it was to be associated with those projects.
The old Ansonia let me find out for myself about the many, many wonderful, enthusiastic, and erudite folks who collect and preserve historic timepieces, write about them, teach about them, and so successfully run the NAWCC. Other clocks have come into my life and that of my lovely wife Jeannie, and they continue to do so. The “Atlas” has been in storage for a long time again. It is time to get reacquainted with it so that it may witness the result of its influence.
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