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"The Master Clockmaker" Joseph Ives of Connecticut

By Lockwood Barr

Hobbies - The Magazine for Collectors, January, 1939

The Ives Family

      The Ives family was one of the most remarkable of the Connecticut clockmaking families. They made many contributions to the development of the clock, as a piece of mechanism, and to the progress of that industry in Bristol from the time of the American Revolution to the Civil War.

      The founder of the family in America was William Ives, one of the original settlers of New Haven, and a signer of the Fundamental Agreement of Quinnepiac. His son, John, married Hannah Merriam, and she was from a clockmaking family. Their son, John, married Mary Gillette. Their son was Ensign Gideon Ives, known to his associates as the Mighty Hunter of Wallingford. Gideon Ives' daughter was susannah. She married Elias Roberts, and their son was Gideon Roberts, the first of the Bristol clockmakers of whom there is definite record, although tradition has it that Elias Roberts, the father also made tall clocks with wooden movements and taught the son.

      Gideon Roberts, from the end of the Revolution until his death in 1813, made tall clocks with 30-hour wooden movements in large numbers. He and his sons peddled them through Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Southern States on the Seaboard, using Richmond, Va., as sales headquarters. Gideon Roberts shares, with Eli Terry, the credit of having introduced mass production methods into clockmaking - they both having borrowed the basic idea from the Connecticut firearms makers. After Robert's death, several of his sons and grandsons were in the clock business in Bristol.

      Gideon Ives, Jr. (son of the Mighty Hunter) had a son, Amasa. The sons of Amasa were the famous six Ives Brothers, the clockmakers of Bristol. These brothers were: Ira (b. 1775), Amasa (b. 1777), Philo (b. 1780), Joseph (b. 1782), Shaylor (b. 1785) and Chauncey (b. 1787). These brothers had two sisters who married into clockmaking families, and their descendants followed that trade.

      When and where the six Ives brothers served their apprenticeships at clockmaking is not a matter of record, but it is tradition that they learned the business in Bristol where they commenced to appear on the Tax Rolls soon after 1800 as the leading clockmakers of that community - competitors of Gideon Roberts and his sons.

      Joseph Ives was the outstanding inventive genius of his time, and he has to his credit - many important inventions and patents. For the background of his career, it might be useful to sktech briefly the history of his brothers and nephews and the Ives firms.

      Amasa and Chauncey were in partnership in Bristol during 1811 and 1812, under the firm name of Amasa Ives, Jr. & Co., building tall clocks with wooden movements. After the War of 1812, Chauncey Ives was in businss under his own name and aroung 1820 was building shelf clocks with conventional 30-hour wooden movements in beautiful Terry type scroll and pillar cases. For reasons unknown, Chauncey Ives left Bristol, between 1825 and 1830, and lived in New York for a year or two. But in 1830 he was back in Bristol in partnership with his nephew, Lawson Ives, the son Of Philo. That firm was known as C. & L. C. Ives (1830-1838), and with that firm brother Joseph, the genius was connected. The firm made large numbers of fine eight-day, brass weight-driven clocks, using the development and patents of Joseph - although he never was a partner in that business, so far as the records indicate.

      Chauncey Ives accumulated quite a fortune for those days, and in some way was able to save it, when the depression of 1837 put his clock firm out of business, and threatened to destroy all clockmaking activities in Connecticut.

      He had become activly interested in real estate, and in lending money, and his name will be found as the principal in many deals between 1830 and 1845. After that, he lived for a while in Hartford and then came to New Youk City where he operated in real estate, in the neighborhood of 168th Street. Chauncey Ives died in 1857.

      After Chauncey withdrew from C. & L. C. Ives, in 1838, the nephew Lawson carried along the business as Lawson C. Ives & Co. until 1843; when competition from the cheap 30-hour brass clock closed up a number of the small fine clock producers of Bristol.

      Shaylor Ives, another brother, was in partnership with Elisha C. Brewster from 1840 through 1843, that firm being known as Elisha C. Brewster & Co., and also Brewster & Ives. During that period, Shaylor Ives, who was something of a genius himself, developed a low price brass clock with coiled steel springs - in fact, in the traditions, he is given considerable credit for his contribution to the development of the coiled steel spring.

      Subsequently, the Brewster interests were absorbed by Elias Ingraham, one of the pioneers, into the firm of Brewster & Ingraham (1844-52) (a fore-runner of the present E. Ingraham Company).

      Ira Ives, the eldest brother, was in the clock business in Bristol from 1809 through 1832. He has a number of patents to his credit and is the first Bristol clockmaker to have secured a patnet. There was one patent issued him in 1809 for a "time and striking part", and a clock pinion patent dated 1812. The son of Ira was Joseph Shaylor Ives who worked with his father, and he too was an inventor, and had a patent on a "striking part" issued him in 1828.

Submitted by: Samuel Kirk (##)

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