On July 5, 1871, the William L. Gilbert Clock Company was formed at Winsted, Conn. to succeed the Gilbert Manufacturing Company (1866-1871) which had been dissolved after a fire destroyed the factory. These firms had grown out of the clockmaking operations of William L. Gilbert (1806-890) who, since 1828, had been involved in various clockmaking partnerships in Bristol, Farmington and Winsted, Connecticut.
In July of 1873, the new factory complex was completed and manufacturing commenced. George B. Owen (1834-1916) had come to Winsted in 1866 as General Manager and ran the firm for nearly 50 years, designing many interesting cases and patenting several clock movement features. Owen also operated a concurrent clock business at Winsted between 1875 and 1894.
In 1897, the Gilbert firm built a four-story building for a new case shop and another building by 1900 for storage and shipping. A three-story office building was built in 1902. The recession, which began in 1907, along with the financial pressures of their recent expansion headed the firm in a decline that culminated by forcing George B. Owen and his sons to relinquish control in 1914
Bankruptcy and liquidation were barely avoided in 1914 and a new manager, Charles E. Williams, was appointed and served until his death in 1930, just a few months following the stock market crash. Pressures of the Great Depression and money spent in developing electronic clocks sent the firm into receivership in September, 1932.
On July 20,1934, a new firm known as the William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation was formed to succeed the earlier company. It was one of the few firms allowed to continue clockmaking during World War 11 because it was able to manufacture clocks without metal cases, having installed machinery in 1940 to produce cases from molded paper-maché. They had modest profits after the war and in 1954 tooled up to produce an adding machine for General Computing Machines Corporation. In 1957, they were taken over by General. In December, 1964, the clockmaking division was sold to Spartus Corporation of Chicago, not having produced a profit for about 12 years.
Because Gilbert was a mass-producer of primarily lower-end mantle clocks, most Gilbert sell in antique malls for under $150.