Walter H. Durfee History

Antique Clocks Guy Reference Library

Stamp on Durfee above Dial, below moon dial ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Front Stamp
Below Moon Dial

Stamp on back of moon dial - Antique Clocks Guy

Back of Moon Dial Stamp

Durfee "flame" finial - Antique Clocks Guy

Durfee "Flame" Finial

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Walter Durfee began selling antique furniture in Providence in 1877. From the beginning he specialized in tallcase clocks, taking full advantage of the interest revived in them by Longfellow's poem, "The Old Clock on the Stairs."

Beginning in 1880, a year before he formed "Durfee & Enches" with Providence antique collector Charles Pendleton, the pair traveled to England in search of antiques. Through this and subsequent trips of the early 1880s, Durfee came into contact with manufacturers of clocks and cases who would later ship the parts to the United States, which he would reassemble in Providence. When he added a bell chime, then recently patented in England , he enhanced the demand for hall clocks in America to such an extent that he became known as "the father of the modern grandfather clock."

In 1884, John Harrington, of Coventry , Warwick County , England patented the first clock-chime of tubular bells. It was an immediate success, winning gold medals at Paris in 1885 and at Liverpool in 1886. Within a few years, they were being used in England in both hall clocks and bell towers. J.J. Elliot, from Clerkenwell, a clock maker till his death in 1904, was based in London and employed Harris & Harrington (H & H) as its sales representatives.

Stamp on tubular chimes - Antique Clocks Guy

Tubular Bells Stamp

In 1886, Durfee met Harrington while on a trip to England . They saw the possibility of using Harrington's tubes as clock bells, with Elliot's clock movements in longcase clocks. In 1887, Harrington's American patent #372,849 for a clock chime apparatus was assigned to Walter H. Durfee. With the protection of this patent, Durfee was the monopolist of American tallcase clocks with tubular chimes, which he assembled in high-quality cases.

Interestingly and uniquely, Durfee used a special etched brass hinge on his tallcase clocks that has become a noted symbol. It is also interesting to note that Durfee used at least three different finial styles, one carved with a "flame", another turned with flutes, and the third in the more traditional brass style. In the column to the right you can see two of the same model (Pattern 18) with different finials (and column capitals).

Unique Durfee hinge - Antique Clocks Guy

Unique Durfee Hinge

In c.1894, Durfee stopped importing Harrington's tubular tower bells and began manufacturing his own. James E. Treat of Methuen Organ Company in Boston had assigned his American patent for a tubular bell to United States Tubular Bell Company of which Walter H. Durfee was the president. In 1900, Allen W. Harrington, a U.S. citizen residing in New York, obtained American patent #656,603 and assigned it to Harris & Harrington's American office in the same city. The Harrington firm had bypassed Durfee to sell directly into the American market.

Early Durfee two-train dial signature plate ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Dial Front Signature Plate
(early two-train movement)

Durfee Pattern 18 Variant in Mahogany with "Flame" Finials ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Durfee Pattern 18 Variant
in Mahogany with "Flame" Finials

Antique Clocks For Sale

Walter H. Durfee Pattern No. 18 in Quartered Oak - Antique Clocks Guy
Pattern 18
w/Barley Twist,
Gilded Capitals,
and Brass Finials

Durfee Pattern 18 in Oak with Fluted Finials ~ Antique Clocks Guy

Pattern 18
w/Barley Twist,
Carved Capitals,
and Fluted Finials


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