Walter Durfee began selling antique furniture in
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
antique collector Charles Pendleton, the pair traveled to
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
, he enhanced the demand for hall clocks in
to such an extent that he became known as "the father of the modern grandfather clock."
In 1884, John Harrington, of
patented the first clock-chime of tubular bells. It was an immediate success, winning gold medals at
in 1885 and at
in 1886. Within a few years, they were being used in
in both hall clocks and bell towers. J.J. Elliot, from Clerkenwell, a clock maker till his death in 1904, was based in
and employed Harris & Harrington (H & H) as its sales representatives.
Tubular Bells Stamp
In 1886, Durfee met Harrington while on a trip to
. 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
In c.1894, Durfee stopped importing Harrington's tubular tower bells and began manufacturing his own. James E. Treat of Methuen Organ Company in
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.