Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hawes' Clock

William K. Hawes and his Clock

Sometimes you come across a photograph and ask yourself the question "I wonder where that thing is now?" Here is an example from Canton's History that begs the question.

The photograph shows William K. Hawes standing outside his watchmaker and jewelry shop which was located on Washington Street. The Historical Society has documentation that suggests this shop was located between Neponset and Church Streets in the Wentworth Block. The Wentworth Block was originally three separate buildings that were combined in 1819 by Friend Crane. The block was destroyed by fire around 1900. 

To his left is his Grand Strasburg - an enormous clock that is twice as tall as him. And the details in this machine are amazing. It appears to show celestial and planetary movements. At the top is a host of moving animatronic people and fanciful angels or cherubs. The detail must have been amazing to behold. Hawes was apparently quite successful as a local businessman and he sold photographs and stereographic images along with clocks and jewelry. This image is dated to approximately 1885.

There are probably not many clocks still around that can be attributed to Hawes, I do know of one of Hawes' clocks and it is in the Canton Historical Society hanging to the left of the vault door. The clock is quite tall in a black wooden case and beautiful dial. I can still recall Ed Bolster the President of the "Histy" climbing the rickety ladder to wind the elegant clock with the banjo-style pendulum. I recently saw the clock just last week and noticed that it is in need of some minor repair and probably a cleaning, but it is a fine specimen of the maker.

Many times I wonder what became of this enormous piece. The carvings and the mechanisms appear to be highly detailed and there are few places that could have houses such a huge timepiece. Perhaps it was made for an exhibition or a World's Fair. Whatever the case, this is an amazing glimpse at life along Washington Street at the turn of the last Century.

This photo is a wonderful connection to our past and a reminder of the William K. Hawes, Watchmaker and Jeweler of Canton, Mass. Thanks to Patricia Johnson for deducing the location at the Wentworth Block.


Patricia Johnson said...

The 8/28/1885 edition of the Canton Journal published an article about the first exhibition of William K Hawes' Strasburg Clock in Norwood. I would hazard a guess that the clock in your photograph is the "Strasburg Clock."

Geo. said...

As has always been expected, the publishing of photographs is yielding so much great new information. In fact, this is a "Strasburg" style clock. Such clocks featured celestial and planetary movements along with grand astronomical dials and automata such as moving Saints and animals. At the lower center of the clock is an orrery which is the mechanical device that illustrates the relative positions and motions of the planets and solar system.

Now, we must turn to learning more about Hawes' grand Strasburg Clock and the reason he built it. Your direction to the August 1885 Canton Journal will no doubt prove illuminating. More information to follow.