Shelf Clock Maker: Eli Terry (American, 1772–1852)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

Before the nineteenth century, the works in many American clocks were assembled from imported brass parts and set into locally made cases. As the products of transatlantic trade and multiple specialist craftsmen, clocks were affordable to only an elite few. In 1816 the Connecticut inventor Eli Terry received a patent for a shelf clock with less-expensive, locally produced wooden works that revolutionized the clockmaking industry. He was able to market hundreds, even thousands, of clocks per year rather than only a few at a time, becoming one of the first manufacturers to use mass-production techniques and interchangeable parts in the fabrication of domestic goods. Shelf clocks were shipped across the United States and became fashionable alternatives to expensive tall case clocks.


Mahogany, yellow poplar, cherry, and white oak


28 7/8 × 16 7/8 × 4 1/8 in. (73.3 × 42.9 × 10.5 cm)
Dial: 11 1/4 × 13 in. (28.6 × 33 cm)
Movement: 6 1/4 × 7 1/2 × 1 13/16 in. (15.9 × 19 × 4.6 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of Olive Louise Dann

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Paul N. and Olive L. Dann, New Haven, Conn. Gift in 1962 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • David Jaffee, A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 148, fig. 48
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 258, no. 148, ill
  • Rita Quinton, "Jagged Lines," Letting Go: Living without a Net 11 (2004), 118–122, ill
  • Elise K. Kenney, ed., Handbook of the Collections: Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 93, ill
  • Edwin A. Battison and Patricia E. Kane, The American Clock, 1725–1865: The Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1973), 186–189, no. 43, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

shelf clocks


"PATENT. / INVENTED, / Made and sold by / Eli Terry, / Plymouth, / Con / N.B. To wind up the weights, put on the crank with the....and turn towards Figure 6" Variation of the Sun and Clock also included on paper label on inside of backboard.

Technical metadata and APIs


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