American Decorative Arts
Maker: Eli Terry, American, 1772–1852

Shelf Clock


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)
Bequest of Olive Louise Dann
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.
Made in Plymouth, Connecticut
On view
19th century

Paul N. and Olive L. Dann, New Haven, Conn. Gift in 1962 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


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.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 93, ill.

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.

David Jaffee, A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 148, fig. 48.

Rita Quinton, “Jagged Lines,” Letting Go: Living without a Net 11 (2004): 118–122, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.