FASHION CALENDAR CLOCKS
Henry Harrison Culver and his brothers grew up on a farm in Ohio. At the age of fifteen, he joined his older brother, Wallace, in St. Louis. Shortly thereafter they were working for John McCreary, a hardware dealer, peddling cast iron cooking stoves and flat-irons off the back of wagons in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
As aspiring businessmen, the brothers decided to strike out on their own and founded a company to sell The Culver Brothers "Farmers Cooking Stove". The stoves, which they sold by the direct sale method from farm house to farm house, were cast for them by a foundry in Covington, Kentucky. The business apparently thrived until the Panic of 1873. With money in extremely short supply, the brothers returned to the farm to wait out the recession.
Farming, however, was not the calling of the Culvers, so in 1875 the brothers decided to try their hand at selling clocks. And no one really knows why they went into the clock business unless it was "hedging" against further decline in the stove business. So, on March 2, 1875 Henry Harrison, Lucius L. and Wallace W. Culver incorporated the Southern Calendar Clock Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Their building was located at the comer of Washington and Eight streets and was constructed in 1880. It was an office and a warehouse, not a factory, as models 1- 8 were manufactured under contract by Seth Thomas Clock Company in Connecticut. In 1885, the Culvers reported that Seth Thomas had made approximately 30,000 "Fashions" for them. There are no records for the exact number of clocks sold during the life of the company, however, it has been estimated that each sales group sold a minimum of 100 clocks per month. With nine sales groups during most of the years of the company, it would not be unreasonable to assume that 175,000 to 200,900 clocks were sold. This is far more than the figure reported by the Culvers for the first ten years. But after fourteen years, the business would close in 1889 with the Culvers holding patents on the Fashion case design, the trademark on the word "Fashion" and on some of the time movements.
The Traveling Salesmen
The procedure of direct sales by traveling salesmen had been well established by the Culvers in their selling of stoves. It was only natural that they would continue with this method of merchandising their clocks. A sales group included a supervisor, hired by the company, who in turn hired a sales force of from ten to twenty men. Each of the three brothers had three supervisors under his control, so the sales force generally varied from 100 to 150 men.
The supervisor was always mounted on a white horse and the salesmen were equipped with a light "spring wagon" pulled by two mules. A compartment in the rear of the wagon held six or eight clocks, packed in wooden boxes. The supervisor had complete responsibility for his group of salesmen and the company's dealings were directly with him.
The Culver brothers demanded the highest standards and behavior from their salesmen. Many newspaper articles of the day referred to them as "the gentlemen from the Southern Calendar Clock Company". Their salesmen were not high pressure but were successful because of hard work and the high quality of the product. They established a reputation of honesty and fair dealings. Their reputation is shown is that the salesmen paid expenses (lodging and meals) with scrip (promissory note) issued by the company. Records seem to indicate that they had little trouble with people accepting the scrip as payment. At times, there was as much as $10,000 in scrip outstanding.
Clock prices averaged $36.00 which was expensive for the time. Clocks could be bought with a promissory note with the balance due "when the crop came in". Interest was charged at 10%.
This was done through the publication of the "Fashion Magazine". It was not published on any regular schedule, but as needed.
It contained testimonials and advertisements. Booklets of this type were an accepted part of the direct sales procedure and were welcomed by people who had little else to read.
The testimonials were from highly satisfied customers and were on almost every page. In addition to the testimonials, there were short pieces about everything from The Great Wall of China to answering the question, "What Tongue Did Christ Speak?"
Also included were illustrations of the parts of the clock in order to enable the purchaser to order replacement parts. The company maintained a complete supply of parts for the mechanisms, glasses for the doors and parts for the cases.
The clocks were warranted for six months from the date of purchase with the replacement of any part defective or broken.
One issue of the magazine in 1884 had a heading that said.
“FASHION FOR 1884 AND 1984.” As you know, many of them are still running beyond that statement.
When the clocks were sold, the Southern Calendar Clock Company did not use model numbers for their clocks. The numbers that are commonly used today were started by Gerald Siegel in a Bulletin article in 1967. Since then Tran Du Ly has added to the numbers with some additional descriptions and names in his calendar clock guide book.
All of the Fashions sold by the original Southern Calendar Clock Company from St. Louis were 8-day clocks with perpetual calendars. Starting with model 3, the movements were larger and heavier than those used in most other clocks of the day. Seth Thomas made eight basic models however there are several models that some call variants and several models have minor differences within the model. How many of the models were actually sold by The Southern Calendar Clock company will be mentioned in a moment. Now, let's look at the basic models.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 1
This clock case was veneer and came in several woods; rosewood seems to be most common. It had the smaller time and calendar movements. The time movement was short pendulum and struck on an iron bell. The top of this particular may not be original. Normally, the top is of a slight pyramid one inch high in the center. They were made in the 1875-1877 timeframe. They door had two openings commonly called portholes. Some people confuse this model with the Seth Thomas Parlor #3. Some people have put Fashion dials on#3 and sold it for a Fashion #1. The clocks are different in that the Fashion #1 is taller, (28 1/4"), has a molding around the door and has a curvature in the base. . While there seems to be no record of the price of the # 1, the parlor #3 sold for $17.50. A couple of unique things that many people do not know about the #1 are that the early 1875 clocks have labels that do not refer to the Southern Calendar Clock Co. They just say made by Seth Thomas Clock Company. They later added the phrase "for The Southern Calendar Clock Company". Also the # 1 came with two dial designs, both in paper on zinc plates. The picture here shows the early, more common design. Late models that were made just prior to the change to the model #2 had a paper dial that was exactly like the #2 design. The first time Hal Jenkins found one of the type 2 dials, he scraped it off because he thought it was not correct. The patent for the trademark of the word "FASHION" was issued to Henry H. Culver on October 11, 1875. The clock pictured above has a modified top. Normally, it is shaped as a low profile pyramid.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 2
This model is still referred to by many as a porthole but it has significant changes to the case. The base was modified, side pillars were added, and a rounded top was completed with three finials. The case was walnut veneer. The patent for the case design was issued on July 16, 1876 to H. H.., L. L.. and W.W. Culver. Many calendar dials were made that states that the clock was patented on July 4, 1876, but undoubtedly, this date was used as a marketing feature to take advantage of the loath birthday of the nation. So you will see two different dates on the #2 calendar dial. The short pendulum time movement and the calendar movement were the same smaller movements as used in the # 1. The movement struck on the brass bell. The dials had the same design as the late # l's but were painted on zinc plates.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 3
Beginning with model #3 and continuing with the other models through #8, there is another significant change to the case. The cabinets were made of the best kiln-dried and most thoroughly seasoned solid walnut. The patent for this case design was awarded to Lucius L. Culver on March 18, 1879. Then on April 8th, he received a patent for clock plates with an arched top and rounded feet described as "massive and tower-like". Another significant change to the case was the addition of a glass door with the word "FASHION" in gold-leaf across the glass between the dials: The short pendulum time movement was much heavier than the #1 and #2 but still struck on the brass bell and had a second hand. The calendar movement was slightly larger. It still had a hole in the calendar hand shaft to retain the hand by using a taper pin.
The pendulum bob was nickel plated with a brass star in the middle. Because of this many people call the #3 the Texas 'model.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 4
Model # 4 - The case and the dials are the same as the #3, except the second bit is recessed and a nickel chapter ring has been added. The movement still strikes on a brass bell. The pendulum bob is changed to a brass bob with a short wooden stick. There is a secret compartment, located on the lower back, held the key and pendulum ball when shipped. (See attached picture). It had one screw fastening the door to the compartment. This model retained the glass door with the gold-leafed FASHION. There are a few variant models of the #4 that were made just prior to the change to the next model with a couple of features that would be on the next model, those being damascening on the bob and the longer version of the word FASHION.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 4T
For many years, this model was not described as a separate model. It was called a variant of the model # 4. Many collectors just called it a 4A or a 4 1/2. However, in Tran Du Ly's calendar hook it is given the designation 4T, the T standing for transition from the #4 to the next model. This model did have several changes from the #3. The dials have a new design. The strike is now on a cathedral gong rather than a brass bell (gong patent was issued to H. H.. Culver on August 7, 1883). The style of the word FASHION is longer. The bob is now nickel plated and damascened. Also the calendar hand is now pressed on with a brass bushing instead of the pin and washer. There is no hole in the end of the calendar hand shaft. The short pendulum movement is similar to the #3 but has a different suspension and an outside fly. Also it has the "secret" compartment on the back like the #4. The clock also had a new style of hands on the time dial that were similar to French hands. Some call them the moustache hands.
Most people that have researched the question think that model 4 T was the last model sold by the original Southern Calendar Clock Company. Models 5, 6, 7 and 8 appear to have been sold by Seth Thomas for several years but the exact time frame and how they were sold is not known as all of Seth Thomas' records for the period were destroyed in a flood. Models 9 and 10 which will be discussed later were sold by a restarted Southern Calendar Clock Company.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 5
The #5 had the same basic case style as the earlier models but with some significant changes. The movement was now a long pendulum movement with a nickel plated damascened bob. The case was deeper as the long pendulum movement hung at the back of the movement. The dials were painted white on zinc plates with a different design that said, "Made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company". The dials were mounted to an inside door that covered the front of the clock. The door could be opened by removing the calendar hand. They clock used the same style hands as used on the 4T. Bezels were also different from earlier models and now had a flat edge. There are also some variants of this model that have dials that say, "Made by the Seth Thomas-Clock Company for the Dixie Calendar Clock Co. or the Fashion Calendar Clock Company". Long pendulum models also came with an instruction card and a wooden form that was fastened to the inside back board to hold the pendulum in place when the clock was shipped.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 6
This model was very similar to the # 5. The main difference was that the dials were black with gold letters/numbers. The hands were nickel plated.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 7 (Flat Top)
This model had a case that was similar to models five and 6 except for the fact that the hood on the top was missing. The dials were white and said "Made for the G. J Pettigrew Clock Co., Fort Worth; Texas. The long pendulum movement was similar to models 5 and 6, but it had an outside fly. The bezels were also curved like the bezels on the 4 T and not the flat sided ones used on the 5 and 6. Also the knob on the lower wooden door will be hidden from view when the outer door is closed. The encased glass door frame had a blind hole drilled in it to accommodate this knob
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 7 (Full Hood) variant
Some people refer to this model as a distinct model. I think it might be better called a variant of the #7 but that is just an opinion. It is basically the same clock as the # 7 except that it has a full hood and the dials will be different. The movement has the outside fly and the bezels will be the curved type. The knob on the lower door will also be hidden. Dials could be the Seth Thomas style, Dixie or Fashion. This model is not shown in any book that I have seen, but it is mentioned in Tran' s narrative on calendar clocks done by Charlie May.
Seth Thomas Fashion Model No. 8
The # 8 is almost the same as the number five except that the dials are different, it does not have a chapter ring for the second bit and the door is inset with two fancy turned buttons. A number of #5s has been made into #8s in years past so caution should be used when buying this clock.
The following information was found on a note inside a No. 7 Fashion
#8 Fashion 8d T&S, Actual cost on Oct 4, 1985 $800.00 + 2 992B, $1000.00 From Ron Harding 425-7361, needed Dials - 75, Mainsprings @8x16, Hands 8, Origional lower unit 250, Finales 37, Rebuilt entire top & arch, Glass origional 60, case work, Bushing 8. #8 "1889" Not made for Southern Calendar Company
These are the major models of the FASHION clocks made by Seth Thomas. There are a couple of pattern clocks pictured in Millers old calendar clock book. Most people think that these may be the only ones of this type. Both are owned by a local collector (Ben Gravolet). One is pictured in Tran's supplement - both in Miller's.
The New Southern Calendar Clock Company
New Haven Fashion Model No. 9
In the late 1890s the company was revived by W. L. Culver, a son of Henry Harrison Culver, and a Mr. Skelton, who had been a supervisor for the original company. They maintained their headquarters in Columbus, Mississippi, but after a few years Mr. Culver discontinued operations and returned to Ohio to sell stoves.
The revived company sold two models during its brief existence. Neither clock was made by Seth Thomas. Some think the success Seth Thomas had selling the #5, 6, 7 and 8 made them unwilling to sell clocks to the revived company. So the new company secured clocks from new makers. The new models are described as follows:
This clock kept the Fashion name and basic case style. The clock was "Made by the New Haven Clock Company for the Southern Calendar Clock Company" as the inside label states. The case was stained hardwood and not as well made as the Seth Thomas Clocks. The half-hood case was lighter and the short pendulum time movement was lighter in weight with no second bit. The calendar was a simple calendar. The dials were painted black with gold letters. The finials were a different design. The word FASHION on the door was silk screened, not gold-leaf and of a different design.
Gilbert "Elberon" Fashion Model No. 10
This model was not made by New Haven. This may be due to the fact that New Haven almost declared bankruptcy during this period of time. In any event, the model 10 was manufactured by the William L. Gilbert Clock Company. The model 10 was a modified version of the Elberon that Gilbert sold under its own label for $11.50. The time movement and the McCabe calendar mechanisms were the same. There were several differences. The glass which usually pictured bird scenes had the word "FASHION" added above the date window and "SOUTHERN CALENDAR CLOCK CO." was added at the bottom of the glass. The pendulum on the Fashion Elberon was a large version of the Gilbert "grape leaf' pendulum that they used on other models. The Fashion Elberon also has a different gong base from the Gilbert Elberon being the rounded type. And the
Main difference that really tells if you have a genuine Fashion Elberon is the label in the back of the case. The Fashion Elberon label says "THE SOUTHERN CALENDAR CLOCK CO." at the top, not "THE WM. L. GILBERT CLOCK CO." The rarity of this clock has caused some people to try to pass the Gilbert Elberon as a Fashion. I would suggest using the label as your standard as it would be the hardest part to reproduce or copy.
FASHIONS BY OTHER COMPANIES
The popularity of the "FASHION" clocks brought several other companies to make similar models. Some collectors only want to collect the Seth Thomas Fashions. Some want only the. Model 1 - 10 that were sold by both Southern Calendar Clock Companies. However some want all of the clocks that say "Fashion".
Some people call this the #11 Fashion but I have never seen a guide book that does so. It was made by the Ithaca Calendar Clock Co. of Ithaca, NY. It is one of the rarer models of Fashion clocks. The case is walnut and was similar in style to the Seth Thomas Fashions except that the case was lighter in weight and the finials were of a different design. It looked a bit like the #9 case made by New Haven. It had a lighter short pendulum movement but did have the Ithaca perpetual calendar movement. Generally this calendar movement is not as dependable as the Seth Thomas or Waterbury movements. The dials were black paper with gold letters and the hands were made of brass and Maltese in style. The word "Fashion" on the door was gold, silk screened and similar in design to the New Haven Fashion. These were made around 1910 and probably few were made as Ithaca CCC was bankrupt by 1917.
The National Calendar Clock Company of Brooklyn, NY sold several clocks with the word "FASHION" on the clock. Two models are the same case style as those sold by The Southern Calendar Clock Co. The National Fashions were made by New Haven.
National Fashion Simple Calendar
This case is stained hardwood and well made. It is much heavier than the #9 and Ithaca Fashion cases. It has a short pendulum New Haven time movement and used a simple calendar mechanism attached to the bottom dial. The dials were black with gold letters/number. Both dials had "Made for the National Calendar Clock Company" in the center. The finials were of a different design used only on the National Fashions. The word "Fashion" is gold silk screened on the door and of the same design as used on the #9 Fashion.
National Fashion Perpetual Calendar
This clock is probably one of the rarest-Fashions. For many years it was not pictured in any guide book and many did not know it existed. It was added to Tran Duy Ly's last update to his Calendar Clock guide book. It is basically the same clock as the other National Fashion except that it has a perpetual calendar movement that New Haven bought from Waterbury. The dials are black with the difference being that the lower dial does not have "made for the National Calendar Clock Co.". It only has a patent date on it. The calendar rolls have white paper, not black.
These companies and their clocks were addressed in an issue of the Fashion Magazine. The company told people to "BEWARE OF JEALOUSY". They said other companies were asserting that they can and will sell the same clock for less money than the price charged by Southern Calendar Clock Company salesmen. The company said they would pay the sum of $l,000 to any person that had purchased a Calendar Clock “Fashion” for1ess money than the price charged by their salesmen, except if it was bought from a person who had bought it for Southern Calendar Clock Company.
They also guaranteed to pay $5,000 to any person that could show a clock with a movement equal in size, weight, style or finish, or durability equal to the Calendar Clock "Fashion". They said they made the guarantee "with Malice toward None and Charity for all".
There is no record that they ever had to pay on these guarantees.
I hesitate to publish information on this model. It is suspect to be a true "Fashion".
Charlie Holland Fashion
This clock was manufactured by a clocksmith craftsman named Charlie Holland, who had a shop in North-West Arkansas. He made forty (40) of this model and donated one to The NAWCC Museum. Each was serialized with a number stamped on the base just under the door, seen with the door open. Upon examining one of these, one would agree that it is extremely fine craftsmanship. He made and sold several of these in the late 1900's. A matching clock shelf was also made and offered with this clock. The movement is of Asian manufacturer, the calendar is of Gale designed Y-type. The above clock SN #28. More information will be added later.
Comments from Charlie May
Notes from Hal Jenkins
Fashion Calendar Clocks by Raymond & Margaret Homer
The Culver Clocks by J. Frederick Lintner
Calendar Clocks by Tran Duy Ly
Pictures and Comments from Talmadge Haley
1 No. 1 Fashion - Seth Thomas
2 No. 2 Fashion - Seth Thomas, (Port-hole)
3 No. 3 Fashion - Seth Thomas, (Texas Fashion)
4 No. 4 Fashion - Seth Thomas
5 No. 4 T Fashion - Seth Thomas, (Fly outside plates)
6 No. 5 Fashion - Seth Thomas
7 No. 6 Fashion - Seth Thomas
8 No. 7 Fashion - Seth Thomas, (Hood Missing, Flat Top)
9 No. 7V Fashion - Seth Thomas
10 No. 7T Fashion - Seth Thomas
11 No. 8 Fashion - Seth Thomas
12 No. 9 Fashion - New Haven, Simple Calendar
16 No. 10 Fashion - Gilbert, McCabe Calendar
13 Ithaca Fashion
14 National Fashion, Simple Calendar
15 National Fashion, Perpetual Calendar
17 Southern Fashion ??? (Suspect)
18 Holland Fashion
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