Restoring the M.R. 1750 public clock: History, analysis, experimentation, and re-creation

Steven W. Dykstra, Donald Saff, and Lee W. Badger


When the M.R. 1750 tower clock mechanism was acquired for a specialized private collection, examination revealed that it had alterations and adaptations that left it in barely in working order. The problems included a shortened pendulum and missing parts for hour strike and quarter-hour strike operation. Restoring the clock to full and complete working order required horological analysis and the skills of an artist-blacksmith.

The authors present a brief history of timekeeping machines of this type, providing contexts and precedents that determined and informed the clock’s restoration. They explain detection and correction of the clock’s operational deficiencies including the pendulum modification and calculation of the correct pendulum length. Prototype replacement parts were created to adjust and test mechanical details of the missing pieces. To avoid anachronistic appearances in the functional restoration, modern materials, methods and techniques were used to imitate the style and patination of the existing 18th c. work. The authors also address differences between stringent conservation and preservation treatment goals and those that primarily seek to restore a mechanical object to operating functionality.

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2006 | Providence | Volume 13