The text and images below were provided by Canadian clocks expert Jim Connell. Jane Varkaris also did some of the original research for the book that they co-authored in 1986. The book details are provided at the bottom of this section.
THE CANADA CLOCK COMPANY
Whitby, Ontario (1872-1876)
History of the Company
The Canada Clock Company is of considerable historical interest, because it was the first attempt to produce clocks in Canada using factory methods. It was begun in 1872 by three brothers: William, John, and Edward Collins. The plant was equipped during the latter months of 1872, and limited production began in January 1873. William Collins appears to have been the initial investor. John Collins, listed as Manager, was in charge of technical matters and production, while Edward Collins appears to have simply been an employee in the plant.
Later in 1873, William Collins attempted unsuccessfully to attract more investment capital. At that point John Hamer Greenwood, Mayor of Whitby, invested money hoping to secure the clock factory as a permanent Whitby industry, and William Collins withdrew. Production in the balance of 1873 and 1874 appears to have been somewhat successful, and 30-hour OG (OGEE) clocks were shipped in some (unknown) quantity.
Unfortunately, in early 1875, Mayor Greenwood, now company President, was forced into personal bankruptcy, having overextended his finances. The factory, valued at $45,000, had to be sold to satisfy creditors. In April 1875, another prominent Whitby personality, Col. James Wallace, assumed financial responsibility for the clock factory. At once he made vigorous efforts to secure additional business for the firm. Calling himself Proprietor, he met with some success but appears to have been handicapped by insufficient capital. His efforts to sell the going company, or attract new partners, came to a sudden end in December 1875 when a serious fire damaged the factory.
The fire stopped all production, but there appeared to be no serious damage to the machinery. There was some insurance coverage, but not enough to cover the losses suffered by Col. Wallace. At this point, he was left with a quantity of clocks and empty cases, which he then cleared out in two auction sales in 1876 and 1877. He advertised that some of the clocks were fitted with movements obtained from the Ansonia Clock Company (this is the only known time that clocks were sold either in Whitby or later in Hamilton with imported movements).
This ended all efforts to manufacture clocks in Whitby. Back in April of 1876 he had been successful in selling the machinery and other tools to investors in Hamilton, Ontario. These investors were James Simpson, a wholesale grocer, and George Lee, who was also active in the food business. They formed a new company, The Hamilton Clock Company, to resume production of clocks and were able to expand the business. John and Edward Collins also went to Hamilton, where they helped set up the new company. John was appointed Mechanical Superintendent.
The Hamilton Clock Company was reorganized in 1880 and re-named The Canada Clock Company Limited, now based in the same Hamilton factory. The stories of these two companies are described in two other sections of our web site Galleries.
The Clocks Produced at Whitby
The only clocks produced in quantity were 30-hour OGs with weight-driven, time & strike movements. This simple style of clock was still popular at the time in Canada, after its original introduction in the United States in the 1840s when the first brass movements became available in North America, and they sold well. It was similar to American production OG clocks and did not change during the four years of activity in Whitby.
Two examples are illustrated here.
This is a typical example of regular OG clock
production in Whitby, from about 1874.
This clock came from one of Col. Wallace’s
clearing auctions and contains an Ansonia movement.
The case is an end-of-line item, with no veneer on the curved surfaces. This deficiency is concealed by a coat of dark varnish. The clearing auction notices also mentioned a number of other case styles to be sold. Few of these have survived, but we can show two examples of experimental (?) cases that contain Ansonia spring-driven movements. These case styles were not produced by the successor companies.
A simple clock with spring movement and Whitby label.
This example is similar to the previous, except for the bevel top.
The Labels on Whitby Clocks
Four label variants have been found and are shown here. These reflect the many changes in management that were described above.
This was the first label used at Whitby. No company officers
or place name are shown, possibly because an effort was being
made to sell the company to new investors. Note the image of
a beaver (a Canadian symbol even back then!) – facing left.
The second label in time shows J. Hamer Greenwood as President,
and John F. Collins as Manager. The beaver now faces right.
In the third label, the name of James Wallace
as Proprietor replaces Greenwood.
The fourth label was used in the clearance clocks
with Ansonia movements after factory production ceased.
The names of Wallace and Collins again appear,
but the BEAVER is gone.
Movements Used at Whitby
As noted above, only one movement type (30 hour time and strike, weight-driven) was actually produced at Whitby. There were, however, a few evolutionary changes made as time went on and these are shown here.
Research indicates that the Collins Brothers made a close copy of the
OG movement used by the Waterbury Clock Company in Connecticut.
A comparison of the two movements is shown above (Waterbury on the left).
This is the first movement made at Whitby.
It is distinctive because the upper plate was held on the posts
by bent wire pins. The escape-wheel bridge slopes downwards.
In this second variant, the metal pins have been
replaced by brass nuts to hold the upper plate.
(Waterbury movements never used brass nuts).
The third and last known variant continued to use
brass nuts, but the escape wheel bridge is now
mounted in a horizontal position.
Included here as a matter of interest is the Ansonia movement used
by Col. Wallace in 1876 / 77 to clear out old Whitby OG cases stock.
Whitby movement plates were usually (but not always)
marked with this company stamp.
For further reading see the following book:
The Canada and Hamilton Clock Companies, Jane Varkaris & James E. Connell, Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ontario 1986 (out of print).