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Early Clocks

Gothic Clocks The first mechanical clocks were made in about 1300. They were very large clocks often in church bell towers, These clocks were powered by falling weights and regulated by a “foliot”, which is a beam, pivoted at the centre and oscillating in the horizontal plane. These clocks had no minute hand and sometimes […]  Continue Reading »

European Wall Clocks

From the beginning of the 18th century, French clock making enjoyed a revival. French clocks were always designed firstly as decorative furniture and only secondarily as timepieces.. The French version of the longcase clock looks like a mantle clock standing on a pedestal. French “cartel” clocks were wall clocks in an elaborate frame of highly […]  Continue Reading »

Vienna Regulators

These popular clocks of the last quarter of the nineteenth century were neither regulators nor always from Vienna. True regulators are clocks designed to achieve the highest possible precision. Vienna “regulators” give the appearance of being precise because they have a second hand. However, because of their short pendulum, the second hand rotates in 45 […]  Continue Reading »

Longcase Clocks

The theory of the application of pendulums to clocks was worked out in 1658 by the Dutchman Christiaan Huygens but was first commercially exploited by the English clockmaker John Fromanteel in the same year. Early English pendulum c locks were either spring-driven “bracket” clocks or weight-driven “hooded wall” clocks, which look like the top of […]  Continue Reading »

American Clocks

A few longcase clocks were made in America in the 18th and early 19th century. These  were similar to provincial English longcase clocks, or had wooden movements similar to Black Forest clocks. Early in the 19th century, the “wag on the wall” became popular. This was a weight-driven wooden clock with a pendulum swinging in […]  Continue Reading »

Mass-produced French Clocks

During much of the nineteenth century the French mass-produced small, round clock mechanisms which they fitted into an enormous variety of cases. These were the best quality mass-produced clocks of the time.    Antique French clocks available now(Clicking on an item of interest will open a new window)  Continue Reading »

Pocket Watches

From about 1620, the English began manufacturing pocket watches. (Pockets had been introduced in men’s breeches about fifty years earlier). In contrast to the earlier Continental watches, the English “Puritan” watches were housed in completely plain cases, usually made of silver and, of course, were carried in the pocket whereas earlier watches were usually worn […]  Continue Reading »

American Watches

Americans were the first to mass produce watches. Edward Howard and Aaron Dennison founded the Waltham Watch Company in 1850. They designed machinery to mass produce watches and created a company which continued to do so until 1950. Another American watchmaking company which survived for over a century was founded in 1864. The National Watch […]  Continue Reading »

Swiss Watches

Up to 1835, the Swiss clock and watch making industry has been based on cottage manufacture of components with hand assembly in a factory. In that year, the Vacheron and Constantin factory in Geneva was converted to mechanised production. In 1842, another Geneva manufacturer, Patek-Phillipe (founded in 1839), produced the first watch with a shaft […]  Continue Reading »


The American Lewis E. Waterman is usually credited with inventing the fountain pen in 1884. However, although Waterman certainly manufactured the first reliable leak-proof fountain pens, there were numerous earlier designs and patents. The oldest known surviving fountain pens date from 1702. They were made by M. Bion for the King of France. Waterman’s pen […]  Continue Reading »

Medical Instruments

A variety of medical instruments are considered collectable, particularly types which are no longer used. A variety of bottles and jar associated with medical practice, including those for storing bulk drugs and lotions (apothecaries jar), those which held patent medicines and those in which medicines were dispensed to the public (pharmacy or drug store bottles) […]  Continue Reading »


The barometer was invented in 1644 by the Italian Evangista Torricelli who discovered that the height of a mercury column that could be supported by atmospheric pressure varied between 28 and 31 inches (71 and 79 centimetres). As it came to be recognised that atmospheric pressure could be used to predict the weather, barometers became […]  Continue Reading »


The telescope was invented in Holland in about 1608. It is usually ascribed to Hans Lippershey, a spectacle maker, who applied for a patent based on the observation that placing a concave and a convex lens in a tube magnified distant objects With at least two other Dutch inventors of similar devices at about the […]  Continue Reading »


In about 1610, the Dutch lensmaker, Hans Jannisen, and his son Zacharias made an instrument consisting of a pair of lenses mounted in a sliding tube, which is regarded as the first microscope. The addition of a condenser lens to concentrate light on the specimen, a specimen stage and controls for moving the tube came […]  Continue Reading »


An astrolabe is an elaborate instrument for measuring angles of slope. They were used by astronomers, navigators and astrologers for predicting the position of stars and planets and for determining local time or latitude. Astrolabes show how the sky looks at a specific place at a given time. An astrolabe consists of a disk which […]  Continue Reading »


The first writing machine was patented in England in 1714 by Henry Mill but was never put into production. It was not until 1874 that the American gun manufacturer, Remington, began manufacturing a practical typewriter designed by Christopher Sholes, Samuel Soule and Carlos Glidden. This machine had a keyboard with four rows of keys, the […]  Continue Reading »

Mechanical Calculators

The first mechanical adding machine was made by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal in 1645. This had a number of interconnected wheels, each with ten teeth representing the digits. Numbers were added by advancing the appropriate wheels. The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz extended to Pascal’s machine to doing multiplication by repeated addition. The […]  Continue Reading »


In 1873, Alexander Graham Bell, a professor of vocal physiology, obtained financial backing for an invention that he was working on from Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a lawyer, and George Sanders, a businessman. The proposed invention was a “harmonic telegraph” which would transmit several morse code messages simultaneously at different frequencies. Bell used some of the […]  Continue Reading »

Cash Registers

 In 1879, James and John Ritty patented a device to register transactions mechanically in order to stop pilfering in James’ saloon in Dayton, Ohio. The machine worked but did not sell. In 1884, the Ritty’s sold the patent to John H Patterson who set up a company, National Cash Register, to improve and market the […]  Continue Reading »

Sewing Machines

The first patent for a sewing machine was taken out by the British inventor Thomas Saint. His machine was designed to sew leather and canvas but never went into production. In 1829, a French tailor, Barthelemy Thirmonnier, built the first practical sewing machine. When he installed 80 of his machines in a factory, they were […]  Continue Reading »


In 1839, Frenchman Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype, a light-sensitive metal plate on which an image could be permanently fixed. In 1840, Englishman Henry Talbot developed a process of recording a negative image which could be transferred onto chemically sensitised paper. This meant that many copies of an image could be produced and Talbot’s process […]  Continue Reading »

Music Boxes

From the 14th century, church bells were sometimes automated. The principle was extended to clock chimes and, by the 17th century, to pocket watches. The first music boxes appeared in about 1810. These were plain wooden boxes enclosing a cylinder mechanism. The basic mechanism of these early music boxes was a rotating cylinder with a […]  Continue Reading »


When public broadcasting began in the early 1920s, the most widely available receivers were crystal sets. Crystal sets could only be listened to through earphones and required a long aerial which was usually strung us in the garden like a clothes line. Tuning was very difficult; the crystal had be touched at exactly the right […]  Continue Reading »

Record Players

The first machine able to record sound was the phonautograph, devised by a Frenchman, Leon Scott de Martinville, in 1855. The device recorded sounds on smoke-blackened paper wrapped around a cylinder. Unfortunately, there was no way to replay the sound. The phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, recorded sound on cardboard cylinders covered in […]  Continue Reading »


Coin-operated electric phonographs with a choice of records became available in the 1920s. They were called jukeboxes from “jook-joint”, black American slang for a dance hall. Early jukeboxes had simple wood veneer cabinets until 1937, when Paul Fuller designed the Wurlitzer Model 24, featuring backlit moulded plastic. Soon the other major manufacturers, Seeburg, Rock-Ola and […]  Continue Reading »

Wind Instruments

The origins of the flute can be traced back over 20,000 years and is possibly very much older. In the Baroque era, flute were made of three sections. The modern flute began to take shape in the 1760s when an extra length was added and ivory rings were added to reinforce the mounts. From 1770 […]  Continue Reading »

String Instruments

The lute was originally an Arabic instrument, introduced into Spain by the Moors. It was an important instrument throughout Europe by the 15th century but was progressively replaced by a number of variants, particularly the theorobo and the chitarone, and by the guitar. The lute has a pear-shaped body with a broad neck and fingerboard. […]  Continue Reading »

Early Plastics

Ebonite The first semi-synthetic material was ebonite. In the early 1840s, Charles Goodyear manufactured a very hard, black rubber compound, also containing sulfur and linseed oil, called “ebonite”. (The material was once also called “vulcanite” but that name is now reserved for the mineral vulcanite.) Some uses of the material included fountain pen bodies, combs, […]  Continue Reading »