The relationship between antique clocks and music

When you think of antique clocks the first thing that comes to mind is probably not music.  Sure, the swinging, rhythmic motion of the pendulum does have a bit in common with the mathematical parts of musical composition, but it’s not enough of a correlation to establish a firm relationship between clocks and music.  However, there is a very direct relationship between them, and it has nothing to do with the swinging of the pendulum in a clock.  Instead, the relationship between music and antique clocks has everything to do with how the most iconic type of clock got its name, the antique grandfather clock.

The Grandfather Clock Was Not Named by A Clockmaker

If you were to take a guess as to how the grandfather clock got its name, you’d probably guess that it had something to do with a clockmaker, and you would be wrong.  Prior to 1875 grandfather clocks had a few different names, the most common of which was a large case clock.  By this point the design was refined, so the clock had reached its final form, but the name grandfather clock had not been attached to it yet.

The Grandfather Clock Was Named by A Songwriter

It wasn’t until 1875 that a grandfather clock was called by its most famous name.  How did this come about? It was in 1875 when famed American songwriter Henry Clay Work was on a visit to England and he stayed at the George Hotel in Yorkshire.  While there he was captivated by an old, long case clock that he saw in the hotel lobby.  The clock was intriguing, but he was told that it had not worked in years.

Originally owned by the Jenkins brothers, the prior owners of the hotel, the clock began to have problems once one of the brothers passed away.  The clock began to lose time after having functioned perfectly for many years.  When the second brother passed away the clock stopped working altogether immediately after his demise, and never worked again after that.  When Henry Clay Work asked why a repairman had not been called, he was told that all efforts to repair the old clock had failed.  Inspired by this story, he wrote, “My Grandfather’s Clock”, and the song was a major hit.  Due to the popularity of the song long case clocks were soon called grandfather clocks, and the name has stuck with them ever since.