Postcard History: The Clement Clock

By Carla Charter

MONTPELIER,VT. – In the lobby of the Vermont Historical Society stands a large timepiece, 13 feet tall and 4 feet 9 inches wide. The story of the clock and the mystery behind its creation is a fascinating tale.

This much is known about the clock. The timepiece was probably created sometime between 1875 and 1900. It was hand carved of English Oak.  It was part of a group of clocks placed in a number of hotels in England during the turn of the century.  “The clocks were meant to tell stories, there was an inside story for those who created the time piece,” according to Stephen Perkins, Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society.

It’s a mystery as to who made it, when it was made and the story it is trying to tell.   “The face is labelled 1720 but it is absolutely not that old” he said.  “On one part of the clock there is a carving of Queen Anne and King George I who succeeded to the throne after Anne. There is also a carving of the Crest of the House of Hanover, which George was part of. Anne and George lived in the 1720 era, the clock was made much, much later,“ Perkins said.  Research on the clock has been going on since it joined the historical society collection

So how did such a large mysterious clock come to be in Vermont?  Governor Percival W. Clement purchased the clock in England shortly before WWI broke out, according to Perkins.  “Clement was a wealthy businessman who owned a number of hotels. He saw the clock in a hotel in Chester, England. He liked it and bought it, with the intent of putting it in the Hotel Woodstock in New York City, which he owned.”

Due to the war, the clock was not shipped until 1919. At that point Clement no longer owned Hotel Woodstock. However, he was Governor of Vermont, being elected in November of 1918 and serving from 1919 to 1920. The clock was shipped to him and he placed it in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office in the Vermont State House and left it there after he left.

Clement died in 1927. His family decided in 1944 the clock should belong to the Vermont Historical Society located next door to the statehouse. It has resided in their lobby ever since.  “It doesn’t really have to do with Vermont History…but it has been here so long everyone associates it with the society. “