Chelsea Clock Restores Historic 1918 Timepiece Originally Gifted To Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis

Top Quote America's oldest clock company restores historic clock on permanent display at Morven Park, Leesburg, VA. End Quote
  • Boston, MA-NH (1888PressRelease) March 03, 2012 - Massachusetts-based Chelsea Clock, one of the country's oldest and most distinguished makers of fine clocks, barometers and tide instruments, recently completed the restoration of a Chelsea Clock mechanical timepiece, originally presented to Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis in 1918. The clock, a striking Chelsea Ship's Bell, mounted in the center of an eight-foot-long wooden airplane propeller, is part of a permanent collection on display in the Trophy Room at Morven Park in Leesburg, VA, the former Governor's estate and residence.

    According to Teresa Davenport, Assistant Director of Development and Communications at Morven Park, the "propeller clock" was presented to Governor Davis by a military pilot as a memento commemorating the Governor's first flight aboard a plane on September 3, 1918.

    "Governor Davis was the first Virginia governor to ever fly in a plane," says Davenport. "This highly publicized event was part of a military tournament staged by the United States Army Air Corps at the start of WWI." Newspaper accounts of the historic 30-minute flight report the battle plane left from the Virginia State Fair grounds and circled over the city of Richmond at "an altitude of 3,000 feet to the thunderous applause of 10,000 spectators below."

    Chelsea Clock records indicate that the 6-inch dial Ship's Bell striking mechanical clock was manufactured by the company in the early part of 1918, and was originally sold to the Nowland Company. Unfortunately, no further information is available to trace the sale of the clock from the Nowland Company to the pilot, nor who may have mounted it to the inside of the propeller to create the commemorative gift.

    "It's wonderful to discover that a Chelsea clock played a role in this fascinating historical event," notes Chelsea Clock CEO JK Nicholas. "Our company has an incredibly long and storied history of making precision timepieces for the US military. We are pleased and proud to add this interesting chapter to the Chelsea legacy."

    According to Ms. Davenport, the propeller clock had not been operational for as long as the staff could recall. At some point in its history, a small padlock had been placed on the clock's solid brass case and the key was never found. So no one was ever able to open the bezel and wind the timepiece, which meant, unfortunately, it sat quiet for many decades.

    "But this piece has long been one of the most beloved items in the Park's collection," adds Davenport. As a non-profit organization, Morven Park's ongoing operating expenses and limited budget meant that returning the clock to working order was something we just could not afford. So, when Chelsea Clock offered to restore this piece, we were delighted. It is now back in its place of honor, keeping perfect time and once again inspiring admiring comments from our visitors."

    Master clockmakers at Chelsea Clock spent several weeks carefully restoring this timepiece to its original working condition. First, technicians removed the padlock using locksmith tools to access internal mechanisms. All parts and gold-plated brass gears were removed, cleaned, calibrated, and oiled and then carefully re-assembled. The clock's original mainspring was removed and replaced with a new one, and the Ship's Bell patented chiming mechanism was adjusted. Finally, the clock was tested for two weeks to ensure proper operation and accuracy. At the request of Morven Park, the exterior of the nickel-plated brass case was not refurbished, opting rather to retain the authenticity and weathered look of this vintage piece. (See attached images of stages of the restoration process.)

    About Morven Park
    A National Register Historic Property, Morven Park was for 40 years the home of Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis. More than 75,000 people visit Morven Park each year, enjoying entertaining and educational programming at its three museums and multifaceted equestrian center, and experiencing its beautiful scenery, historic gardens, sports fields, and hiking trails, all within its 1,200-plus acres.

    The public is invited to events in every season, including Civil War reenactments, equestrian competitions, festivals, and hands-on learning programs.
    Morven Park is a non-profit organization, 501(c)3, operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation. Its mission is to preserve and advance the ideals of Gov. Davis, offering programs that reflect civic-minded leadership, sustainable agriculture, and the conscientious use of open space for the public good.

    About Chelsea Clock
    Founded in 1897 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Chelsea Clock is the oldest clock company in America, and one of the most renowned and respected makers of fine timepieces. The chimes of the Chelsea Clock Ship's Bell, originally designed and patented in 1898, have long alerted U.S. Navy sailors and worldwide mariners to the time during their "watch," earning the company a distinguished reputation for producing authentic, high-quality nautical timepieces.

    Today, Chelsea Clock continues to produce a broad range of nautical and heirloom quality clocks, with styles ranging from the company's renowned Ship's Bell to classic reproductions and contemporary timepieces. The company's wide range of fine products is available through marine merchants, specialty shops, jewelers and gift stores, as well as online at Chelsea Clock is also the country's largest branded clock repair facility, providing repair and restoration services for all makes and models of clocks. For more information about Chelsea Clock, call 1-866-899-2805
    or visit

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