Clocks at Winterthur Museum


The 2016 Ward Francillion Symposium will be held October 6 – 8, 2016, at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, DE. The symposium is sponsored by the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors (NAWCC) and will focus exclusively on the museum’s horological pieces.

Winterthur is one of America’s top-rated house museums and boasts a premier collection of 90,000 decorative and fine arts objects made or used in the USA between 1640 and 1860.

A lineup of eminent speakers will address important clocks and watches in the collection, highlighting their makers, regions, craftsmanship, and cultural significance.

The public is welcome and registration is open to all. For more information click here.

Visit the NAWCC Museum Collection From Your Home


Did you know…

BLOG-NAWCC-#2_explorecollectionyou can visit the entire collection at the National Watch & Clock Museum from the comfort of your own home? With a click of your mouse or a touch of your finger, you can explore the Museum’s online database containing thousands of objects and images.

You’re invited to join Museum Director Noel Poirier for a “how-to” on using the Museum’s Online Collection Database. The event takes place on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 7pm EST.  There is no charge for the webinar.

After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Be sure you view system requirements before logging on to confirm that you’ll be able to access the program. This information will be found in registration link and registration confirmation. If you can’t attend this webinar live, and would like to view a recording of it,  just register for the webinar and you will be automatically notified when a recording is available.

Register online here. For more Information, or to register, contact Katie Knaub: (717) 684-8261, ext. 237 •

The Vienna Clock Museum


Take a tour through sheer beauty and ingenuity at the Vienna Clock Museum in Austria. Every clock, old as it is, on exhibit in the museum, is still ticking away, even the one dated as far back as the fifteenth century. Now that is amazing! Watching the video (it’s 8 minutes) was not only a walk back in time, but also an aesthetic experience because of the clocks’ intricate details and the range and originality of these artisan’s imaginations.

I was particularly impressed with the eighteenth century astronomical art clock with thirty dials, lunar eclipses and a calender that calculates to the year 9999. There’s also a very close view of the seventeenth century tower clock mechanism that was once in the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. How would you like a hanging bed clock that can be read from above and below? It’s there too and a lot more. You’ll see a large variety of timepieces that I think could be called masterpieces.


The Bily Clocks Museum, Spillville, IA.

Bily Clocks Museum and Farmer Clock Makers


Bily-Brothers-sepia-2-posingWithout nails or screws or training, and with homemade glue, the most unexpected and marvelous thing happened. Frank and Joseph Bily, a pair of bachelor brothers, carved and crafted some of the most beautiful, unique, intricate timepieces ever designed by untrained hands. For almost forty five years, from 1913 to 1957, when they weren’t busy running their family farm in northern Iowa, they carved and carved.

What you’re going to hear next, though, is what makes their story, not just unusual, but also stirring, heartening and thought provoking. They never sold the clocks, bily-2-constance-not even one, not even when in 1928 Henry Ford, the automaker who had an affinity for clocks and music boxes, upon hearing about their eight foot, five hundred pound American Pioneer History Clock, had offered them an astounding million dollars! Instead, they wanted to keep the collection in tact and stored in their barn.

Whoever wants to see them can come to Spillville, the brothers had said. Why did they say this? Well, if you go to Spillville, Iowa today to the Bily Clocks Museum, you’ll hear the director of the museum answer that question; Carol Riehle tells the tourists that the Bily brothers made the clocks for their sister and brother. It was the finest charity at work. Their older brother was mentally and physically impaired and couldn’t speak, and whenever he heard the sound of clocks he was beside himself with joy. If it made him happy, then the brothers were happy too. In the beginning, Frank and Joseph had never set out to make clocks, only to carve, but their brother’s happiness convinced them to take their carvings and put the clocks inside them. Their Bily-2-Indians-iowa-public-televisionyounger sister Anna stayed at home with the older brother always, even when the family went to church. The clocks were to be her inheritance so that when Frank and Joseph died she would have an income and would be able to continue caring for herself and their brother, if he outlived them.

You may be thinking that her income was to come from the sale of the clocks, but no. When the brothers said people could come to Spillville to see their clocks, people did, thousands of them, and the family gave tours and charged an admission fee of ten cents per person. Anna would hold out her apron and the coins were dropped in. She stored the money in tobacco tins and that money was to be her inheritance. But, Anna died suddenly from pneumonia. And their older brother had died before her. Bily-clock-2BW-image.httppostcardy.blogspot.com_Frank and Joseph were so devastated at Anna’s passing that they no longer wanted to go on with the clocks. They would burn them. They lit a fire. First, they put in some statues and wood scraps, but a neighbor, who had seen the blaze, talked them out of it. Purchase a building in town, he suggested and move the clocks there. That they did in 1947 and bequeathed the entire collection to the town with the condition that after their death the entire collection stay housed together and never be sold.

Their generosity continued–after the brothers sold their house and moved to town, the new owners of the house found the tobacco tins in the attic filled with the money that had been collected from the admission fees. Frank and Joseph let the new owners keep the money, since Anna had passed away and there was no longer a need of it.

If you go to the Museum today, you’ll hear these and more wonderful stories including about how the family was inspired by Elizabeth Fry, a wealthy English Quaker who, in the 1800’s, visited prisons and used her wealth to feed and cloth needy women and children. She had no interest in accumulating money for the sake of it. Bily-high-res2-Detail-of-the-History-of-Travel-ClockThe brothers felt the same way and were content with the income from their farm and the extra earnings from odd carpentry jobs and clearing snow off county roads. As a tribute to Elizabeth Fry, they carved a clock in her honor.

Join thousands of visitors each year to see the collection that captures a wide range of moments in history, from the Apostles, to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, to pioneers and Native American Indians. Many of their clocks have meticulous carvings with fully animated wooden figures, chimes and music boxes. Be prepared to look up as  some reach over nine feet tall.

Bily-2-violin-shaped-clockAlso, in the museum on the upper floor is a dedication to Antonin Dvorak, the famous Czech composer who lived there with his family composing his work during the summer of 1893.

The museum is open daily May through October, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sundays 12:00-4:00. In April-November, Saturdays only from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. From January through March, the museum is closed. You can find out more about the museum by calling them at (563) 562-3569. Their website is

“When visitors come here,” Carol said, “almost everyone is astonished when they see the clocks. And when they hear the story about the the fire, people gasp. Some say they weren’t really expecting much, but when they see the clocks and hear the stories, they’re captivated.”

The legacy of the Bily family is a reminder of what is important in life, but sometimes forgotten. Theirs is an enduring testimony to kindness and to honoring what is irreplaceable and beyond value.

In 1913 when two brothers quietly took their mother’s treadle sewing machine and modified it to make a scroll saw, for which, by the way, they were later forgiven, something happened in the world– love and charity entered it more fully. And the fruit carries on.

These excellent videos have detailed close ups of some of the Bily clocks and plenty of interesting commentary.


NOTE: The segment on the clocks begins after 1 minute into the video.

Have you ever visited the Bily Clocks Museum? Let us know!



TOP – The Bily Clocks Museum, Spillville, IA.

Photo #1 – The Bily Brothers –

Photo #2 – American Pioneer History Clock –

Photo #3 – Iowa Public Television

Photo #4 –

Photo #5 – History of Travel Clock –

Photo # 6 – Violin clock honoring composer Antonin Dvorak

The Clock Route Of The Black Forest



What if you knew there was a vacation spot that combined your love of clocks with breathtaking scenery, German tradition, delicious cuisine and historic sites? Well, there is such a place. Up high on the mountain range in the southwest region of, bordering the Rhine River, sits an expansive carpet of trees known as the Black Forest. It’s a  place filled with myths and fairy tale settings, where if you were ever to cross paths with a hobbit or a team of dwarfs, that’s where it could happen.

Easy Exploration

You can be one of the millions of visitors who stroll through the Forest each year. When you’re there, you’ll find a series of travel routes throughout the region that make it easy to explore at your own pace. A-Black#2-Forest-MAP-black-forestEach route journeys through places that are linked by a common theme; among the most popular routes are the Romantic Route along the Rhine River, the Schwäbisch Baroque Route and the circular shaped Clock Route known in German as “Deutsche Uhrenstrasse.”

Sites, Sounds and Smells

The path of the Clock Route is a circular, so any town along the way is a proper starting point. The route road is a packed tour of discovery and runs about about 320 kilometers through an immense variety of sites, sounds, smells, culture and history. You’ll encounter picturesque towns and A-black#2-forest-myfamouscastles-blogspot-comquaint villages with shop signs of wrought iron, hotels, inns, guest houses and restaurants that serve local specialties like smoked ham and streamed trout… and of course Wild Cherry German Schnapps. The route takes you through many scenic charms of the Black Forest – half-timbered farmhouses with wooden shingles, crystal clear streams, lakes and waterfalls, lush meadows, winding valleys and thick forests of dark green. Then there are the ancient castles, monasteries and Roman baths, skiing in the winter,  hiking in the summer, and a diverse selection of health and wellness resorts. The more you know about this remarkable place, the better it sounds.

A-Black3-Forest-cuckoo-sample-rh4571Yet, with its amazing lineup of impressive attractions, one of the biggest reasons tourists head to the Black Forest is the allure of the humble cuckoo clock. In fact, the charm of the cuckoo clock has played such an important role in shaping region’s history, that the clock has long standing been a symbol of the Black Forest and it’s 300 years old tradition of clock making. What better introduction to that tradition could there be than a jaunt down the German Clock Route?

As you journey the route you’ll find small clock making workshops, state of the art factories like Rombach and Haas and Anton Schneider, and clock painting studios. You’ll be able to observe, first hand style, clock smiths working their craft, from beginning to end; and by the time you’re done you’ll have a greater insight into the art and science A-Clock-Paintingof German clock making.

World’s Largest Collection

Along the entire stretch of the Clock Route,  you’ll also encounter so many fascinating places, rich in tradition with a story to tell. One of those places is Furtwangen. Your camera will be busy in this small picturesque city, which for a long time, has been the largest clock production center in the region. It’s also the home of the world famous German Clock Museum (“Deutsches-Uhrenmuseum”.) A-Black#2-Forest-antique-deutsches-uhrenmuseum.deBut get ready, because they have the world’s largest collection of A-black-antique-wrought-museum-furtenwagen-ironGerman clocks – over 4,000 of them. So, you might want to set aside some extra time to Frühe Kuckucksuhr, Schwarzwald (?), 2. Hälfte 18. Jahrhundert.take it  all in. The museum began as an idea of Robert Gerwig, the headmaster of the first clock maker’s school founded there. That was in the mid nineteenth century. In his foresight, he urged the people to keep and collect the old hand-carved wooden clocks that would eventually become the beginning of the German Clock Museum. And if you want to behold the landscape from a high vantage point, take a climb up the Furtwangen’s observation tower for a magnificent view.

Where The Cuckoo Clock Was Born

Not far from Furtwangen is the beautiful holiday retreat spot of Schonwald, the place where by popular and traditional belief, clock master Franz Kellerer devised a clever mechanical system using two small bellows and wooden whistles, much like the pipe organ, to reproduce the familiar two-note call of the cuckoo. The year was about 1740, and that was the birth of the world’s very  first cuckoo clock. on the route, you’ll come to Schwenningen, formerly the biggest clock-making town in the world. There you’ll find the Museum of Clock Industry housed in an old factory building. It’s well worth your visiting time, especially if you’re interested in the history of the alarm clock and industrial clock. There is also a health spa, clock workshops, an ice skating rink and the International Aircraft Museum. It’s a town with plenty of character.

When you come to the beautiful town of Schonach, you’ll see and hear the largest cuckoo clock in the world. And if you’re a hobby clock maker or looking for replacement parts for old clocks, you’ll find Trossingen to be a paradise with over 10,000 clock building items. But let’s not forget about grandfather clocks – in the towns of  Lenzkirch and Lauterbach you can take in some excellent exhibits featuring a number of stately grandfather clocks and their German history. And in the village of Simonswald, known for its cuckoo clock production, you can also experience its folklore evenings,  jewelry making, old world mills and its many restaurants dating back to the 15th and 16th century.

Ketterer devised a clever mechanical system using two small bellows and wooden whistles, much like the pipe organ, to reproduce the distinctive two-note call of the cuckoo. – See more at: you come to the beautiful town of Schonach, you’ll see and hear two of the largest cuckoo clocks in the world. And if you’re a hobby clock maker or looking for replacement parts for old clocks, you’ll find Trossingen to be a paradise with over 10,000 clock building items. But let’s not forget about grandfather clocks – in the towns of  Lenzkirch and Lauterbach you can take in some excellent exhibits featuring a number of grand (stately) grandfather clocks and their German history. And in the village of Simonswald, known for its cuckoo clock production, you can also experience its folklore evenings,  jewelry making, old world mills and its many restaurants dating back to the 15th and 16th century.

Want to see an  A-Black#2-Forest-travel-Triberg-waterfallsimpressive collection of antique Black Forest clocks and  barrel organs? You can at the Black Forest Museum (“Schwarzwaldmuseum”)  It has the largest collection of barrel organs in Europe. The museum is located above the entrance to the beautiful Triberg waterfalls, the highest in Germany.  A-Black#2-liveauctioneers-organWhen you arrive at the entrance to the falls in the morning bring a bag of peanuts with you –  you’ll find a whole lot of squirrels waiting for a second breakfast.

So if you’ve been thinking of a new place to visit on your next vacation, Germany’s Black Forest could be just for you. We’ve touched on just some of the attractions; there are so many more.

In the meantime, you can take a “guided tour” of the Black Forest in just two minutes…

by watching this video of the Black Forest. One of its stops is Staufen, a charming medieval  town with cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, located along the southern trunk of the forest.  Enjoy!



Photo Credits:

Large Top Photo #1 – View Of Valley With Clouds –

Photo #2 – View Of River Through The Trees –

Photo #3 – Map Of Germany –

Photo# 4 – Liechtenstein Castle –

Photo #5 – Rombach and Haas Cuckoo Clock

Photo# 6 – Artist Painting Clock Faces –

Photo #7 – Antique German Shield Style Wall Clock –

Photo #8 – Antique Wrought Iron Mantel Clock –

Photo #9 – Antique German Cuckoo Clock –

Photo #10 – Small Black Forest Town –

Photo #11 – Waterfall in Triberg –

Photo #12 – Antique German Barrel Organ –

Video Credit:

A Walk In The Woods –