Genealogy Trivia: How Did Grandfather Clocks Get Their Name?

What do you think of when you think of grandfather clocks?

Grandfather clocks are typically beautiful, large and elegant clocks that can really put a room together. 

History of Grandfather Clocksgrandfather clock

The first grandfather clock was created around 1680 by British clockmaker William Clement. Although many clock sizes, shapes and styles can be considered a grandfather clock, they are typically tall-style designed with an anchor escapement system that requires a lot less motion in the pendulum mechanism than other clocks using similar technologies of the time.

How Grandfather Clocks Got Their Iconic Name

In 1875, Henry Work, an American songwriter, staying at the George Hotel in North Yorkshire, England noticed a large clock in the lobby. Asking the hotel management about the clock, he learned about the unique history of the clock. It’s said that the pendulum clock previously belonged to the former owners who had since passed. The clock was said to have stopped at the exact time the last owner passed.

This story inspired him to write a song based on it called “My Grandfather’s Clock.” The lyrics were about a clock that was “taller by half than the old man himself” and that “stopped short – never to go again  – when the grandfather died”.

Over a million copies in sheet music were sold and eventually, “Grandfather clock” became the iconic name attached to this clock style inspired the song.

Listen to the song!

Grandfather Clock Heirlooms

We know of family heirlooms as items that are passed down from generation to generation. A grandfather clock might be a very common item that is passed down given their size, beauty, value and sentimental history.

Do you have a grandfather clock in your house? Is there one that holds special memories in your family? Tell us the story of your grandfather clock in the comments!