Who Was Eli Terry?

Eli Terry-1772 – 1852

If you ask most people who Eli Terry was, the answer will most always be "a clock maker." But Eli Terry was more than just a clock maker. He was born on April 13, 1772 on Main Street in South Windsor, CT, which was then a part of East Windsor. Eli Terry was a leader in mass production. Through his inventive genius and craftsmanship, he created the American clock industry as we know it today.

The trade of clock making in 1786, though useful, was not very busy. It was a one man, one clock at a time craft, and certainly not an industry.

But on November 26, 1797, President John Adams signed Eli Terry's first patent. It was the first clock patent issued by the United States Patent Office. This patent was for Eli Terry's "equation clock" and by 1801, Eli Terry was employing two or three people in his store. They were able to produce one or two dozen tall wooden clock movements at a time.

In 1802, Eli Terry put waterpower to work in what is now Thomaston, CT, and the manufacture of clocks by waterpower for wholesale trade began.

Finally, in 1807, Eli Terry signed a contract with the Porter brothers of Waterbury, CT, agreeing to convert 4,000 tall wooden clock movements, dials, and hands into finished clocks. This contract launched Eli Terry into mass production.

From 1814 on, Eli Terry began increasing the supply of these clocks he had successfully mass produced, and five years later he was producing 6,000 clocks a year at $15 a clock, complete with case.

Thus, Eli Terry must be recognized not only as a famous clock maker, but he must also be credited in large measure to having created the American clock industry.


South Windsor Public Schools    1737 Main Street    South Windsor, CT 06074    Phone: 860.291.1200   
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