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Mystery how this clock keeps time

Mystery clocks have been popular since the 18th century. The clock seems to have no mechanism, yet keeps time.

One of the most famous is the "swinging-arm clock." A tall classical figure, usually bronze, holds some long rods with a pendulum bob on the bottom and a ball with a clock face on the top. The pendulum swings back and forth and the clock keeps time.

These clocks were made for display in jewelry-store windows because their motion attracted customers. One famous example was made by the Ansonia Clock Co. of Ansonia, Conn. It is known as "Gloria." The winged figure of a woman in a revealing draped dress holds the large clock ball in her right hand.

How the clock works is not really a mystery. The clock mechanism is inside the ball. When wound, the pendulum moves back and forth for about eight days. Ansonia made these clocks in the early 1900s using different figures, including "Huntress," "Juno" and "Fisher." The Gloria clock sold for $5,175 at a recent James D. Julia auction.


Q: I was hoping you might be able to give me some information about my maple chair. It has a padded back and seat. I was told it is a "cricket chair," but I don't know what that is.

A: A cricket chair is a small armchair or rocker with a back cushion and padded seat. The padded seat usually has a drop skirt. The chair has turned legs and posts. Nobody knows why it's called a cricket chair.


Q: My family has owned a cast-iron mechanical bank for more than 60 years. I understand it originally cost about $40. The base of the bank is titled "Hometown Battery." On the base's platform there's a baseball pitcher, batter and catcher. You put a coin in the pitcher's hand, press a lever and the coin is pitched past the batter and into the catcher's coin slot. Embossed on the bank's bottom are the words, "Reproduced from Original in Collection of The Book of Knowledge." What is the bank worth?

A: Several thousand "Book of Knowledge" reproductions of 30 19th-century American cast-iron mechanical banks were made between 1957 and 1972. Yours is a copy of a bank originally titled "Darktown Battery," which featured black ballplayers (the players on your bank are white). The original bank, patented in 1888, was made by J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn. The copies, made by Grey Iron Casting Co. of Mt. Joy, Pa., were cast from originals, so they are slightly smaller than the original banks. The originals used as models for the copies were in a collection assembled by Grolier Inc., publisher of a children's encyclopedia called "The Book of Knowledge." That's how the reproductions got their name. A reproduction bank like yours sells today for $50 to $100.