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The History of Cuckoo Clocks

Although the exact date remains a mystery, it is commonly thought that cuckoo clocks first made their appearance around 1730 in the Black Forest area of Germany. To this day, even with all that has come along with modern experience, skill and technology, no other clock or timepiece has made the lasting impression that the Cuckoo clock made at the time of its introduction. Although there are a number of conflicting stories about who actually made the first cuckoo clock, the invention is generally attributed to a gentleman by the name of Franz Anton Ketterer, from the town of Triberg.

The first cuckoo clocks were entirely made out of wood, including the internal plates and gears. As time went on, the inner workings and decorations of the clocks became more sophisticated and ornate. The birds wings and beaks became animated, and some were even decorated with feathers. The inner workings of the clocks were improved with the introduction of metal gears and metal plates. Soon family scenes, hunting scenarios and military motifs gained in popularity, all accentuated with the cuckoo call on the half hour and on the hour.

All of the early cuckoo clocks were handmade including the inner timing mechanisms as well as the ornate decorations. The farmers in the Black Forest would spend the winter months making hand crafted cuckoo clocks from the local resources in their surrounding environs which gave the clocks their distinctive, rural look. The clocks were then sold during the warmer months both as timepieces and as works of art.

As the world became more industrialized in the late 1800s, the cuckoo clock industry was no exception. Cuckoo clock manufacturing houses dotted Germany and various other countries in Europe. It was still partially a cottage industry, with work being done in peoples homes and barns, but there were also a growing number of factories. The work was split between the decorators and the masters of the inner workings, with technological advances in each area in order to offer clocks increasingly complicated and ornate and keep up with the growing competition. In the relatively small village of Triberg, it is estimated that by 1850 there were some 13,500 people engaged in some part of the manufacture of cuckoo clocks, working for over 600 different manufacturers, and all because Mr. Ketterer managed to duplicate the sound of a cuckoo bird!

About the Author

Cuckoo Clocks Info provides detailed information on Black Forest, antique, and quartz cuckoo clocks, as well as parts, repair, movement, kits, manufacturer reviews, and advice on where to purchase discount clocks. Cuckoo Clocks Info is the sister site of Grandfather Clocks Web.

Written By: Kristy Annely

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