This clock sits atop the Van Wert County Courthouse. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
This clock sits atop the Van Wert County Courthouse. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – The four-sided courthouse clock on top of the Van Wert Courthouse is rich in history, especially from that of its notable maker, E. Howard, of Boston, who founded one of the best-known clock-making shops in America at the time.

Information found indicates that Howard was a clock-making apprentice of Aaron Willard, Jr. and commenced business with David P. Davis in 1842. The united business manufactured high-grade wall clocks. They also became known for their manufacturing of sewing machines, fire engines and precision clocks.

Then, in 1843, they included a third partnership with Luther Stephenson and began also manufacturing tower clocks, the beginning of such clocks in America.

Things changed in 1857 when David Davis left the firm and Howard and Davis’ business was dissolved. The next year, Edward Howard finished and sold left over material from the Boston Watch Co. under the name of Howard and Rice. Then, in 1858, after the demise of the Boston Watch Company, the pair acquired some of the material and watches in progress, based upon a lien against the defunct company held by Rice. Soon after, Howard bought out Rice’s interest and concentrated on high quality watches based on his own unique designs and eccentric production methods.

While the company changed names several times during the firm’s watchmaking history, all watches it made continued to be signed as, “E. Howard and Co.” throughout, with only minor exceptions,

On March 24, 1861, the clock and watch businesses were combined into one joint stock corporation, the Howard Clock and Watch Company, which failed in 1863. From there on, Howard formed a new company called the Watch and Clock Company, on Oct. 1, 1863. It was this phase of company history that was responsible for manufacturing the Van Wert clock which was installed in 1875 and still stands new the tower top to keep time for our city at night.

By that time, E. Howard was installing clock towers around the country including courthouse clocks in Saline County, Illinois, Sioux County, Iowa, Wrigley Building in Chicago, Saint Stephens Evangelical Lutheran Church of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs.

One of the best known clocks is the one installed in the First United Methodist Church in Westfield, New Jersey, with a clock mechanism that controls the two clock faces and a 2,048 pound church bell that rings hourly.

In 1904, the two clock manufactured by E. Howard Clock Company, was installed in the cupola of the Eureka, Ill. Courthouse in Woodford County, a clock appreciated by President Ronald Reagan when he attended college there.

One of the unique claims of the local clock is that it is four-sided and continues to reach out to the community with correct times these days, now 143 years since its installation.