- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Stuart Vance and his wife, Mikeel “Mike,” are in good health. But at ages 85 and 81, it is only natural that they have given some thought about their estate and how their possessions will be divided once they pass away.

The Starkville couple has already settled on how they will dispense of one household item, a 45-year-old Herschede Grandfather Clock purported to be the finest ever built.

“We have four kids,” Stuart Vance says, as he sits in the dining room of his Starkville home. “You do the math.”

The Vances have solved this dilemma.

They gave the clock to the whole state.

On Oct. 27, the Vances delivered the timepiece, whose value is estimated to be between $60,000 and $125,000, to Jackson, where it occupies a place of honor in the Governor’s office in the state Capitol.

“We just felt it needed to be somewhere where people could see it,” Vance said. “It’s not just a beautiful clock, it’s a clock built in Mississippi by Mississippi workers. When the governor entertains distinguished visitors or company executives looking to relocate to Mississippi, what better example can there be? This clock is proof that Mississippi workers can learn the skills needed to build the best product a company can offer.”

Gov. Phil Bryant said he is pleased to accept the donation on behalf of the state.

“I am grateful to Mr. Vance for his extraordinary donation to the people of Mississippi,” Bryant said in a statement. “This clock is a testament to the artistry that makes our state so special, and it will now stand in our Capitol for generations to enjoy.”

Herschede history

The story of “The Clock” can be traced to the late 19th century with the founding of The Herschede Hall Clock Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio. In its heyday, just before the Great Depression, demand for Herschede Clocks made it one of the most-desired clocks in the U.S., with the company opening showrooms in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

But in the post-World War II years, the company fell on hard times. Plagued by labor issues and higher taxes, the company began looking for other options.

In 1959, the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, something of a precursor to today’s Golden Triangle Development LINK, recruited the Herschede Hall Clock Company to Starkville, where it moved into a factory next door to Vance’s furniture company. It began operations in May 1960.

The move did not cure all that ailed the company, however.

Times were changing. The formal living spaces that featured fine grandfather clocks were less and less prominent in new homes.

In the mid-20th century, grandfather clocks were becoming a relic of a bygone era.

Roughly 10 years after the Herschede Wall Clock Company relocated, Vance and some associates in the furniture business, bought the company and the clock-building resumed under a new company called Arnold Enterprises.

Vance and his partners sought to re-invent the company with the goal of building the finest grandfather clock ever built.

In 1970, two prototypes of “The Clock” were put on display at the famed St. Moritz Hotel, where it drew rave reviews.

Vance purchased “The Clock” after the exhibit. It has adorned the foyer of his Starkville home for the past 42 years.

Between 1970 and 1984, when the company was sold to Brunswick Co., roughly 2,500 to 2,700 clocks were built in Starkville. The clocks retailed for $3,000, on average.

Brunswick soon sold off the clock-building operation. For a brief period, the Herschede Hall Clock company resumed production, making about 20 clocks before ending operations for good.

‘A nod to tradition’

Although it’s been more than 25 years since the last Herschede Clock was built, Vance says his love and appreciation for the clocks has not diminished.

“To me, it’s a nod to tradition,” he says. “Today, people just don’t have that appreciation. And, of course, it’s hard to find people who have the skills to work on those clocks. It’s becoming kind of a lost art.”

Vance hopes having “The Clock” displayed at the Capitol will rekindle interest in the beauty, workmanship and fine detail of an earlier era.

“Today, everything is done by robots,” he mildly complains. “But when you look at this clock, you see the kind of workmanship and craft that a robot can never really duplicate. And that almost all of the work was done by people right here in Mississippi that says something important, I think.

“We will miss the clock, but really, I can’t think of a better place for it to be.”

Features of ‘The Clock’

Dimensions: 87 inches tall, 24 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep.

Weight: Approximately 400 pounds.

Movement: Herschede 9-tube movement, circa 1967.

Chimes: Triple chimes are Westminster (an exact duplicate of the Westminster Abby chimes), Canterbury (designed for the company by the famous pianist) and Whittington.

Chime tubes: Nickel-plated and 1.5 inches in diameter larger that conventional clock chimes and finished in highly-polished brass.

Cabinet: Beveled-glass doors and sides.

Wood: The cabinet is made of Acacia burl veneers over Obeche wood. Native to Australia, Acacia burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner, and when finished properly, gives the appearance of a 200-year-old antique wood. The veneers are small pieces and are hand fitted over the core. Obeche, is a tropical wood native to the ivory coast area of Africa. It is a lightweight wood with minimal knots. Chosen for use in The Clock because of strength/weight/straightness.

Dial: 14-carat gold plate, hand-engraved. The moving moon dial features seven different colors of silk screening.

Trim: More than 125 feet of hand-fitted brass.

___

Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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