The Great Detroit Clock

August 2017

There seems to be a paucity of ingenious Bicentennial projects, especially compared to the ones that flourished during the 1816 Centennial. Consider, for instance, Felix Meier, a Detroit clockmaker who, imbued with the spirit of the time, produced this masterpiece. He spent ten years constructing his clock, which stood eighteen feet high and weighed two tons. It indicated the time in thirteen cities, as well as the day, month, season, the signs of the zodiac, and the revolutions of the planets around the sun. There was one movement that was repeated only once every eighty-four years. But most remarkable was the scene enacted hourly. According to the sonorous prose that accompanied this engraving, a mechanical figure representing Washington “slowly rises from the chair [ beneath the canopy ] … extending his right hand, presenting the Declaration of Independence. The door on the left is opened … admitting all the presidents … including President Hayes. … Passing in file before Washington, they face, and raise their hands as they approach him, and walking naturally across the platform, disappear through the opposite door. … Washington retires into his chair, and all is quiet save the measured tick of the huge pendulum.…” This marvel was called to our attention by the president oj the Saul Ash Company of Madison Heights, Michigan. The company reproduces unusual and important graphics on cloth. Unfortunately the Detroit clock has vanished, and Mr. Ash has offered to supply a framed print to the ßrst five readers who can tell us of its fate or whereabouts .