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Tall-Case Clock


2019.ast.32.1: This is a solid walnut wood tall case or grandfather clock, with a dark varnish and highly ornamented pediment on the clock’s head. A pediment is carved with the initials C.A.C (Clarence Augustus Chant) in an Arts & Crafts style. The rear of the clock is plain and undecorated.

The clock’s face is metal, painted beige and is hand-painted with a 12-hour dial with Arabic numbers around the rim. In the centre of the face there is a small ridged disk, also painted beige, and hand-painted around the rim with numbers 1-12. The face has three metal hands fixed to a rod in the centre of the face.The face is protected by a glass window hinged on the left; this is decorated with wood carving depicting foliage. There is a round hole in the face with the end of a square peg visible beyond it.

The body is decorated by long raised rectangular mouldings. The base of the case is broad and square. A set of two identical keys connected by a paperclip (2014.ast.32.2) open and close locks on the right hand side of the clock. This allows the clock to be locked or unlocked for maintenance.

The interior of the case is open from the top to the base of the clock. On the right hand side there is an open wooden box which contains wooden gears and pulleys, including a wheel wrapped with a length of string. Affixed to the front of this there are some metal components. There are three holes in the back of the case in a line just below this box. Below this, there are a series of slightly curved scratches.

On the other side of the case interior and affixed to the wall, there is a small wooden container for a cylindrical object, which is empty. Just above this, there are two paper labels written by C.A. Chant. The tags state the clock maker’s name and location of fabrication and date. The second tag, located below the first, records its refurbishing in 1921.

Two cylindrical brass weights with loops at one end (2014.ast.32.3 and 2014.ast.32.4) have been removed from the clock, along with two wooden pulleys (2014.ast.32.5 and 2014.ast.32.6) a long rod component (2014.ast.32.7). The winding key (2014.ast.32.8), which is silver coloured and has a square peg slot on one end, is also kept separately.

Accession Number: 2014.ast.32.1-8

Alternative Name: Grandfather Clock

Primary Materials:

Wood, Metal: Copper Alloy, Glass, Metal: Tin, Natural Fibres (String)


Carved on the pediment: “C. A. C.” “1896” “1896”

Painted on the face: “H. B. CHANT”

There are two labels glued to upper-left interior panel. The first label states: “The first works and the case were made by Herman B. Chant in 1896. New works and the striking part were made in 1920-21- being completed in June 1921”, signed “C.A. Chant, 201 Madison Ave., Toronto, June 1921”.

The second label reads: “In February 1940 the works were reconditioned by Jerry Smith, Richmond Hill”.

Dimensions (cm):

Length = 50.5cm, Width = 26.5cm, Height = 232cm


The tall-case clock was the clock in the Director’s House at the David Dunlap Observatory (Elms Lea). The clock served as a functional house clock until the 1950’s.


Good: The overall condition of the clock’s case is very good. The clock’s varnish shows natural lightening from age, and exposure to light. The original varnish would have been much darker to suit the choice of walnut wood. The wood of the clock does not have any odor or water-damage, it is dry and shows no signs of warping. The clock head is in overall good condition. The left oval ornament on the face carving is loose, and can be rotated. There is moderate wear, where the varnish has been removed, along the ridge of right-side molding on door. The varnish is worn in three locations on the left upper and lower molding ridges.

The interior of the case is in poor condition. Several key components of the clock are missing, including the pendulum and some mechanical elements. The string has been cut and is dangling beneath the mechanism box. The natural fibre of the string is fraying in places. There appears to be some water damage inside the case.

Other components:
2014.ast.32.2 (Keys): The keys are oxidized over their surfaces, although less so on their ends. The paperclip that links them is also oxidized.
2014.ast.32.3-4 (weights): The clock weights are stored separately from the clock. Both have spots of corrosion around their bodies and around the base. One (2014.ast.32.3) is badly dented on one side of its base.
2014.ast.32.5-6 (pulleys): The two wooden pulleys are worn and dirty, but in good condition. The metal sections are oxidized and dulled, but not corroded.
2014.ast.32.7 (rod): This component has a brass section, which has small spots of corrosion on its surface, and a narrower iron section; this is badly rusted along its length.
2014.ast.32.8 (winding key): The winding key has spots of rust over its surface, moreso on the handle than on the key portion, where a shiny surface has been worn off.

Associated Instruments:

Manufacturer: Herman B. Chant, Clinton, Ontario

Date of Manufacture: 1896


The first owner of the tall-case clock was Dr. Clarence Augustus Chant, director of the David Dunlap Observatory. It appears to have been in his possession in 1921 where it was likely located at 201 Madison Ave., Toronto. It was then used by Chant as furnishing for the Director’s House at the Observatory, a 19th century farmhouse called Elms Lea, from the mid-1930s. The clock remained as a personal furnishing of the Observatory Director’s House, Elms Lea, until it was transferred to the Department of Astronomy after Dr. Chant’s retirement. However, it remained at the Director’s house at the Observatory through all the subsequent directors.
Professor Emeritus of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Director of the DDO from 1988 to 1999 Ernie Seaquist remembers the clock being in the house during his time as director. At that time, it was not functioning.
In 2017, the clock was moved to a new storage location at the McLennan Physical Laboratories Building, on U of T’s St. George campus.
Ernie Seaquist was interviewed on April 16, 2021

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes:

The clock was made in 1896 for Dr. Clarence Augustus Chant, first director of the David Dunlap Observatory, and was a gift from Chant’s eldest brother, Herman B. Chant, who lived in Clinton, Ontario. Herman Chant trained as as cabinetmaker under his father, and later went onto work at a Clinton pipe-organ firm, W. Doherty & Co.. This was one of at least two clocks he made, which Clarence Chant describes in his memoirs (c.1951):

“[Herman] became a very skilful and resourceful workman. Before he was twenty he constructed a big clock with wooden wheels, some a foot across, which kept excellent time. It was exhibited at Markham Fair in 1879. Seventeen years later, he built for me a superior clock in a beautiful tall walnut case. In 1921 he made some improvements in the works and added a striking section. It has been an ornament to my home and has been running perfectly ever since.” (pg 28-29)

It was in Chant’s possession in 1921, and then it was then used by Chant as furnishing for the Director’s House at the Observatory in Richmond Hill, a 19th century farmhouse called Elms Lea, from the mid-1930s. Following Chant’s retirement, the clock was given or bequeathed to the Department of Astronomy at the University of Toronto.