Antique Pearson Ship's Bell Clock

In 1913 the Chelsea Clock Company donated a rare clock to the Brooklyn Naval Branch Y.M.C.A. located at 167 Sands Street. A 12” Pearson Ship’s Bell Clock was presented to the Brooklyn Navy chapter by Mrs. Charles H. Pearson, the wife of Charles Pearson, the first to operate the clock company under its current name, Chelsea Clock.

This 12” Ship’s Bell Clock, currently for sale as part of Chelsea Clock's Vintage Collection, is among the rarest antique Chelsea Clock known to exist - The clock’s appeal is due to traits seldom seen in clocks today. Along with its unique dial size of 14.5”, the case and bezel were cast in red brass, creating a unique subtle tone to the piece. The face is characterized by one of the original Chelsea Clock logos that began with a fluid capital “C.”

Chelsea Clock Pearson Ship's Bell Clock 12" Pearson Ship's Bell Clock, 1913


The clock was housed inside the building with the external bell probably placed outside. Motivated by the automatic movement of the clock and electricity, the bell attached by wires to the top of the clock would strike in synchronization with the clock’s striking. Its distinct chime was probably heard throughout the neighborhood.

Chelsea Clock restored the clock to its original form, with the internal elements composed of the original pieces made almost 100 years ago. And the external bell was cast during the same time period. The cracks on the hand painted face validate the clock’s history.

Specifically why Mrs. Charles H. Pearson dedicated the clock to the facility and its members is not well known, although it could be due to the Boston connection to the Y.M.C.A. and the company’s storied relationships with the navy. What is known is that the clock is part of a donating legacy of two prominent New York women that held lavish lawn fêtes to raise funds for the Y.M.C.A. attended by thousands of who’s who in New York society including world class marines and lead historic commissions that are part of the building’s history.

The Brooklyn Naval Branch, Y.M.C.A

The Brooklyn Naval Branch, Y.M.C.A. (1905). Photo courtesy of NYPL.ORG

When Mrs. Russell Sage acquired her miser husband’s fortunes after his death in 1906 she became one of the richest women in the country. Although Russell Sage did not afford his wife the luxury of purchasing fine goods reflective of the couple’s wealth, earned during New York’s Gilded Age, ironically with his death her life endeavor became that which he scoffed at: expending his accumulated finances of $70 million dollars.

She was one of the country’s most notable philanthropists and created the Russell Sage Foundation which still exists today. With her friend and confident Miss Helen Miller Gould, her husband’s railroad business partner’s wife, she was about town at commemorations and dedication events centered on their high-priced donations.

In particular there was one event which Gould attended as a proxy of Sage “the dedication exercises” at the Brooklyn Navel Branch Y.M.C.A. in 1909. The building purchased by Gould in 1902 for young “jack tars,” as seamen were lovingly nicknamed before World War I, was extended with the addition of a gymnasium courtesy of a gracious $350,000 donation from Sage. Today it is a residence that still holds its original ornamental navy façade. The first American chapter of the Y.M.C.A. was built in Boston in 1851. It was founded by a group of Evangelists from local churches led by Sea Captain and Preacher Thomas Valentine Sullivan. The organization opened their facilities in Brooklyn a couple of years later. Today the Y.M.C.A. is a place for families, but at that time it was a safe haven for sailors, far from family and possibly friendless, offering recreation, housing and swim facilities.