The Clock Strikes Twelve
by Bruce Johnson
We don’t hear a great deal about the Shop of the Crafters, a unique Arts and Crafts furniture company active in Cincinnati from 1902 until 1908. Its founder and director Oscar Onken began by making picture frames and mirrors, but soon expanded into a line of Arts and Crafts furniture, often featuring delicate inlay, pyro-burned decorations, carvings, keyed tenons, cut-out designs, and splayed legs. Many of his designs are credited to a long-time employee and possible business partner John K. Smith. His inlays are attributed to noted Arts and Crafts designer Paul Horti.
Oscar Onken’s first known advertisement featured six photographs, four of which were clocks. Onken must have had a personal preference for clocks, as his catalogs always contained several examples, ranging from small mantle clocks to tall case clocks.
One of our readers was fortunate enough to find a signed model included in the 1902 catalog and labeled as the “Old Holland Clock.” The catalog description states: “It is very quaint, both as to construction and ornamentation, and is attractive because of its difference from all other clocks. It has been used chiefly in old Dutch wine cellars in Holland . . . and is suitable for a club house, restaurant, office, public building, or strictly a den in a private house.”
One of the partial labels on the back still contains an illustration of the firm’s shopmark: a lantern hanging from a rustic post. This is a good example of how even a fragment of a label can still serve as an identification
A second label provides specific instructions for setting the clock, but, as you can see, critical information was lost when part of the paper label disappeared.
Our reader is hoping that someone who either has an intact clock label or who knows clock works can help him fill in the missing information, as it does seem rather specific.
If you can help, please send us an email and we will forward it to him.
– Bruce Johnson
Your best source of information: “Oscar Onken and The Shop of the Crafters” by M. J. McCracken and Michael McCracken, available from The Parchment Press and Turn of the Century Editions. www.turnofthecenturyeditions.com