When Lew Wallace created his iconic Study in Crawfordsville, he spared no expense. Although we haven’t yet found any evidence, tradition suggests the stained glass was done by Tiffany & Co. The firm that would become synonymous with fine American craftsmanship began as a stationery and fancy goods store in New York City in the 1830s. By the 1870s, Tiffany had become the nation’s premier silversmith and purveyor of jewels and timepieces.
We do know for certain that Lew commissioned at least two items from Tiffany. One was a sterling silver ring created to secure an ivory cap on a walking stick. The walking stick was made from a sapling he cut down in the 1890s. (The sapling was growing on the site of his 1862 encampment at Stoney Lonesome, near Shiloh.)
The second item Lew commissioned still stands proudly in the Study just where he placed it in the 1890s, and continues to mark the passing minutes and days. Visitors are often taken by surprise when Lew’s clock announces its presence, and always remark on the beauty and elegance of the piece.
The free standing, weight-driven, pendulum clock stands eight feet tall and is surmounted by three brass finials. It can run silently or mark the time with either Westminster or Whittington chimes. It features a highly ornamented, revolving scene showing the phases of the moon. A small clock face that marks the seconds is located within the larger silver and brass face. In addition to the minute and hour hands, a third hand marks the day of the month. Lew even sent wood to New York so Tiffany craftsmen could match the quarter-sawn white oak used for the Study trim, doors, and bookcases!
The clock chimes every fifteen minutes and marks the hour with impressive gongs. Chiming on the quarter hour was a relatively new and expensive innovation in Lew’s time. It demonstrates his commitment to securing the finest embellishments available for his Study. It’s also a reflection of his personality. Lew was always interested in the latest technological advances.
The chiming sequence requires three heavy weights instead of the customary two. The left weight runs the hour strike, the middle weight runs the pendulum and general timekeeping, while the right weight runs the chiming sequences.
This clock appears in many of the historic images taken inside the Study. We are pleased to report that over 100 years after Lew’s passing, it continues to keep excellent time. Surely the quality of Tiffany craftsmanship, decades of care by museum staff, and careful maintenance by Crawfordsville’s legendary clock master Hubert Danzebrink have helped this elegant clock maintain its faithful service to the Study.
Don’t forget: This evening we have a great evening planned at Crawfordsville High School! Come out to the auditorium at 6:30 pm to meet Indy Eleven soccer players and get autographs. At 7 pm Wallace scholar and author Gail Stephens will speak on “Lew Wallace Battles Slavery, Secessionism, and Lee’s Bad Old Man.” After the lecture, we will have a reception with birthday cake from the Darlington General Store to celebrate Lew’s 187th birthday!
If you can’t join us for the event, be sure to follow us on Twitter @wallacestudy, where we’ll be live-tweeting the evening with the hashtag #CivilWarLecture. We can’t save you any cake, but we can at least tell you how good it is! ;)