• Document: TREND. Sligh Clocks. and. In the twentieth century Zeeland, MI, became a hotbed of clock. by Andrew H. Dervan, FNAWCC (MI)
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TSligh ClocksREND and by Andrew H. Dervan, FNAWCC (MI) I n the twentieth century Zeeland, MI, became a hotbed of clock manufacturing after the founding of Colonial Manufacturing Co. in 1906. Colonial Manufacturing Co.’s success spawned other clock-manufacturing companies in Zeeland. This article is about a small family-owned company, Trend Clock Co., that successful- ly manufactured and sold clocks for 30 years, competing against much larger companies until Sligh Furniture Co. purchased it in 1968. Sligh Furniture bought the company as the demand for grandfather clocks was increasing dramatically in the late 1960s and grew Trend Clock Co. into a major clock-manufacturing op- Figure 1. eration until the grandfather clock market declined in the early Small banjo twenty-first century.1 clock. Company Founders Trend Clock Co. was founded by Gerrit van Tamelen and his son, Gordon, in 1937. Around 1908 Gerrit had started at Colonial Manufacturing Co. as a band saw operator and worked his way up to foreman. He took leftover wood scraps from work and ex- Figure 2. Circular case clock, Morgan. 226 • May/June 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org Figure 4. Hexagonal wall clock. Figure 3. Spiral column shelf clock. perimented with ways to make small clock cases or wood products. In 1926 he left Colonial and moved to Herman Miller Clock Co., where he worked ini- tially in the shop and then as a manager for machine and cabinet rooms as well as a designer. Gordon also worked part time at Herman Miller, where one of his jobs was bandsawing clock hands. By 1936 the father and son observed that Herman Miller Clock Co. was not doing well financially because of the continuing Depression, so they started their own company.2 Company History Jan van Tamelen, Gerrit’s brother, suggested the name “Trend Clock” to Gerrit because it sounded “modern.” Gerrit and son Gordon started the busi- ness in their basement at 57 Central Ave. in Zeeland www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • May/June 2016 • 227 Figure 6. Miniature grandfather clock. Figure 5. Unsigned painted dial clock similar to the nineteenth- century German shield clock. and later moved into their two-car garage and the attached chick brooding shed. In the summer of 1937 they developed an initial line of five mantel clock models with electric move- ments from Hammond Organ Co., which had patented a se- ries of electric motors for clocks.3 In the early fall of 1937 Jan traveled to large department stores in the Midwest to promote Trend’s clocks. He secured orders for Trend’s mantel clocks from Marshall Fields in Chi- cago, J. L. Hudson in Detroit, and several other stores in Mid- west cities. The company completed and delivered the clocks just in time for Christmas in 1937. An early Trend difficulty was financing, because setting up a business in the late 1930s was expensive while the country 228 • May/June 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org was still recovering from the Depression. Sell- ing its clocks also was difficult, because clocks carried a 20 percent tax, which was not speci- fied, so many were sold in stores on consign- ment. Originally, Gerrit designed the products, but he realized he needed some training, so he took some design courses. Gordon took two years of commercial design, which was help- ful when he succeeded Gerrit as Trend Clock’s clock designer (Figures 1-9).4 In 1941 the company switched to Sessions electric movements, because the Hammond movements were not self-starting. During World War II there was a movement short- age, so the

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