Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)
Baier, Joseph G.
Mathias Schwalbach: Milwaukee's master mechanic, inventor, and tower clock maker, pp. 20-24
union. Above all, we find the products of his firm on nu- merous towers of churches and public institutes in Wis- consin. Mr. Schwalbach is a long-time member of the par- ish of St. Joseph in Milwau- kee, and he is a member of several Catholic organiza- tions. A picture of the clock manufac- tory accompanies another refer- ence to Schwalbach in Milwaukee of To-day, The Cream City of the Lakes, published in 1893. One of the best skilled me- chanics in Milwaukee is Mr. M. Schwalbach, manufactur- er of the Star church and tower clocks, models, etc. Mr. Schwalbach, who was born in Germany, where he learn- ed his trade, came to the United States in 1856 and five years later located in Mil- waukee. Since 1870 he has been established in business, and for a time at 1002 Ga- lena Street, removing six years ago to the building now occupied at 426 Ninth Street, which he owns and built. It is 22x60 feet in dimensions, two stories high with basement, and made conspicuous by a tower and clock. Every facili- ty and convenience is provid- ed for all purposes of busi- ness, including a five horse- power s t e a m engine. Mr. Schwalbach manufactures to order large clocks for churches, towers, school- houses, public buildings, etc., and executes work for all parts of the country. He also manufactures all k i n ds of small machinery, also large and small wood and metal models, and attends to repair- ing. He is popularly known throughout this section, and is the leading recognized rep- resentative of his line of busi- ness in the Northwest, having secured several gold medals. In the Industrial History of Mil- waukee, published in 1883, on page 150, along with a picture of one of the Schwalbach movements, is the following: Math. Schwalbach, Manufac- turer of Tower Clocks. 1002 Galena Street. This clock is an improvement on Church Despite the fact that he is most often associated with his work in developing the typewriter, Mathias Schwalbach made many major contributions to the art of manufacturing church and tower clocks. (Photo courtesy of Elmer Schwalbach.) and Tower Clocks. The in- vention greatly simplifies the construction of this kind of clocks, and correspondingly cheapens the price, and at the same time increases the reli- ability of the clock and dura- bility of the work. Any one can keep this clock in good order. The clock is seven feet high, four feet wide, and three and one half feet long. The striking part pulls a hammer from thirty to forty pounds; the quarter striking part from twenty to thirty pounds. Pen- dulum ball scales one hun- dred and twenty five pounds. Other references to the tower clock and associated interests of Mathias Schwalbach are to be found in advertisements such as that in the Erinnerungsblaetter aus der Geschichte der St. Josephs- Gemeinde, published in 1905 as a part of the golden jubilee of the congregation. In that advertise- ment, on page 180, not only is there a reproduction of a clock movement, but in addition it is stated that window frames and ventilators are made to order and automobiles are made and repair- ed. Mathias had many interests and specialities, and was even get- ting ready for the horseless buggy. The most important item un- covered was a copy of the Illus- trated Catalog of M. Schwalbach & Sons, Manufacturers of Church and Tower Clocks obtained through the courtesy of John Loehrer of Milwaukee, a grandson of Mathias. The catalog was print- ed around 1907. Its twenty-four pages describe the several clock models available for purchase and include testimonials certifying their reliability as timepieces. Some fifty- five clocks, identified according to model type, are recorded by city, state, and building, giving the name of the pastor or building owner at the time of installation. Of the clocks listed, nineteen are located in Milwaukee and suburbs; sixteen are in Wisconsin outside of the Milwaukee area; and twenty clocks are to be found in ten ad- ditional states, as far west as Ore- gon, and as far east as New York state. The listing shows the extent of the work of this small manu- factory, small in comparison to the E. Howard and Seth Thomas companies so well known to horologists as tower clock manu- facturers. The Schwalbach catalog de- scribes the many innovative fea- tures and special details associated with each type of movement, whether designed for time only, for time and hour strike, or to include a third train of wheels for quarter-hour strike. According to the catalog: The Star clock is built of the best material. The shafts are made of steel and are polish- ed. All gearings, wheels and pinions are cut gears. Every piece is made of the best ma- terial and is tempered hard where it is necessary. Three large brass wheels. The pen- dulum is 8 feet long. The clock pulls a hammer up to 60 pounds for the hour strike on two or three bells, every quarter hour. The quarters on two bells it strikes as fol- lows: the first quarter it strikes one on each belL one 22
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