Categories: Business and Industry, Eli Terry, Imagining Connecticut, Invention and Technology, Plymouth
Workers at the Eli Terry Clock Factory 1850
Connecticut manufacturer Eli Terry was born in 1772. He began working with clocks at age 14. Around the year 1800 Terry began applying the revolutionary practice of manufacturing interchangeable parts. A mechanical genius, Terry created his own machinery to apply the concept to clocks using waterpower. He opened the first clock factory in America in Plymouth, Connecticut, using this newly designed machinery. Through Terry’s mass production of clocks, he was able to drastically decrease their cost, making them affordable to the common man. He routinely produced between 10,000 and 12,000 clocks each year. Several times Terry sold out to his partners and then opened new factories; all were contained in the town of Plymouth of which Terryville (named for Eli Terry, Jr.) was a part. Terry retired from the manufacturing business in 1833, and handed the firm over to his three sons. However, he continued to devise better mechanisms and methods for clock making until his death in 1852. Because of innovative factories such as Terry’s, Connecticut is thought to be the “Silicon Valley” of the 19th century.