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As It Was: Watchmaker Pieces Together Old Clock and Player Organ

In 1964, a Medford, Ore., watchmaker, George Grabow, found a basket in an old barn that contained pieces of what turned out to be a tall mahogany clock, mixed with pipe-organ parts.

Grabow had seen lots of clocks in his day but this mixed pile of parts was intriguing.  After careful study he decided that the grandfather clock must have included a player organ.

Painstakingly, he restored each piece and slowly reassembled the clock.  Grabow had found pictures of similar clocks in Europe, but the Allentown inscription indicated Pennsylvania clockmakers made it in the early 1800s by piecing together parts made by individual craftsmen.  The owner’s name, Abrease Quintins Durwal, was on the back.

The finished clock was 7 feet tall, and had a painted face around the roman numerals.  A separate handle wound up the music box, which played several tunes on the pipe organ as mechanical figures came out to play their instruments in time with the music. 

Grabow considered it the restoration job of a lifetime.


Source: Hamilton, Eva. "A Musical Grandfather's Clock Is Restored by Local Resident." Medford Mail Tribune, Oct. 1965.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.