Cuckoo Clocks – A History

Early in the 17th Century many years before clocks were being carved in the Black Forest, Philipp Hainhofer (21 July 1578 – 1647)a merchant, banker, diplomat and art collector in Augsburg, wrote about a cuckoo clock which was owned by Prince Elector August von Sachsen. Clocks Shop This is the first known description of a Cuckoo Clock. At that time Europe was in the middle of a weather phenomenon known as the “Little Ice Age” which brought extremely cold temperatures in the winter.

Athanasius Kircher was a 17th century German Jesuit scholar (1650). In his handbook on music Athanasiius described a mechanical organ that had many automated figures including a mechanical cuckoo. This book, was the first to document in words and pictures the mechanical workings of the cuckoo clock. It goes on to describe how the mechanical cuckoo can automatically open it’s beak while at the same time the cuckoo can move both the wings and the tail. As the beak opens and closes one hears the call of the cuckoo. Inside the clock are two organ pipes which are responsible for making the call of the cuckoo.

Domenico Martinelli an ordained preist (1669) was the author of a book on elementary clock which bore the title “Horologi Elementari”. In this book Domenico advocates using the call of the cuckoo to designate the hours. At that time the mechanics of a working cuckoo clock was already known, and any clockmaker who could also ready would understand that it was both practical and advantageous to have the cuckoo sound off the hours. Consequently cuckoo clocks began appearing in areas that had not previously been known for their clock making. It would be a few more decades before Cuckoo Clocks began appearing in the Black Forest.

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