Westclox Big Ben Clock

Clock with Arabic numerals on face set to 3:00, with small dial under 12 repeating 1 to 12 with single hand

John Fitzgerald Kennedy NHS Museum Collection (JOFI 407)

The clock pictured here is a Westclox Big Ben type 1 model alarm clock. Beginning production in 1908, the Big Ben model was the first alarm clock to be advertised nationally when an ad appeared in the September 24, 1910 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. In just a few years, millions of Big Ben clocks were sold, making it one of the most popular time keeping devices in the country.

The early Big Ben clocks were wind up clocks and had the distinctive peg legs that can be seen on the clock shown here. Clocks using the Big Ben name are still manufactured today, although they have undergone many changes over the past 100 years in both style and movement, including electric and digital clocks. Older early 20th century Big Ben clocks are now often sought after by collectors of antique time pieces.

This particular clock was made between 1917 and 1922, almost the same timespan during which the future President John F. Kennedy lived in the Beals Street home. Though it is not believed to be a piece that was in the house during Kennedy's time there, it is likely that some type of clock, possibly one of the same model, was located in the kitchen. In addition to being used simply for telling the time, the alarm could have been an aid to the cook who might have wanted to ensure that a certain dish wasn't left in the oven or on the stovetop too long!

Like all other clocks in the Kennedy house, this one is set to 3:00 to reflect the time of day that John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Last updated: February 24, 2021