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Time to Spring Forward

Left: ad for Jefferson Golden Hour electric clock; right: photograph of Golden Hour clock

It’s almost time to spring forward! Daylight saving time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time tomorrow, March 14, which means your nonsmart clocks will need to be reset to 3:00 a.m. at that point.

This Golden Hour clock (1955) made by the Jefferson Electric Co. illustrates a blend of old and new modern design. It has a minimalist glass face set in cast zinc plated with 24-karat gold with a brushed satin finish. The inscription on the base reads: “Half-Millionth Clock Made by Jefferson Electric Company Bellwood, Ill., Presented to the Chicago Historical Society on the Company’s Fortieth Anniversary, February 20, 1955.” The overall look is more austere than streamlined, but there are vertical speed lines on the mount. The jewel-like clock, “sure to be the most treasured gift,” remained in production from 1949 to 1991 with more than two million sold nationwide. In 1955, it retailed for $22.50 ($221.64 in 2021).

Design elements of this clock exemplify the streamlined style that emerged out of Chicago during the Great Depression. The aerodynamic style expressed optimism and a desire for speed, power, and efficiency that suited life in the twentieth century. Showcased at the 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition, this aesthetic and its enormous popularity prompted many local companies to hire new talent to design stylish yet affordable goods for middle-class consumers.

In our Chicago History article “Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America,” learn about some of Chicago’s quintessential streamlined products, including Radio Flyer wagons, Sunbeam appliances, and Farmall tractors, that became national best sellers and remain icons of modern American design.

From left: Advertisement for Golden Hour clock, 1955. CHM, ICHi-173890. Golden Hour electric clock, 1955, Jefferson Electric Co., Chicago. Gift of Jefferson Electric Co., 1955.80. CHM, ICHi-174652. 

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