A Look Back in History: Father Time And The Town Crier’s House

The early 19th Century Daniel Christ tall case clock in the hallway of the 1804 Town Crier’s House accompanied by a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence.
The early 19th Century Daniel Christ tall case clock in the hallway of the 1804 Town Crier’s House accompanied by a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence. Submitted photo

Since the duty of Kutztown’s town crier was to act as the lamp lighter on Main Street and watch over the town declaring pertinent information as to the welfare of its citizens, it was important that he had a reliable time piece.

Among the clockmakers in Kutztown in 1817 was Peter Gift, who made early American tall case clocks 1790-1820, as well as Daniel Christ who made Kutztown tall case clocks as early as 1770 and also to 1820. But, of course, there were a variety of PA Dutch clockmakers who practiced this early craft in the Reading area and much earlier than the aforementioned two. Couriers who traveled a great distance on horse had to be reminded of the correct time when reaching the town crier’s residence so they could adequately judge the distance of their travels before reaching night fall.

So obviously the residence of Conrad Cupp, town crier of Kutztown, recorded as such in 1817, had a large water trough in front to accommodate travelers on horses as well as townspeople and messengers from urban centers including our County seat of Reading. In the restoration of the 1804 Stoll townhouse where Conrad Cupp is recorded as having owned in 1810, and probably rented earlier, the well at the rear of his house was 28’ deep lined in fieldstone. The surface of the well contained wrought iron supports to anchor a water derrick to pump water to the horse trough for all visitors who arrived at the premise. Since the many visitors to Kutztown traveled north on Baldy’s Lane (Baldy Street) to Main Street from the Oley Valley, it was natural for them to converge here on the Main Street and the stone home of George Kutz, Jr., son of the founder of Kutztown. His home built in 1800 by Adam Kutz, currently is a dentist’s office owned by Dr. Robert M. Yoder, Jr.

This residence is an excellent Georgian-style mansion only a few doors up from the town crier’s home at 360 West Main Street, both being excellent examples of early 19th Century architecture. Realizing the restored town crier’s house needed an early tall case clock in its elegant Georgian hallway, famed antique dealer Richard “Dick” Machmer, from Hamburg, showed up at the American Folklife Institute a rare antique Daniel Christ tall case clock, 97” high, he had acquired. Machmer, also being a local historian born in Kutztown, knew this rare signed Daniel Christ clock was just what was needed for the grand hallway of the town crier’s house. With such an elaborate Chippendale-styled clock bonnet with open scroll top, this 19th Century clock had an early painted eagle dial with a United States emblem and olive branches on a paint-decorated base.

Advertisement

One of the finest clockmakers in Pennsylvania, Daniel Christ clocks are museum pieces. This particular example stands as a sentinel at the town crier hallway door with a rare photographic copy of the Declaration of Independence on the wall beside it. Perhaps no other colleague of Richard Shaner was more instrumental in helping to furnish and restore the town crier’s house than Dick Machmer and his wife, Rosemarie. Besides a number of hand-decorated PA Dutch fraktur folk art pieces that adorn its interior, Dick also talked Shaner into buying one of the cast iron lamp posts to the London Bridge, which stands at the gateway to the 1804 Valentine Stoll house (the Stolls most likely English).

Certainly in the war with England in 1812 when the English invaded our capital in Washington, faithful Kutztown villagers needed to be kept up with communications with the rest of the nation and the citizens in Kutztown were very patriotic even naming one of its taverns the Andrew Jackson! Another most unique sentinel to this Federal townhouse is the rare oil portrait of King George III, whose mother was German (Queen of England) and presides over the front parlor of the town crier’s home from the fireplace mantel which faces the Declaration of Independence in the hallway with Daniel Christ’s patriotic tall case clock with a Federal Eagle on top.