By GARY PULLANO
Andrew Dervan understands what helped commerce in Zeeland tick during most of the 20th century. But the magnitude of his discovery wasn’t realized until he did some digging in pursuit of a newly discovered hobby that has since become his passion.
“A number of years ago I purchased some clocks, started to become a clock collector and wanted to learn more about where the clocks came from,” said Dervan, a Grosse Pointe resident who has lived in Michigan since the mid-1970s. “I knew that Connecticut was a hotbed for clock making in the 19th century but I didn’t realize that the little town of Zeeland was a real clock-making powerhouse in the 20th century.”
Dervan is the featured speaker on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Zeeland Historical Society’s annual membership dinner at the Colonial Clock Building at 201 W. Washington Ave., Zeeland.
After he joined the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors in 1997, Dervan found clock collecting “fascinating.”
“I have found researching the histories of various makers and companies as challenging and exciting as collecting,” he said. “My principal collecting interest is weight-driven clocks from 19th and early 20th centuries.”
Dervan has published more than 30 articles on various clock and watch companies and clockmakers in the Clock and Watch Bulletin and Clocks Magazine in England, and has given many horological presentations at various National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors functions and civic groups. In 2011, he became NAWCC Fellow. Last year Dervan retired from DuPont Performance Coating.
Dervan’s presentation will cover the individuals and organizations contributing to the clock industry, with a focus on Colonial Manufacturing Co., Herman Miller Clock Co., Trend Clock Co., Trend/Sligh Clock Co., Howard Miller Clock Co. and H.L. Hubbell, all from Zeeland.
Dervan noted that in the 20th century, Zeeland became a clock-manufacturing center rivaling the region around Bristol, Conn.
“Much of my research and articles I wrote were mostly regarding the East Coast,” Dervan said in a telephone interview. “I knew some were in Michigan but I didn’t realize there were so many. Five clock companies produced huge quantities — millions of clocks.”
Dervan acknowledged how furniture manufacturing became a popular industry in this region, with many companies manufacturing a wide variety of furniture and household items. In addition, many clock-making companies formed over the years.
He maintains that the craftsmanship and ingenuity of those involved in the clock industry spearheaded the area’s legacy
“People like Phil and Jack Miller of Howard Miller went from being among their peers to being head and shoulders above everyone else,” Dervan said. “They really overwhelmed everybody else because of their drive, organization and well-planned-out factory and marketing strategy in seeking their customers.
“Coming out of World War II, servicemen remembered that their parents or grandparents had clocks or wall clocks,” Dervan said of the emerging market for clock sales. “As baby boomers grew up, they then bought clocks from the 1960s well into the 1980s. They all wanted grandfather clocks in their house. And Zeeland was there to make them in large quantities.”
Suzy Frederick, curator of the Zeeland Historical Museum that is operated by the historical society, said invitations have be sent to all 200 paid members of the Zeeland Historical Society. The public is also welcome to attend.
The event, which is being underwritten by the Howard Miller Clock Co., will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a dinner buffet. The program starts at 7:45 p.m.
The event, accessible at the Clock Building’s east entrance, is by reservation only. Seating is limited. Member cost is $8 per person; non-members $13. An informational flyer and RSVP forms are available at the Zeeland office of the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, 149 Main Ave.
“This is our annual meeting and membership drive,” Frederick said. “We thank our current members for their continued support and encourage others to join us. It’s an opportunity to introduce members of 2013 incoming society board.
“Events such as this help create public awareness of the society which has been active for more than 30 years collecting and preserving the history of the Zeeland area through our museum,” Frederick said. “Membership revenues and financial donations allow us to keep the museum ’admission free.’ ”
• Zeeland Historical Society annual membership dinner
• 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6
• Colonial Clock Building, 201 W. Washington Ave., Zeeland
• Reservatin only, $8 members, $13 non-members
• An informational flyer and RSVP forms are available at the Zeeland office of the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, 149 Main Ave.