The Origin of the Cuckoo Clock

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The cuckoo clock is a clock that is driven by a pendulum that strikes on every hour using the call of the common cuckoo bird.  It uses a series of pipes and bellows to imitate this sound.  More recently the clocks have been battery powered using a digital recording of the cuckoo.

The origin of the cuckoo clock dates back to 1629.  This was well before people started calling them cuckoo clocks.  The first documented description of how the clock worked including  words and pictures was from the books of scholar Athanasius Kircher.   We know he was not the original creator as his book was one of his known reference guides.  This clock differed from the early Black Forest cuckoo clocks.  Instead of using a count wheel in a strike train it used a barrel with pins to imitate the sounds and movement of the bird.

It is hard to say who made the first cuckoo clocks in the Black Forest (a wooded mountain range in southwest Germany) By the eighteenth century many clock shops were making them.  The first true cuckoo clocks were created between 1740-1750.  There are two contradicting legends about the cuckoo clocks origin.  Written by Father Franz Steyrer in 1796 he describes a meeting between two peddlers who sold wooden cuckoo clocks. He liked the idea so much that he copied it and showed the design to the Black Forest producers.  They then started producing cuckoo clocks of their own.  In a chronicle written in 1927 by Adolf Kistner this theory was proved untrue due to a lack of any Bohemian cuckoo clock being in existence today.  The second story by another priest, Markus Fidelis Jäck states the cuckoo clock was invented in 1730 by Franz Anton Ketterer. Unfortunately there were no sources that could verify this claim.

To further contradict the story of Markus Fidelis Jack in 1948 R. Dorer pointed out that Franz Anton Ketterer was not even alive at the time of the clocks creation.  Research done in 1995 shows the first clocks showing up  east of Germany (in the direction of Bohemia), giving credence to the first legend of the peddlers.

The origin of the cuckoo clock is much older than when it first appeared in the Black Forest.  Dating back to 1650.  However the cuckoo clocks that we know today still come from southwest Germany.  All of the technological advancements and improvements still come from the Black Forest.  The Black forest people created the industry and definitely keep it alive.


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