The owner of an old clock often asks, “How old is it?” Some clockmaking companies helped us answer this question by putting date codes on their products. (Actually, date coding was done for business reasons, including facilitating the ordering of spare parts.) Seth Thomas is one company that put date codes on many of their clocks.
Some Seth Thomas electric clocks from the late 1940s and early 1950s have a date code stamped into the rear of the case, below the power cord opening. The code is 4 digits, and I believe that the first two digits represent the year, and the last two digits give the month.
Shown below are two examples of the “Baxter” wooden case time only clock. This clock is 8 7/16 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches tall, with a convex glass over the two-tone silver color dial.
The first example illustrated below has the following date codes:
- Movement: 4712 (December 1947)
- Motor: 43 1 47 (may be January 1947)
- Outside case, beneath power cord on metal cover: 4712 (December 1947)
The second example has the following date codes:
- Movement: 3 48 (March 1948)
- Motor: 5001 (January 1950)
- Outside case, beneath power cord on wood: 5002 (February 1950)
I may not be interpreting the date code exactly right. One source said that the code gives year and quarter. This can’t always be right, as the examples above show a “12”, which cannot be a quarter! I recall seeing a “13” for these digits once, so perhaps the second two digits represent a lunar month! Westclox used lunar months at one time for their bookkeeping, but I’m not sure about Seth Thomas.
On the first example above the metal rear cover is recessed into the wood, whereas on the second it is not.