As a child, I remember my grandmother’s, Dorothy (McGaughey) Neunaber, cuckoo clock hanging in her home. The doors hiding the little bird would pop open on the hour and the bird slid out on its perch and cuckoo on the time. It was fun to count off the hours and know what time the bird announced.
Grandmother’s clock was not grand. It was a small version, maybe eight inches wide but the dark stained box was still a childhood attraction. It seems that Cuckoo Clocks have been a fascination for children for generations. A long list of children’s literature includes the magic of cuckoo clocks from William Wordsworth in his 1842 poetry book titled “The Cuckoo Clock” and Robert W Service’s “My Cuckoo Clock” published in Carols of an Old Codger in 1954. Many novelist also use the cuckoo clock motif as far back as 1877 when Scottish writer Mrs. Molesworth published The Cuckoo Clock. More recently author R L Stine used The Cuckoo Clock of Doom (1995) as part of her Goosebumps series.
Cuckoo clocks are also depicted for children in many annimated stories from early Disney Silly Symphonies to modern times. The advent of the cuckoo clock has a number of possible origins. Who invented the first cuckoo clock is unknown. What is known is that the primary source of cuckoo clocks in the Black Forest region of Germany. The early clocks were known as “Rahmenuhr” (framed-clock).
A typical Black Forest picture was painted behind the hands of the clock on a wooden or sheet metal background. From the 1860s until the early 20th century emerged the Bahnhausle style clocks looking like a railroad house. These became so popular that most other styles of the cuckoo clock were discontinued. Many German immigrants brought their clocks with them and they have become a much sought after souvenir when visiting Germany.
The clocks evolved into ornate pieces of art. Not only can a bird eject out of doors near the roof or the structure but whole pastoral depictions can dance around the clock to a variety of tunes. When my husband decided we needed our own cuckoo clock when we visited Oberammergau, we lamented over which style, song, wood stain, artwork, and so forth we wanted to purchase. Eventually we made our decision and had the clock shipped home for us.
If you do not want to make a trip to Germany to purchase a clock (and not just Google an online store) there is one cuckoo clock maker in the USA, American Cuckoo Clock Company. Coo Coo Clocks by Jodie Davis modern American Cuckoo Clock Company Here you will find cuckoo clocks with a more modern and American flare. The inside workings are imported from the Black Forest but the outsides are made in America. Although they do not have a retail store, they have a mobile store that travels around from it’s Georgia home and you can check Facebook for upcoming locations.
If you are not in the market to buy a cuckoo clock but you still have that childhood fascination for them, there are a couple tourist destinations you may want to consider. This largest outdoor cuckoo clock is in Sugar Creek, OH. Built in 1972, it is 27 feet tall and 24 feet wide. It chimes on the hour and there is even a bench in front where you can wait.
Another destination would be Douglasville, Georgia where Champ’s Clock Shop boasts the largest indoor cuckoo clock at more than 13 feet. The clock was commissioned by Jerry Champion in 1986 and was imported from the Black Forest.
When our cuckoo clock chimes and plays “Edelweiss” or “The Happy Wanderer” my grandchildren stop to count the chimes just like I did as a child. I have no idea what happened to the clock my grandmother owned but I hope it is still in the family somewhere so future generations keep counting the hours too.