The Creepy Way “Grandfather Clocks” Got Their Name

Most of us probably assume that grandfather clocks got their name because we most often see them in our grandparents’ houses. Clever though that assumption may be, it’s not the true origin. In reality, the clocks got their name from a sad, sort-of creepy story that was turned into a famous song.

On a new episode of Today I Found Out, an information and history based YouTube channel, host Simon Whistler tells the story of Henry Clay Work, an American songwriter who was visiting England and checked into the George Hotel in North Yorkshire.

Work spotted a large pendulum clock in the hotel lobby and asked the proprietors about its history. They told him the clock had belonged to the inn’s previous owners, the Jenkins brothers, who had since passed away. Rumor had it that the clock was perfectly functional until the first brother died, when it suddenly started to become less accurate. When the second brother died, it stopped working entirely.

Kind of spooky, no? The story might have just been a made up tale to explain why the current owners hadn’t repaired the clock, but it had an effect on Work. He wrote a song called “My Grandfather’s Clock” about the story, which was released in 1876. The song became a massive hit, selling over 1 million copies in sheet music. It was so popular, that the name caught on, and the clocks that were previously known as “longcase clocks” became grandfather clocks.

The song is still a hit; it was recorded multiple times in the 20th century, and, in 2004, was even released as a Boys II Men track.

That’s a pretty neat little history if you ask us. Have you ever heard the song “My Grandfather’s Clock”? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Today I Found Out

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