On Feb. 18, 1916, The Franklin Times announced that the First National Bank, located on the northwest corner of Main and Nash Streets in Louisburg, had erected a "magnificent electric illuminated clock" on the front of its building. According to Frank B. McKinne, the bank's cashier, the officers installed the clock in appreciation of the public's valuable patronage.
The clock was manufactured by the McClintock-Loomis Company of Minneapolis. Nine feet tall and three feet wide, the clock case was constructed of dark green bronze, with copper components on the top and bottom.
According to the article, "both faces of the clock are alike, the dials being surmounted by words 'First National Bank' in large illuminated letters. This is provided by a sheet of copper in which are cut the letters, laid over pure pearl white glass, with crystal plate glass upon the outside."
The clock could be seen easily from points along Main and Nash streets.
The new timekeeper was operated by a highly accurate electric master clock inside the bank. Housed in a handsome mahogany case featuring plate glass and a thirteen-inch dial, the master clock sent an electric impulse each minute to advance the hands of the clock outside. Equipped with resonant Westminster chimes, the clock marked each quarter hour and struck the hours.
McKinne waxed poetic in envisioning the impact the clock might have on the community:
"May we hope that the chimes will mean something to all of our people--that they will have a message for the youngster on his way to school--a thought for the business man who hustles through his day; a solace for the lowed, by the striking of the full hour in a clear and vibrant tone. Every day of the week the chimes will be sounding their message--the note of warning spoken in time; the chime of rejoicing; the lament in time of sorrow.
"This chime will be all things to all men for it is going to belong not to us alone, but to men and women and children of our community."
The clock fulfilled McKinne's vision for approximately a half century. In the early 1960s, before air conditioning was commonplace, this writer could hear the pleasant chimes through an open window in his grandparents' home on Cedar Street, two full blocks away.
Not long thereafter, First Citizens Bank and Trust Company, which later occupied the building, replaced the clock with a modern version that did not chime. William Wilson, a well-known clock collector and repairman, and Floyd Griffin, who owned the local Ford dealership, acquired parts of the original clock.
Louisburg was diminished by the loss of its elegant and faithful timekeeper, but a new street clock erected by the Town of Louisburg on the same corner continues the tradition of displaying time for passersby.
Maury York is the recently retired director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He has agreed to continue his popular column, now being written for the Tar River Center for History and Culture Foundation, Inc.
Pictured (Left): FAITHFUL TIMEKEEPER. This is an illustration of clock from The Franklin Times, February 18, 1916; postcard depicting the clock: "Main Street, looking North, Louisburg, N.C." Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.