Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bily Brothers Clocks - Spillville, Iowa





Frank and Joseph Bily were brothers who were Iowa farmers and carpenters. They carved clocks for a hobby beginning in 1913. For over 30 years they made intricate hand-carved clocks depicting history, art, religion and culture. Their clocks are made of many different woods. Most of the clocks have chimes and movable wood-carved figures. Some of the clocks are ten feet high.

The Bilys never sold any of their clocks. They bequeathed their clocks to the town of Spillville, Iowa, where their whole clock collection can still be seen in the Bily Clocks Museum.

The first clock below is the Apostles' Parade Clock, representing a Gothic Cathedral that was carved in the years 1921 and 1922. It is made of walnut, maple and two kinds of rosewood. Twelve Apostles parade to a set of chimes.



The next clock is the Paradise Clock, carved in the years 1934 and 1935. It is carved in butternut, oak and white ash woods.



Addendum:

By coincidence I acquired an older black & white postcard of the Bily Clocks a day after I wrote this original post. According to this card, the clocks were in Ridgeway at the time. However, the back of this card has a handwritten note that says "Trip to Spillville to see the clocks. Feb'y 5, 1939." The Bily farm was between the small towns of Ridgeway and Spillville. The clocks were moved to Spillville in 1946.



Visit Sepia Saturday for More Vintage Photos




19 comments:

  1. A fascinating and a great post that will take some beating. Unique clocks.

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  2. Fascinating post. I'd love to see these clocks. A good example of outsider art.

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  3. What a collection of wonderful clocks. A timely post, if I may say so.

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  4. Works of art in themselves. I'm not sure I'd want them in my own home, but I can see the appeal and appreciate the hours of work which went into their construction.

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  5. What a fabulous display of clocks to share for our time theme. They are just amazing! I'm so glad I don't own one. I say that only because my beautiful and quite plain 40 year old clock fell off the wall a few days ago. I think it can be fixed - but imagine if it had been that butternut or apostles clock...YIPES!

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  6. I repeat what others have said...those are amazing clocks!

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  7. Too bad they didn't sell their clocks. I can just imagine someone dragging one on a dolly to the antiques road show. Would be nice to know how much the appraiser would say it's worth.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the grove

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  8. My best friend's husband has a cuckoo clock very similar to these and it's worth a fortune - all the hand carving and intricate detail work. It hangs in their downstairs den, where she doesn't have to look at it every day, heh.

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  9. Oh yes, I have heard of the Bily Brothers; thanks for the reminder with this very interesting post. At first I was going to show our small collection of antique clocks, which are nothing in comparison to these. In our travels if we ever get to Spillville, Iowa area we would enjoy seeing this unique collection.

    PS, love the MN postcard in your corner!

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  10. Oh my goodness, thanks for posting this all so very interesting place! I could go there myself...as it's only about 142 miles from my house according to google maps! Thank you- thank you...your photos are so beautiful of such a great place to visit! (My mother would have enjoyed this place so much!)

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  11. The Bily Brothers were excellent craftsmen. Their clocks are amazing. How wonderful that they donated them. I think my father, a clock builder and repairman himself, would have enjoyed this museum. Thanks for sharing photos of the clocks and telling us about them and the museum.

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  12. I can't believe folks did not flock to them to have their own made. The wood in them is what makes each so unique. Very nice post for today.
    QMM

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  13. Oh I so want to go there. Wonder if Bill would mind a shortcut ;>) through Iowa on our way back to Oregon next month?

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  14. so this is what people did before televisions and computers?...
    nice!!
    :D~
    HUGZ

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  15. Wow! What work! World-class kitsch!
    I love it. In the expertise, flawless execution, heartwrenching attention to detail, dreadful taste, overblown detail and imagery reside perfection. In the underlying lack of worldliness which produced these wonders lies what is as close to a miracle of the human spirit as exists.

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