Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bily Clock Museum - Smithsonian Quality Handcrafted Clocks from Smalltown USA

Forget everything you associate with small town America. Located in the Iowa "Swiss Alps" is the 386-person town of Spillville in NE Iowa - just north of the 42N heliopause influence (43°12′09″N, 91°57′07″W.) Spillville is noted for being the 1893 summer residence for Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak (who refined his New World Symphony there after composing the work in NYC) and for being the location of the oldest Czech Catholic church in America (St. Wenceslaus - built in 1860.) Spillville also can boast of offering a special collection that is worthy of any of the world's finest museums.

Beginning in the 1910s through the 1940s, the local Bily brothers created large-scaled handcrafted clocks from imported and local woods. Their creations are now on display at the Bily Clock Museum where you can view several clocks and hear how each was inspired and constructed.

Docent Adie Kuhn (above) explained how the farming brothers (left) studied books about America's history, the Bible and other references to create their magnificent towering wooden clocks. She explained how the wood was chosen, ordered and shipped by rail to the Spillville area where the brothers received the raw materials and created extraordinary time pieces in their spare time.

On Thursday, July 2nd Adie stood in front of the brother's 1927 American Pioneer History masterpiece time tower. She explained how each panel displays a different scene from the past such as the westward movement, railroads, Revolutionary War and many other vignettes. Adie recounts how industrialist Henry Ford once offered the Bilys $1 million for the clock. The brothers never sold that clock or any of their other timely creations. When asked whether these clocks should be displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., our docent replied in true 42N fashion, "Shh, we want to keep our treasure in this part of the world." Know that.


  1. This is fascinating. I've never heard of these and would love to visit that museum. Thanks for linking up!

  2. Oh, and P.S. Your post is a much better promotion for the museum than the museum's website, which has no photos! This is terrific. Again, thanks.

  3. Me again. I thought of this post while touring the Pabst Mansion. they have a very intricately carved clock there. Thinking of you, I snuck a (non-flash) photo of it. I don't have it handy right now, but I'll send it to you eventually...