|The Black Forest in Germany has become
synonymous with a number of different products which are known all around
the world. For those with a sweet tooth, perhaps Black Forest chocolate or
the Black Forest Gateau spring to mind, but to most of us the clocks and
particularly cuckoo clocks are the most likely choice.
Originally the Black Forest was inhabited
by woodsmen and as the trees were cleared, farmers, who no doubt extended
their farms by clearing even more trees. The land was fertile enough, but
one major problem every year was what to do over winter. With animals safely
tucked up in barns, and the ground covered in snow, farmers literally found
time on their hands. Being handy with wood meant that souvenirs and wooden
toys were an obvious source of extra income whilst waiting for spring and
the big thaw.
One day, about 1640, an enterprising farmer
dismantled an iron clock and made a wooden copy of it. Not that he thought
wood was better, it was just that he had plenty of it and no access to iron.
To his delight, the wooden clock worked perfectly okay. This started quite
a flourishing industry. In those days clocks were only found in very wealthy
peoples houses. If you could make them cheaper then more and more people
could afford to own one. The first clocks were copies of other clocks but
gradually a distinctive Black Forest style started to
about 1730 the first clock with a cuckoo appearing
on the hour and half hour arrived. The cuckoo was
very symbolic, being one of the first signs that spring
was arriving and the beleaguered farmers could get
back to their traditional pastime of farming. The
first cuckoo clocks were rather like a small painting
with an inset clock and cuckoo at the top and it wasnt
until the mid 1800s that the now well-known
distinctive style of cuckoo clock evolved. The two
common types are the hunting clock with its distinctive
stags head, hare and pheasant and the chalet with
dancing figures, water-wheel and moving characters.
Once the clocks had been completed, they then had
to be sold around Europe and this is where our friend
the Clock Peddler comes into the story.
soon as the spring weather permitted the original
travelling salesman would turn up on foot and collect
as many clocks as he could carry on his back in a
purpose-built backpack. He was very distinctively
dressed with his breeches, waistcoat, jacket and tall
hat and he must have been a tough character because
he traveled as far as England and Russia, and thats
a long walk with a consignment of clocks on your back.
1808 in one part of the Black Forest alone there were
688 clock makers and 582 clock peddlers, so you can
imagine how popular these wonderful clocks were.