A Clock and Its Maker

A mysterious clock, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®, and Pasadena’s first undertaker – what do they have in common?

It all began with the discovery of an unusual bronze clock in the collections at Pasadena Museum of History. The clock bore no label, which made the donation difficult to trace, but in the center just below its face was a door embossed with verses to a poem about the New Year entitled The voice of the Clock. Luckily, the artist had also boldly embossed his name on the front: “Bronze and Verse by Charles C. Reynolds.”

Bronze clock, pre-1933. Made by Charles C. Reynolds, Pasadena, CA. (2019.004.02)
Bronze clock, pre-1933. Made by Charles C. Reynolds, Pasadena, CA. (2019.004.02)

With nothing more than a name, I began my research in the PMH Research Library. I found him – or, at least, I had possibly found him: Charles Calvin Reynolds. Born in Richmond, Indiana in 1856, Reynolds, his wife Mary, and their two sons had settled in Pasadena in the mid-1880s. It was not long before Reynolds began to make a name for himself. A year after his arrival, Charles Reynolds and his brother Isaac pioneered the undertaking profession in Pasadena, opening their business, Reynolds Brothers. Their firm later expanded to Reynolds & Van Nuys.

In addition to his undertaking business, Reynolds was active in the civic and social life of the community. His name is listed on the Board of Trustees of the Montclair Children’s Home Association, and he was listed among the original members of the First Friends Church. In 1888, he became the first resident of the First Friends Church Christian Endeavor Society, and in 1895 Reynolds was elected President of the Pasadena Y.M.C.A. He was active in the Masons in Pasadena and was also involved with the Knights of the Maccabees and the Modern Woodmen.

Photograph of C.C. Reynolds that was published in a newspaper when he was Tournament of Roses President, 1903 (Tournament of Roses Collection)
Photograph of C.C. Reynolds that was published in a newspaper when he was Tournament of Roses President, 1903 (Tournament of Roses Collection)

In April 1900, Charles Reynolds was elected as a trustee of the City of Pasadena on the Republican ticket. In addition, he served as a Pasadena Councilman and was even a candidate for Mayor of Pasadena. He was an active member of the Tournament of Roses Association, serving as Vice President for several years, and as the Grand Marshal of the parades in 1902 and 1903.

Could it be that this accomplished Charles Reynolds I was reading about, a professional undertaker and civic leader was – along with everything else – a clockmaker? In the end, his obituary in the Eagle Rock Advertiser from May 8, 1933 solved the mystery. It was the last line of his obituary, in fact, which reads: “In addition to other accomplishments, he was a craftsman in ivory and bronze and made many works of art of these materials.”

- Elizabeth Steidel