Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Samuels Clock

856 Market Street

Heaven only knows how many times I’ve walked down Market Street and hurried by this clock without really seeing it! It makes me wonder what else I might be missing along the way – too distracted to notice a beautiful treasure in my own city! And yes, I do see the irony of me missing the Samuels Clock all because I scurried too fast along Market Street trying to “beat the clock!”

Well, one glorious April day, this clock finally had enough of my inattention and said, “Hey, look at me, OK!” When the gold and stunning blue edifice came into my view, I felt as if I’d been transported into another city. Of course, I stopped and took pictures. The entirety of the clock is beautiful and intricate - with a rectangular base featuring two little windows on either side, which show the inner workings of the timepiece. I was mesmerized ~ and soon traipsing off to do a little research.

It turns out, the clock was designed by Albert S. Samuels of Karlsburg Austria, who grew up in San Francisco and attended school right down the street from where the clock now stands. As a young man, Samuels worked as an apprentice to a watchmaker and soon became a jeweler and watchmaker in his own right, opening a business on Market Street very near this location.

By the time the 1906 earthquake hit, Albert Samuels was already an established businessman. He and his business obviously survived the quake, and Samuels himself probably helped to rebuild from the rubble of the city. In the process, Samuels designed a clock and commissioned the building of it to Joseph Mayer, an engineer and clockmaker in Seattle. The Art Deco-meets-Autstrian-craftsmanship clock was installed in front of A. S. Samuels & Co. in 1915, the same year of the Pan Pacific Exposition, which was a world-renown celebration of the city having completely recovered from the devastation of the earthquake and fire.

Therefore, a lot of pride went into this gem of a clock. Many Mayer street-clocks exist all across America, but it has been noted that the Samuels clock is one of the most beautiful. On a bronze plaque you can read the dedication to the public of San Francisco.

The clock was given landmark status in December of 1975, {SF landmark #77}, and the entire work of art is insured by Lloyds of London.

One More Tidbit: Novelist, Dashiell Hammett worked for Samuels a short time as copywriter for the store and used pictures of the clock in his ads. Also, the clock played a small role in at least one of Hammett’s stories.

So, with a mystery writer connection to add to its fascination, this is definitely my kind of clock!

{photos taken with my BlackBerry}


  1. I've been on Market St. a million times but next time I'll be looking for this clock. What a neat piece of history.

  2. Thanks, Kelly! I hope that you get to have a look at the clock ~ :)