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Daniel Burnap was born in Coventry Township (now Andover), Connecticut, on November 1, 1759. He learned clockmaking as an apprentice to Thomas Harland at Norwich, Connecticut. In 1780 he settled in East Windsor, Connecticut, where he started his own clockmaking business.
Burnap specialized in eight-day brass movements in tall cases, many of which featured moon phases and calendar attachments. Like most other clockmakers of his day, however, most of his clockworks were sold as is, with the buyers either supplying their own cases or, more commonly, simply hanging them on a wall. Burnap clocks were well-known for their fine craftsmanship, as well as for their incredible timekeeping accuracy. That accuracy was due to his use of the more expensive, but superior, "dead beat" escapement invented by English clockmaker George Graham in 1715. Burnap may have been one of the first to use interchangeable parts and mass production, since from his records it appears that he built more than one clock at the same time
Sometime around 1800 Burnap moved his shop back to Coventry, where by 1805 he had built a respectable house. As Justice of the Peace, he held courts on the ground floor. In his shop, he made clocks, brass hardware, surveyors' instruments, and silver spoons and buckles, all with the same reputation for quality and craftsmanship. By 1815, however, he had turned his shop over to an apprentice, and appears to have spent the rest of his life repairing watches, engraving, and serving in various township positions. He died in Coventry on September 26, 1838.
Like most other craftsmen of his day, Burnap served as master to several apprentices during his career. The most notable of his many apprentices was Eli Terry who, by 1830, had become the world's largest manufacturer of machine-made clocks.
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This page was last updated on October 31, 2017.