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The Story Behind The Grandfather Clock


One of the most unique trophies in all of sports is the Grandfather clock that’s presented to every NASCAR race winner at Martinsville Speedway. The first one was given away in 1964, and over the years, Richard Petty won 12 of them. Jimmie Johnson has won eight.

Galileo was the first to discover that accurate time could be kept with a pendulum, and the longer the pendulum, the more accurate the time. A Dutch scientist was the first to build a clock with a pendulum, and to protect the long pendulum they placed it in a long upright case. They came to be called Floor clocks, Long-case clocks, even Coffin clocks.

The story of the Grandfather clock begins with a couple of brothers who owned a hotel in England. In the lobby was a Long-case clock that kept perfect time for decades until one of the brothers died. After that, the clock always ran slow. The remaining brother brought in several repairmen, but none of them could figure out what was wrong with the clock. It just kept running slower.

Finally, at the age of 90, the remaining brother died, and on that same day, the clock that had stood in the lobby of the hotel for so long stopped ticking. The new owner left the clock in place in the front lobby, with its hands showing the exact time the second brother died.

In 1876, an American songwriter visited the hotel and learned the story of the brothers and the long-case clock. He was so touched by the story that he wrote a song titled, “My Grandfather’s Clock.” They’ve been known as Grandfather clocks ever since.

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