Million Daneker Sr.

Partner in family-owned Harford County company that produced thousands of clocks over 3 decades

April 07, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Million Elliott Daneker Sr., former partner in a Harford County clock-making firm that produced thousands of grandfather, grandmother, mantle and steeple clocks for more than three decades, died Friday of cancer at his Fallston home. He was 94.

Mr. Daneker was born in Baltimore and raised in Bel Air. He was a 1933 graduate of Bel Air High School and attended the University of Maryland, College Park.

"He explained that he got his name from his mother, who liked the song 'I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store,' which she always played on the piano," said his son, Million Elliott Daneker Jr., who lives in Bel Air.

During World War II, he worked as an assembly-line worker, building airplanes at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River.

Also during the war years, Mr. Daneker and his brother, Charles Rutherford "Brod" Daneker Jr., owned and operated the Million-Rutherford Co., which made wooden plaques for the armed forces and for presentation to Red Cross gallon blood donors.

They also produced precision wooden products for Western Electric and Bell Laboratories.

The brothers were joined in the business by their father, Charles Rutherford Daneker Sr., who had been senior manager of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. for Harford and Cecil counties and part of Baltimore County.

It was the elder Mr. Daneker, who had been collecting and studying clocks for years, who convinced his sons that there wasn't a single manufacturer of grandfather or tall case clocks in the East, and he suggested they combine his interest with theirs in precision woodworking to manufacture a smaller version of the classic clock that was in keeping with modern-day ceiling heights.

In the late 1940s, the Million-Rutherford Co. - commonly known as Daneker Clocks - located on U.S. 1 near Benson in Harford County, began manufacturing the clocks. At its height in the 1960s, the company employed more than 100 craftsmen.

"All the movements came from Germany, and one of our big customers, Macy's in New York, had Jewish customers in those years who didn't want a clock with a German movement," said his son. "So we would use an English movement, but they weren't as good as the German."

In addition to the movements, which came from Germany's Black Forest, another German supplier made the solid brass dials with a silvered numerical disc, solid brass fittings and hinges.

The mahogany used in the clock cases that were designed by Million Daneker and his brother in the Hepplewhite and Duncan Phyfe styles, came from Nigeria and the Philippines. Other woods used in the cabinet, such as maple, originated in Canada, with walnut and cherry from New York and Pennsylvania.

"We used to make 150 grandfather clocks a week. We had rows and rows of them in the factory, and they were all solid wood. Today, they are now very collectible," said the son.

The elder Mr. Daneker insisted that the clocks be fitted with Westminster chimes, which replicate the sound of London's Big Ben as they strike the quarter-hour.

"Finally, coat after coat of stain is applied by hand and spray, and each coat is rubbed down and polished until the desired quality finish is obtained," said a 1958 article in the old Sunday Sun Magazine.

They expanded their line to include mantle clocks that were inspired by 18th-century New England clockmaker Eli Terry.

In 1969, the main assembly plant was destroyed in a fire, and four years later, the company closed for good when pro-union workers voted to join the United Furniture Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

The decision to close the plant was tied to the union vote, Million E. Daneker Sr. told The Sun, adding he was "tired and wanted to take a long rest."

"The Danekers got a great reputation for their clocks during the 1950s and 1960s because of the hand work and craftsmanship that went into them. There was no automation," said former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who with her late husband, Bill, owned a Cockeysville antiques store for many years.

"Their clock-making was a real specialty for the state of Maryland, and they hold their value," Mrs. Bentley said.

Mr. Daneker enjoyed boating and had been president of the Baltimore Yacht Club.

He attended Methodist and Lutheran churches near Bel Air.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the McComas Funeral Home, 50 W. Broadway, Bel Air.

Also surviving are his wife of 70 years, the former A. Lucille Bachman; a daughter, Alice Marshall of Abingdon; seven grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

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