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The City of Richmond celebrates the 100th anniversary of its city clock on July 17. Pictured is the Richmond City Clock, which officially marked the time for the city at 8:48 p.m. on July 17, 1924. (Courtesy of Jamie Greene)

Instead of being struck by lightning and rescuing a DeLorean that required 1.21 gigawatts, Richmond’s city clock has faithfully told the time since 1924 and served as a symbol of the city. The city will celebrate the clock’s 100th anniversary with great pomp.

City Manager Jon Moore said the city will host a public event to recognize the birthday of this important symbol on July 17 at 6 p.m. The clock officially began service at 8:48 p.m. on July 17, 1924, at the corner of Park and Main Streets to tell the time for the city.

“We’ve done a little research on the event that took place during the inauguration. We’re going to sing the same song that was sung then, and someone will also read a poem that was recited at the inauguration,” Moore said.

Moore said the ceremonies will take place on Park Street in the city next to the clock. Mayor Tim Rix is ​​expected to speak at the event, and Republican Rep. Jamie Greene of Richmond has also been invited to attend. Moore said the winners of the Lois Wagner Memorial Library’s 2024 City Clock Painting Contest will also be honored during the clock ceremonies.

The library’s connection with the clock began with its namesake, Lois Wagner. Wagner was the library’s director from 1947 to 1998. A fan of the clock, Wagner treated library staff to ice cream every year on the clock’s birthday.

“According to our records, Lois celebrated the Town Clock’s birthday by playing her own version of the Town Clock Quiz and buying the library staff treats from Dairy Queen. She loved the Town Clock and wore her Town Clock pin on special occasions,” Library Director Julianne Kammer said via email on July 8.

Wagner also collected many of the clock items that can be seen in the library today, such as carved replicas and paintings. However, she did not initiate the library’s annual Town Clock Painting Contest. Kammer said the contest was started in 1994 by Mary Sue Prantera, who was then a children’s programmer in charge of the summer reading program.

Since 1994, the library has hosted an annual Town Clock Coloring Contest as part of its summer reading program. The colored-in image has been created each year by Colleen Kelley, who served as a library technician for nearly 30 years and continues to volunteer to create the image each year, even though she is now retired.

The annual art contest, open to all children in kindergarten through seventh grade, was held for the 30th time this year. The library also offers reading contests for various age groups as part of the summer reading program. The library is located at 35200 Division Road in Richmond.

“The painting competition always begins at the beginning of the summer reading program, this year on June 17,” said Kammer.

Coloring pages were available at the library and the deadline for entries was July 12. In keeping with Wagner’s tradition, winners will receive Dairy Queen gift cards.

“The competition will be judged by at least three community members and all entries will be anonymous to the judges,” Kammer said. “Two winners will be selected from each judging category.”

The winners of the 2024 Lois Wagner Memorial Library Clock Painting Contest will be honored during a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the clock's timekeeping. Pictured are the winners of the 2023 Painting Contest. (Photo courtesy)
The winners of the 2024 Lois Wagner Memorial Library Clock Painting Contest will be honored during a celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the clock’s timekeeping. Pictured are the winners of the 2023 Painting Contest. (Photo courtesy)

The clock was made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company of Chicago. It weighs over 2 tons. The clock was donated by Gilbert “Square Deal” Miller, a Richmond-born Detroit merchant.

Kammer said Miller left Richmond in 1907 and entered the jewelry business in Detroit in 1912, but continued to maintain contact with many Richmond residents. His advertising frequently used the term “Square Deal.”

“The plaque on the clock states that it was donated by Miller ‘as a token of affection for his birthplace,'” Kammer said.

Today, the city clock is a symbol of the city and is used throughout Richmond, from the flag displayed at city council meetings to press releases and RichmondTV. The city motto, prominently displayed at council meetings and online, is “With Time For You,” and references the clock.

Nicole Tuttle is a freelance reporter for The Voice.

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