A clock was installed in the courthouse tower in 1878, and that year it was decided that the bell would toll on the hour and half hour. The clocks were run by weights totaling 1800 pounds which had to be raised by a windless. The original clock in the current courthouse building (now the McLean County Museum of History) was a Standard Time by the Johnson Pneumatic Time System. With this system, a gallon of water released every 60 seconds created air pressure that moved the clock hands forward. This system was replaced sometime between 1926 and 1936 with an electric motor driven compressor. In 1948 the county authorized a new tower clock system for the courthouse, but 5 years later new gearboxes had to be installed as the clocks had been consistently losing time. In August 1959 the dome of the courthouse was struck by lightning, stopping the clocks at 3:39 am.
The clocks hadn’t worked reliably since the 1970s, and didn’t work at all in the late 1990s. In 2005, close to 400 McLean County residents gathered in the old courthouse to hear the bell ring for the first time in 50 years.
This collection contains newspaper clippings, bills, correspondence, instruction manuals, diagrams, and historical sketches that are related to the clocks and bell in the dome of the Courthouse / McLean County Museum of History. This collection spans the years 1922-2005