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Museum event to feature historic Mennonite clocks, clock expert

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A special event at Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus will celebrate a particular kind of clock, the history of which is also that of Russian Mennonites.

April 6, the museum will host Arthur Kroeger of Winnipeg, Manitoba, for a book signing and informal clock appraisal from 2-4 p.m. The public is invited to come and go during these hours.

Kroeger is the author of Kroeger Clocks, published in 2012 by Mennonite Heritage Village of Steinbach, Manitoba.

Often called “Mennonite clocks” or “Russian wall clocks,” many of these timepieces originated with Johann Kroeger of Rosenthal, a German Mennonite village in what is now Ukraine. He began making the clocks in 1804 and the business lasted six generations, until the Russian Revolution ended it in the 1920s.

Because businesses had to be government-controlled once Russia was under Communist rule, Peter Kroeger, the last clockmaker, was forced to close his factory. He tried making them from his home until Communist officials shut off his supply of materials such as brass and steel.

The last clock was made in 1929.

Arthur Kroeger is a direct descendant of the clock-making Kroegers. He has spent countless hours researching the clocks as well as repairing and restoring Kroeger clocks that others have brought to him.

Kroeger Clocks represents his life’s work. It explores Kroeger clock-making through more than a century and includes a collection of stories centered around the clocks.

For example, one clock made its way out of Russia during World War II on a 12-year-old boy’s back, was hauled across Poland and Germany, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Paraguay and finally landed in Winnipeg.

Another clock was hidden in some feather bedding that a Russian border guard sliced through with his bayonet, looking for hidden goods yet somehow missing the clock.

So in addition to being a collector’s treasury of Kroeger clock information and color photos, the book is also a social history of Mennonite life in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The distribution of these clocks follows the distribution of Mennonites,” Kroeger told the Winnipeg Free Press.

For more information about the April 6 book signing and clock appraisal, contact Rachel Pannabecker, Kauffman Museum director,  at 316-283-1612.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the special “Lincoln” exhibit, which closes April 5, is free; admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its website,

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