A very special piece of the UMD Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives turns 235 years old in 2016–the grandfather clock that stands outside the Maryland Room on the first floor of Hornbake Library.
Wyke and Green, clockmakers in Liverpool, England, constructed this beautiful timepiece in 1781. How it reached the United States is unknown. Charles Sink, horologist and owner of the Antique Clock & Watch Shop in Ellicott City, MD, cleaned and restored the inner workings of this piece in 2008. Retired UMD Libraries’ staff member Roy Alvarez covered the expenses for Sink’s work in honor of his parents, Hugh and Emilie Alvarez, and faithfully winds the clock each week. During your visits to Hornbake, you can hear the beautiful chimes when the clock strikes the hour.
Why would such an unusual and historic piece have a home in the library? The clock is a gift in memory of former Registrar Alma Preinkert, who was tragically murdered in her home on February 28, 1954, one of the university’s unsolved mysteries.
Miss Preinkert, a much-beloved campus figure, earned an M.A. degree from Maryland as served as assistant registrar and registrar for nearly 30 years. On that fateful night, a burglar broke into the Washington, DC, home Preinkert shared with her sister and began ransacking the bedrooms. The commotion awakened Miss Preinkert, and she attempted to stop the man, aided by her sister, Alvina, who also awoke during the struggle. The burglar stabbed Alma Preinkert 11 times before fleeing, and her sister was wounded as well. Alvina survived, but Alma’s wounds were fateful. Despite an intensive search for the burglar, during which police questioned 2,500 men and detained multiple suspects, and the offer of $1500 in reward money, the perpetrator was never captured, and this case remains a UMD unsolved mystery.
The University Archives has numerous newspaper clippings about Alma Preinkert’s murder and recently obtained a copy of the DC Police report and reward flyer to add to the file. Stop by the Archives and check it out, if you want to learn more about the case.
Miss Preinkert’s death saddened many across the campus, and classes were cancelled so students could attend her funeral on March 3, the first one ever held in Memorial Chapel, which had been dedicated only 15 months earlier. So many people wished to attend the service that the Chapel was filled to capacity, and the overflow of students, faculty, and staff stood outside in the rain to listen to the proceedings.
To memorialize Miss Preinkert, the Maryland Federation of Women’s Clubs and a group of her friends of donated the clock in 1958, four years after the Board of Regents renamed the Women’s Fieldhouse in her honor.
The next time you are in Hornbake, plan to arrive near the hour so you can hear the delicate chimes as the clock strikes and visit the unusual and historic memorial.