by Kevin Walsh

The familiar octagonal Colgate clock, facing Manhattan and visible from the Wagner Park riverside walk in Battery Park City, dates back to 1924 when it was set in motion on December 1 by Jersey City’s Mayor Frank Hague. Located on the former site of Colgate-Palmolive & Company, it is a reminder of the time when factories dominated the Jersey City’s waterfront. The clock’s design was inspired by the shape of a bar of Octagon Soap, first manufactured by Colgate as a laundry cleanser.

The Colgate‘s Soap and Perfumery Works, later Colgate-Palmolive Peet, was founded by William Colgate in 1806. He began as a manufacturer of starch, soap and candles with a shop on John and Dutch Streets in New York City. When he moved his company to Paulus Hook (Jersey City) in 1820 to produce starch, it was referred to as “Colgate’s Folly.” The company instead flourished and had a sizable complex in Jersey City by 1847. It made chemically produced soap and perfume but eventually gave up perfume production. Upon the death of William Colgate in 1857, his son Samuel reorganized the company as the Colgate Company. It took on brand products such as Cashmere Bouquet, perhaps the first milled perfumed soap, and revolutionized dental care with toothpaste sold in jars in 1873. It also packaged toothpaste in a “collapsible” tube in 1896.

Overlooking the Hudson River, the octagonal Colgate clock and signage perched on a company structure remained unaltered until 1983. The signage “Soaps-Perfumes” was removed and a toothpaste tube, advertising one of Colgate’s best selling products, took its place. Two years later and after 141 years in Jersey City, Colgate decided to leave, citing the need for improved facilities that its original manufacturing complex could not provide. The entire complex was razed, and the clock, without the toothpaste tube, was lowered to ground level as a freestanding icon on the future Goldman Sachs property, where it stood for fifteen years. The 24-acre site became part of the redevelopment of the Jersey City waterfront at Exchange Place that began in the early 1990s.

The clock was dismantled in June 2013 and refitted with LED lights, and then reinstalled on the waterfront near the Goldman-Sachs Building.



Kirsten February 7, 2014 - 8:56 am

It’s still a great clock, but I’m so sad to hear the neon is gone. Wow.

Doug Douglass February 7, 2014 - 9:44 am

The building the clock originally stood atop was eight stories.

EW3 February 7, 2014 - 12:43 pm

Another one of those sights that I used to see when my Dad and I would ride the SI Ferry on Saturdays.

Adam H February 7, 2014 - 3:23 pm

My dad was a buyer for Foodtown when I was a kid. He and my mom learned about the parade of sailboats that they were going to have going up the Hudson for the Bicentennial (Op Sail). He got tickets to get onto those Colgate Palmolive grounds for the day. I can still see those boats in my memory.

Frank Lauletta February 10, 2014 - 11:22 am

I once read that this clock was the largest vertical clock in the world.

RM February 10, 2014 - 11:32 am

I remember the clock from the 70s to 90s, glad it’s still (kind of) around.

Alex Taylor July 22, 2014 - 3:19 am

A huge mighty clock I came across lighting with LED bulbs.

Benjamin April 25, 2017 - 8:04 am

I love seeing this clock it is really cool and is a nice attraction and tribute to the Colgate company, the industry’s start and the founder of Colgate

Matthew Cummings April 17, 2018 - 2:18 pm

Kevin, do you know the size of the clock? I believe is now the 4th largest analog clock in the world. At one time it was the largest.

Anonymous November 20, 2019 - 10:51 am

It is the best.


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