Seth Glanville Atwood: June 2, 1917-Feb. 21, 2010

Seth Glanville Atwood, 92, of Rockford, Ill., died Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010 in Wesley Willows. He was born in Rockford June 2, 1917 to Seth B. Atwood and Helen Mae (Glanville) Atwood.

A retired industrialist and financier, he was a member of Rockford’s pioneering Atwood family which in 1839 settled and built their homestead north of Rockford at what is now the popular Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve and Golf Course.

He attended Carleton College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. from Stanford University in 1938. After a year at the University of Wisconsin, alma mater of both of his parents, he obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1940. He served from 1942-1946 as an officer in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander.

Returning to Rockford, he joined his father Seth B. Atwood and uncle James T. Atwood in running Atwood Vacuum Machine Company, which they founded in 1909 to manufacture vacuum cleaners. By the 1920s, Atwood Vacuum had shifted from the manufacture of vacuum cleaners to door silencers for automobiles. Eventually, the company made a complete line of auto body hardware with 2,200 employees and five plants in Canada and the United States. In 1953, Seth G. became president, when his father became chairman of the board. He also managed various family businesses involving banking, venture capital and real estate properties.

An entrepreneur at heart, he was also involved in developing a three-wheeled energy-efficient car, shown at the 1984 Chicago Auto Show, and had an avid interest in yacht designs, building his own boat in the 1980s.

In 1971, he founded The Time Museum, which operated at The Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, in Rockford, Ill. In building the museum focused upon the history of time measurement, Seth Atwood enjoyed the challenge of learning about the history of science as well as the history of decorative arts. But what he most treasured from his monumental endeavor were the friendships, which developed out of this common interest shared with people from all walks of life from all over the world.

The museum was closed in March 1999, when United Realty Corp., a company owned by Atwood family interests, announced the sale of the resort and the museum. Most of the other businesses were sold in the 1980s and 1990s.

Atwood received various honorary awards and served numerous not-for-profit organizations, including past president of the International Young Presidents’ Organization; Rockford Public Service Television Corporation, Rockford Rotary Club, Rockford Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, Keith Country Day School, and Rockford Civic Orchestra. He was a past director of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Graduate School of Business at University of Chicago, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, and the Second Congregational Church in Rockford, Ill. He served on the Rockford Community Task Force submitting a report on local educational issues and also served on the Rockford Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee. He was a fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, a founding member of the American Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society (England), a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Time, and a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. Atwood was also a director of the Atwood Foundation. Atwood was also an avid golfer, loving the game his whole life.

Seth Atwood was predeceased by his wife, Patricia Jane Lang of River Forest, Ill., and by his sister, Barbara Mae Atwood of Rockford. He is survived by his three children: Mr. and Mrs. Seth Lang (Connie) Atwood of Boulder City, Nev., Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Triner (Patricia) Atwood of Rockford, Ill. and Mr. and Mrs. Paul J. Reilly (Diane Atwood) of Chicago, Ill.; and seven grandchildren.

Private graveside services will be held in Greenwood Cemetery, Rockford. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Seth’s honor to The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, Calif. 94621 or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements by Olson Funeral & Cremation Services Ltd., 1001 Second Ave. To send a private condolence, visit

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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