Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts. Dwarf or grandmother clock. Inlaid mahogany case.

Elmer Stennes made several versions of the dwarf or grandmother clock case. This example is one of the more formal and traditionally formed examples. This attractive example is essentially a scaled down version of the “Roxbury” case form which was made popular by the Willard family in the 1790’s through the 1815 time period. This case is also embellished with line and quarter fan inlays.

This is a very handsome example. The case stands on four applied ogee bracket feet. They exhibit excellent height and good form. The base panel is line inlaid. In each of the four corners of this inlay pattern is a quarter fan. This decorative design is repeated in the long rectangular shaped waist door. The door is trimmed with a simple molded edge. Through this door one can gain access to the pendulum bob. The bob is supported by a wooden rod. Fluted quarter columns flank the waist. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet columns are also fluted and are fitted into fully turned brass capitals. These visually support the molded arch. Above this is a pierced and open fretwork design. It is a traditional New England pattern incorporating three brass finials that are mounted on fluted plinths. The arched bonnet door is fitted with glass. It opens to access the dial.

This dial is colorfully painted. The four spandrel areas and the lunette are decorated with floral patterns. The time ring is formatted in a traditional display. The hours are marked in Roman numerals and the five minute markers are painted in an Arabic format. In the center, this dial is signed by the Maker, “Elmer O. Stennes, / WEYMOUTH, MASS.”

This German made three train spring driven movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four pillars support the two brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is designed to run eight days on a full wind. It will also strike the hours and quarter hours. The quarter hour strike is preformed on chime rods in a Westminster sequence.

This case is stamped in several locations The stampings indicate that it was made in 1963 and that it was the 5th clock he made in that year. It also has his label or brand stamp inside the waist door.

This clock stands approximately 61 inches tall and is 13.5 inches wide and 8.5 inches deep.

About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

For 30 years, between the 1940s and the 1970s, Stennes was famous for being the only large-scale reproducer of classic American clock cases in the country. But his former friends and associates remember him for another reason. Elmer killed his wife and later was himself killed. In fact, it’s hard to say whether the clocks and other items made by Stennes are so collectible today because of their quality or because of his notoriety. He lived at 45 Church Street in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, in a house he built himself in 1938. He used a design by Royal Barry Wills, the 20th-century American designer of reproduction Colonial-era dwellings. (So, the house, like his clocks, is a facsimile.) It is a classic two-story cedar-shingle Cape Home.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1911. Trained as a cabinetmaker who worked in the shipyards, Stennes made his mark as a case-maker for the clocks he sold with his name painted on the dials. His production was significant as compared to others that were not set up as a factory with employees. He made a variety of forms. These included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock, a copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole, several shelf clock forms, tall case clocks which he called grandfathers, grandmothers and an in between size he designed and dubbed the Wessagusset. The name Wessagusset is the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. Elmer was a good marketer and his clocks were sold nationwide through the contacts he made as a member of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC).

Stennes began making is cases full time by 1948. It is then that he left the shipyards to manufacture clocks. He did not manufacture the movements. At first, he used movements from what was then common clocks. Soon he had to find another more reliable source and used good quality reproductions. By 1959, he built a barn to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located on Tic Tock Lane.

Elmer’s first wife was Eva who had three of her own children before they married. Together, they had a daughter. Eva died on December 2, 1968. As a result of an argument, Elmer took out his .357 magnum derringer and shot one bullet into Eva’s head. She staggered from the kitchen and died on the bathroom floor. Elmer reportedly called the Weymouth police himself. He was arrested in his home and later released on a bond of $25,000. It was business as usual until his trail. During this period he branded his clock cases with the initials, “O.O.B.,” to signify his new status out on bond. Stennes pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter and was sentenced to eight to ten years. His term was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth. The retired Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Judge Steadman was Stennes’ personal friend customer and counsel before the crime. He had purchased a cherry-wood grandmother clock and Elmer had made him a gavel for his bench. Soon Stennes was teaching carpentry classes in the prison wood shop. One could argue that he was using prison equipment and inmates to construct clock cases. These were stamped “M.C.I.P.,” the abbreviation for “Made Case in Prison” or some have claimed it was the acronym for the prison, “Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth, which was actually in Carver, Mass.

After having served only two years and four months, Stennes was paroled in January 1972. He soon remarried on December 15, 1973. Her name was Phyllis Means. On October 4, 1975 the couple was shot while they were sleeping in their upstairs bedroom. Two men broke into the house, Elmer was shot five times. Phyllis was shot seven times. When the police arrived, she was covered in blood and was screaming that Elmer was dead.

Phyllis accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had seen his face, recognized his clothes, and heard his voice say, “Dad.” Elliot had five witnesses testified that at the time of the shooting he had been with them at a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire. As a result, the charges were dropped.

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