Aaron Willard cross-banded mahogany tall case clock featuring a rocking ship dial and a Revere set up label.

This important cross-banded mahogany cased tall clock was made by Aaron Willard of Boston, Massachusetts. This example features an automated dial in the form of a rocking ship and the Clockmaker’s original set up label printed by Paul Revere.

This is a classic Boston example. This case exhibits excellent long narrow proportions constructed by the Roxbury school of cabinetmakers. This case features excellent mahogany wood selections, cross-banding and a period finish. It measures approximately 8 feet 3.5 inches or 99.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial, 20 inches wide and almost 10 inches deep. The dial measures the standard 13 inches across.

This mahogany case stands on four nicely formed flared French feet. The feet and drop apron are visually separated from the base with the application of a delicate applied molding. The base panel is cross-banded in mahogany and features an excellent selection of crotch mahogany veneer. This panel is positioned in a vertical format. The rectangular waist door is constructed in a similar manner. The outer edge is fitted with an applied molding that frames the door. One would open this door in order to gain access to the inside of the case. Here, the original wooden pendulum rod, brass faced bob, rating nut and the two red painted or Japanned tin can weights. On the back of this door is the Maker’s set up label. This is the version that is associated as being engraved by the American Patriot, Paul Revere. This is also the version that instructs the buyer to “put clock in case.” This suggests that this example was shipped away from the Boston area and that the case and movement were packed separately. Very few Willard clocks retain their original set up labels and as a result, this is a wonderful and important additional detail. The sides of the waist or case are fitted with boldly reeded quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features traditional New England style pierced and open fret work design. This is supported by three reeded and capped plinths. Each plinth is surmounted by a brass finial. The finials are cast in brass and are in the form of an urn and an American eagle is perched atop of the urn. The eagle is clutching a sprig of holly in its beak. Fully turned and reeded bonnet columns visually support the upper bonnet molding. They are mounted in brass capitals and are free standing. The sides of the bonnet are fitted with rectangular shaped side lights that are fitted with glass. The arched bonnet door is fitted with glass and opens to access the colorfully painted iron dial.

This iron dial was paint decorated by the Boston ornamental artists, Spencer Nolen. The four spandrel areas are nicely decorated. Lacy gilt patterns frame an oval shape that features a colorful pinwheel design. The petals of the pinwheel alternate in the color combination of red and green. The automated feature of a rocking ship is located in the arch of this dial. The painted ship is depicted flying the American flag. This ship is cut from tin and actually moves or gently rocks from side to side with the motion of the pendulum. The painted scene behind the sailing ship is quite interesting. It includes a large American fortification that is built high on top of a rocky point. The fort is flying an American flag. A lighthouse is also depicted prominently in this scene. Several sailing ships are pictured in the background. This nautical theme is painted on a convex piece of metal which adds to the visual depth to the scene. The main section of the dial displays the time. The time ring is framed in a gilt circle. Arabic style numerals are used to mark the quarter hours. The hours are presented in a Roman style. A subsidiary seconds dial id located in the traditional location. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker in script lettering. The signature simply reads, “Aaron Willard / BOSTON.”

This movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. It is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system. As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour. This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement.

This beautiful clock was made circa 1810. It stands approximately 8 feet 3.5 inch tall to the top of the center finial.

About Aaron Willard of Grafton, Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts.

Aaron Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts on October 13th, 1757. Little is known of his early life in Grafton. It is here that he probably learned the skill of clock making from his older brothers Benjamin and Simon. It is recorded that he did march with them in response to the Lexington Alarm on April 19,1775. In 1780, Aaron moved from Grafton to Roxbury along with his brother Simon. Here the two Willard brothers establish a reputation for themselves as fine clock manufactures. They were both responsible for training a large number of apprentices, many of which became famous clock makers in their own right. The Willards dominated the clock making industry in the Boston area during the first half of the nineteenth century. Aaron worked in a separate location in Roxbury from his brother and relocated about a quarter mile away from Simon’s shop across the Boston line about 1792. Aaron is listed in the 1798 Boston directory as a clock maker ‘on the Neck’ and his large shop employed up to 30 people, while 21 other clock makers, cabinetmakers, dial and ornamental painters and gilders worked within a quarter-mile radius by 1807. We have owned a large number of tall case clocks made by this important Maker. In addition, we have also owned a good number of wall timepieces in the form of banjo clocks as well as numerous Massachusetts shelf clock forms.

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