Joseph Carpenter, Norwich, Connecticut. A fine Chippendale cherry cased tall clock. This case is attributed to the Norwich cabinetmaker Felix Huntington. ZZ35.

This is a fine cherry case tall clock with silvered brass dial signed by the Norwich, Connecticut clockmaker Joseph Carpenter.

This case is of a distinctive type found on many of Thomas Harland’s tall case clocks. I mention Harland because a fair number of his clocks exist. Among the cabinetmakers known to have provided cases for the Norwich area clockmakers are Abishai Woodward of Preston and Felix Huntington of Norwich. This signed Carpenter example is very similar to the two clocks on display in the collection at the Leffingwell Inn in Norwich. The first clock was made by this same maker Joseph Carpenter. A second clock was made by Nathaniel Shipman.

This clock stands on wonderful original Connecticut bracket feet that are applied to the double stepped molding. The waist is long and narrow centering a large tomb-stone shaped waist door. This door is trimmed with a simple molded edge. The door provides access to the interior of the case. The pendulum and weights are accessible through this door. This door also has the unusual feature of having a diamond shaped cut-out n the center of the door. This is trimmed with a molded edge and fitted with glass. I believe this to be an original detail. The windows on the side of the hood are constructed in the same manner. The hood rests on the upper cove molding. Fully turned hood columns are mounted aside of the arched hood door and visually support the arch molding. This is surmounted with whale’s tail fret and three fluted chimneys. Each plinth supports a wonderfully carved flame finial. This clock stands 7 feet 8.5 inches tall over all.

The dial of this clock is representative of the types of dials that he seems to have been made popular in Eastern Connecticut. It is composed of a single sheet of brass that is hammered flat and now very thin. The surface is then decorated with a number of skillful engravings. The engraved chapter ring features Roman style hour numerals and Arabic style five minute markers. The minute ring is closed. The rococo foliate spandrel designs are repeated in the center section of the dial. Also located here is the subsidiary seconds dial and oversized calendar aperture in the center. This dial is signed in the lunette in large script lettering. The signature reads, “Joseph Carpenter/ Norwich.” All of the engraved work is filled with black wax or shellac. The dial is then treated with a silver wash. The silver wash does not adhere to the black and as a result, provides and excellent contrast. The hands are finely cut from steel and are nicely formed. These stand out against the silver background to display the time. This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four distinctively shaped turned pillars, “Cigar shaped,” support the two large brass plates. These four posts are associated with the Harland / Burnap school of clockmaking. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or 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. It is excellent quality.

This clock was made circa 1780 and stands 7 feet 8.5 inches or 92.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial. It is 19.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

Inventory Number ZZ-35.

About Joseph Carpenter. a silversmith, pewterer and clockmaker. Norwich, Connecticut.

Joseph Carpenter was born in Woodstock, Connecticut on July 4, 1747. His Parents were Joesph Carpenter (b 1715 – d 1749) and Elizabeth Lathrop (b 4/05/1724 – d 12/26/1817 at the age of 93.) Elizabeth remarried Joseph Peck (b 11/14/1706 – d 9/06/1776 )of Norwich on December 22, 1754. It is logical to assume that Joseph moved to Norwich when his mother remarried. He would have been just 7 years old. It is suggested in several horological listings that Joesph may have been trained as a clockmaker somewhere in Massachusetts. We know that he had family in Rehoboth. This may be a possible lead. It is recorded that Joseph moved back into Norwich in 1768 when he was 21 and worked in his stepfather’s shop as a silversmith. In 1772, he is recorded as purchasing various construction materials consistent with those needed to construct a building on land he rented from the church. This was located at 71 East Town Street on the Norwich town green. His shop was to occupy one half of the building. His brother, Gardner operated a mercantile business in the other half. In 1775, Joseph built a house for himself next door. He also married Eunice Fitch of Norwich on 29 June 1775. They were married in Woodstock. Together, they had 6 children. Joseph became an accomplished engraver, silversmith and pewterer. He trained several apprentices including Roswell Huntington, Rufus Farnam, Henry Farnam and his own son Charles Augustus Carpenter. Joseph advertised on three occasions that he wish to employ an apprentice at clockmaking. These ads were placed in the years 1775, 1789 and 1790. Joseph died in 1804 and at the time, was considered to be one of the most successful of the Norwich silversmiths, clockmakers and pewterers. When he passed, his appraisal listed amoung other items was “1 chime clock movement, face partly done.” Also a total of 4 clock cases. Carpenter’s shop is still standing on East Town Street on the Norwich town green. The shop was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 6, 1970. Very few clocks are know.


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