Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen, New Hampshire
This is a wonderfully inlaid mahogany cased Massachusetts shelf or case on case clock. Of the seven examples currently known by this Maker, this is the most elaborate and visually pleasing in terms of the case form and design. It is unusual in that it features an arched dial. This dial is a smaller version of the standard tall case form. This dial form is considered the transitional form. The earliest shelf clock dials were constructed in brass. The popularity of the painted arch dial and the incorporation of it in its use on tall case clock is undeniable. By 1810 the circular concave dial is introduced and quickly becomes the standard form. This arched painted iron dial is signed by the clockmaker, Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen, New Hampshire. Interestingly, this may be the only example of a Massachusetts shelf clock form having the combination of an arched dial and a paint decorated tablet in the door located in the lower case section.
This case stands up on four cut-out bracket feet. They transition smoothly into a nicely shaped double drop apron. The feet exhibit excellent height and are separated from the base section by a complex line inlay pattern. This line inlay travels across all three mahogany panels used in the construction the base. The base is long and narrow which accentuates the fine proportions of the case. The front base panel is trimmed with additional inlays that frame a border. The center panel is fitted with a large door which is trimmed with a flat mahogany border. This frames the large egloimise' panel depicting a classically themed woman. She is standing while holding a long staff in her left hand. She is also wearing a long flowing dress and is centered in a floral border or wreath. All of this detail is set on a green background or field. This panel has experienced some losses but is original to this clock and can be restored. This is a very unusual decorative feature for this case form. Through this door, one can access the rectangular tin can weight and the brass covered pendulum bob. Transitioning upwards is a bonnet molding that slightly overhangs the lower section. The bonnet features inlays. The freeze incorporates selections of book matched flaming birch veneers. The graining exhibited in this wood is vibrant. Above this is addition line inlay. The complex pattern is interesting. The bonnet door is an arched and conforms the to shape of the dial. This door is fitted with glass. The molded arch is surmounted by an solid fret pattern which features additional flaming birch veneers. This is supported by three inlaid final plinths which support decorative brass finials.
The painted iron dial is of Boston origin. The four spandrel areas are decorated with raised gesso scrolling that is highlighted with gilt paint. In the arch is a painted scene of a boy skating on one of the large New Hampshire lakes. The boy is dressed in a red skating suit, a broad brimmed hat and skates with up turned blades. The lake is frozen and a mountain range can be seen in the background. We have seen this wonderful skating theme on a few tall clock dials of Boston origin. This dial was most likely painted by Spencer Nolen. The time ring is formatted with large Arabic hour and smaller quarter hour numerals. The nicely formed steel hands will indicate the time. The clockmaker's name is boldly signed in script in the center section of the dial. It also lists his working location in block lettering.
The time only movement is constructed in brass. It is a weight driven clock and is designed to run eight-days on a full wind. It is good quality. The movement attached directly to the dial without the use of a false plate. It is supported in the case by a pine seat board.
This clock was made circa 1815 and stands approximately 36.5 inches tall. It is quite narrow and measures 11.5 inches wide at it's widest point. This accentuates it's wonderful narrow form.
About Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen, New Hampshire.
Benjamin Morrill was born on January 16, 1794 and died April 21, 1857. He was one of six children born to Samuel Morrill and Sarah Atkinson, Benjamin was their fifth child. It is summarized that he was a practical man and that he was educated. His work demonstrates a creative skill in mechanical matters. It is not presently know who trained Benjamin as a clockmaker and 1816, Benjamin is recorded as setting up his shop. Benjamin’s oldest sister Judith, married Joseph Chadwick. He was also a clockmaker from the same town and was seven years older than Benjamin. On November 22, 1818, Benjamin marries his first of two wives, Mehetable Eastman. She was the daughter of Simeon and Anna (Kimball) Eastman of Landiff, New Hampshire. They had two children before she died on July 6, 1828. Benjamin remarried six months later to Mary Choate of Derry, New Hampshire. Together, they also had two children and lived in a plain house that was built by his grandfather. His grandfather, the Reverend Robie Morrill, graduated from Harvard College in 1755. Benjamin Died April 21, 1857.
As a Clockmaker, Benjamin made numerous clocks. These included tall case clocks, shelf clocks, banjo clocks and mirror clocks. Interestingly, he is credited with developing the New Hampshire clock form. Many of the mirror clocks found today, feature his “Wheel Barrel” style movement. Benjamin is also thought to have made at least four tower clocks. Interestingly, none of these examples are signed but, all are similar in style. The documented examples are as follows. One example was installed in the tower in the First Parish Meeting House located in Dover, New Hampshire. A second clock was installed the tower of the Congregational Church in Henniker, New Hampshire in 1835. This clock is now on display at the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. A third clock is reportably located in its original location in Orford, New Hampshire. Later in life when clockmaking became less profitable, Benjamin developed an interest in music. He then began to manufacture various musical instruments and scales.
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