Daniel Balch of Newbury, Massachusetts. A pre-revolutionary American tall case clock, diminutive in stature. 220029

This is important painted pine case tall clock was made by Daniel Balch of Newbury, Massachusetts.

The small village of Bradford, Massachusetts is considered one of America’s earliest clockmaking centers. What is interesting is that Bradford is not a coastal town, nor did it have a sizable population. This small village is located some 18 miles up the Merrimack river across from the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. As early as 1720, this region did have a healthy shipbuilding trade which existed on both sides of the river. Certainly numerous blacksmiths would be required in order for this type of industry to survive. The three families consisting of the Mullikens, the Balches and the Carletons all had native born sons that were responsible for producing clocks.

This case is constructed in pine and has been painted an interesting shade of blue-green. Interestingly several other Balch tall clocks are known that are cased in pine and are painted. Painted finishes vary from the sophisticated format of faux graining of mahogany to single colors like this example. Blach is one of very few clockmakers that used painted pine cases for his brass works. This case is visually supported on an applied bracket feet. The base is constructed in a manner which it rests flat to the floor. The bracket feet and the molding are applied to the base section at floor level. This provides the illusion that the feet are supporting the case. The base section is somewhat compressed. This is a common design detail that is found with some regularity in clock case construction manufactured in the Colonies during this early pre-revolutionary period. The waist section is long and centers a large tomb-stone shaped waist door. This door is trimmed along its perimeter with a molded edge. It is hinged and opens to allow one access to the interior of the case. This is where one will find the two brass covered drive weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The molded arch bonnet is a simple design. The molding is well formed. The cove section is nice and deep. This arch is visually supported by turned and shaped colonettes or hood columns. These are smoothly turned and terminate in wooden capitals. They are also attached to the hood door. This is also an early construction detail. Two additional columns are fitted into the back corners of the case. These are quarter columns. The sides of the hood are fitted with rectangular shaped side lights. The arched bonnet door opening is fitted with glass. The bonnet door opens to access the composite brass dial.

This style of dial predates the painted dial form. It is composed of a brass sheet and is decorated with a number of decorative elements. Four cast rococo formed corner spandrels frame the applied time ring. There are two additional spandrels in the arch. These center a circular shaped boss that is engraved with a powerful image of an eagle. It is also engraved with the latin phrase, “TEMPUS FUGIT.” This translates to “time flies.” The silvered time or chapter ring, features Arabic style five minute markers, a closed minute ring and large Roman style hour numerals. Inside this ring, the dial surface has been textured. Here one will also find a display for the calendar day and a subsidiary seconds dial. A large plaque is engraved with the Maker’s name. This engraved name plate reads. “Dan’l Balch / Newbury.” The hands are wonderfully hand filed. The skill exhibited here is very high.

The two train movement is brass, eight-day duration and of good quality. Five turned pillars or posts support the two large brass plates. 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.

This rare clock was made circa 1755. The case stands a mere 82 inches tall (6 feet 10 inches) to the top of the case. The bonnet is 20.5 inches wide and 11.25 inches deep.

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About Daniel Balch of Bradford and Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Daniel Balch Sr. was born in Bradford, Massachusetts on March 1, 1734. He was the son of Reverend William Balch of the East Parish in Badford. It is thought that Daniel had apprenticed and learned the skills of clockmaking under the guidance of Samuel Mulliken. In Bradford, he made clocks until he moved to Newbury in 1756. He was also married this same year to Hannah Clements (1735-1783). His first shop was located on Fish Street now State Street. In 1765, Newburyport became its own entity and the two villages were divided. It is recorded that he kept the town clock of Newburyport form 1781 – 1783. Daniel married a second time in 1784 to Judith Thurston (1739-1825) of Newbury. Daniel had two son from his first marriage that he trained as clockmakers. They are Daniel Jr. (1761-1835) and Thomas Hutchinson Balch (1771-1817). Together, they continued the business after Daniel Sr. died in 1790. ( An interesting note. Jonathan Kettell, a cabinetmaker originally from Charlestown, Massachusetts and moved to Newburyport after the British burned the town in 1775, recorded in his account books that Daniel Balch purchased as many as twenty-two tall case and shelf clock cases in the years that included 1781-1792.) Examples of tall clocks, some musical, and shelf clocks have been found. A very nice example of a brass dial shelf clock is currently in the collection of the Historical Society of Old Newbury.

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