Josiah Wood. Clockmaker working in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A gunsmith, Clockmaker, watchmaker, goldsmith, silversmith and jeweler. A high style inlaid mahogany cased tall clock. The best that colonial Southeastern Massachusetts had to offer. 221103

This very interesting and complex example features excellent proportions and form. It is constructed primarily in mahogany and white pine but is decorated in mahogany veneers and light maple inlays. Nicely formed flared French style feet elevated the case up off the floor. These frame a nicely scrolled double drop apron. The feet are visually separated from the based panel by a triple light line inlay. The base panel is fantastic. The main panel features a selection of mahogany veneer tat features long grain lines. A light line string inlay frame forms the first frame. The interior corners of this frame are fitted with inlaid quarter fans. Each fan consists of five blades that are shaded on one side. Centered in the panel is a large oval of lighter mahogany that also exhibits a nice grain structure. This oval is framed with band of inlay that consists of a dark line that is sandwiched between two light lines. The transition from the base to the waist is accomplished with a shaped waist molding. As is the tradition of many Southeastern Massachusetts cases, the molding is somewhat compressed as compared to those cases made in the Boston region. The waist section is fitted with a large rectangular shaped waist door. Through this door one can access the clock’s tin can drive weights and brass faced pendulum bob. This door is veneered with a highly figured selection of mahogany veneer. It is also decorated with inlay. A stylized oval form is constructed with three thin lines of wood. A rectangular light line frame features quarter fans in each corner. The outer edge of the door is trimmed with a line inlaid pattern. The sides of the waist are fitted with fluted quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals at each end. The bonnet is features a New England style pierced and open fret work decoration on a non-traditional design. It features concentric circles. It is quite attractive. Three capped finial plinth help secure the frets in place and support three brass ball and spike finials. The sides of the hood features tombstone shaped windows that are fitted with glass. The bonnet columns are also fluted and are mounted brass capitals. These flank the arched door. This door is also inlaid with additional quarter fans and a single line pattern. It is very unusual to find a bonnet door that is decorated with inlay. This door opens to allow one access to the painted iron dial.

This iron dial manufactured by the Wilson dial firm in Birmingham, England. It features colorful floral decorations in each of the four spandrel areas. These are surrounded by raised gesso decorations that are highlighted in gilt paint. The automated feature of a lunar calendar is located in the arch of this dial. A lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is located in the arch of this dial. This mechanical almanac is thought to have been a special order function. It would have been a valuable addition. Farmers would have use for this calendar display in order to anticipate the nights with the most available moonlight. This would aide them in scheduling their planting, tilling of the fields and harvesting. Sailors and merchants would find it helpful to know when moon might greatly affect high tide. This would allow their ships to sail from many of the shallower coastal ports. Many religious groups had an almost superstitious litany of rituals best performed in accordance with lunar events. One other use would be the scheduling of traveling by moonlight at night. A full moon, often provides ample light to do so. The lunar month represents an inconvenient interval of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. A clocks lunar calendar is set at 29.5 days from new moon to new moon, a full cycle. This would require just a 9 hour setback at the end of a single year. This dial displays the time in a traditional format. Arabic numerals are positioned at each of the five minute marker locations and these are separated from the large Roman style hour numerals by a dotted minute ring. A subsidiary seconds dial is located below the Roman hour numeral XII. The month calendar day is located in its traditional position. The Clockmaker’s signature is signed below the calendar display. It reads, “JOSIAH WOOD / NEW BEDFORD.” This signature has faded over the years. On close inspection, it is clearly signed. The hands are nicely formed.

The movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars 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. The movement 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 clocks stands approximately 7 feet 7 inches (91 inches) tall to the top of the center brass finial. It is 20.25 inches wide and 11 inches deep. This clock was made circa 1810.


About Josiah Wood of Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Josiah Wood was born in New Bedford on February 21, 1774. Currently his parents are not known. Josiah is first recorded as a “Dartmouth Gunsmith” when he sold five acres of land in that town in March of 1794. He also married in October of that same year Philadelphia Thomas in New Bedford. He soon moved to New Bedford in 1797 where he is listed as a “Goldsmith” in a land transaction there. He purchased a house lot on the northwest corner of Walnut Street and Second Street in the village on Bedford in New Bedford. In 1799, he advertised that he had a clock and watch-making business, “in the best and neatest manner.” It is not known who trained him as a clockmaker. Over the next four decades, Wood had a number of locations including Main Street and eventually No. 62 Union Street. All the while expanding his businesses. He soon was making clocks, repairing watches, preforming engraving work, gold and silversmithing and selling a general assortment of dry goods. He became a successful importer and retailer of European and West India goods. It is currently thought that he made very few clocks over his lifetime. This is based on the very limited number of clocks that appear in the marketplace. The New Bedford Whaling Museum has a fantastic example that we sold to them in 2005. They also have a wonderful miniature portrait on ivory of him in their collection.


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