William Cummens of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Spencer Nolen Dial number 17. Automated rocking ship dial. Tall case clock.
This is a fine inlaid mahogany case tall clock exhibiting excellent proportions and a painted rocking ship dial that is signed by the Roxbury, Massachusetts Clockmaker, William Cummens.
William Cummens was born 1768 and died on April 20, 1834 at the age of 66. He worked in Roxbury in 1789 through 1834. Along with Elnathan Taber, William Cummens was trained as a clockmaker by Simon Willard. After serving his apprenticeship, Cummens stayed in Roxbury and made many clocks. He had direct access to the same suppliers the Willards used such case makers and dial painters like Spencer Nolen. As a result, Cummens' clocks are very similar in form. Over the last 48 years in business, we have owned and sold many tall case clocks, Massachusetts shelf clocks and wall timepieces made by this Maker.
This is a very handsome example. The case exhibits an excellent choice of mahogany and mahogany veneers having a strong grain pattern and presently retaining an older finish. This case stands on four pad feet that are applied to the bottom of a double step molding. This molding forms a free flowing skirt between the feet. The base panel is line inlaid and features inlaid quarter fans in each of the corners. This pattern is repeated in the long rectangular shaped waist door. This door is also trimmed with and applied molding. Through this door one can gain access to the original tin can weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The bob is supported by a wood rod. Brass stopped fluted quarter columns flank the waist. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet columns are also stopped fluted with brass and are fitted into brass capitals. These visually support the molded arch. Above this is a pierced and open fretwork design. It is a traditional New England style pattern incorporating three brass ball and spiked finials that are mounted on fluted chimney plinths. The arched bonnet door is line inlaid and is fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial.
This iron dial was painted in Boston and the artwork is attributed to Spencer Nolen and Samuel Curtis. This dial is signed on the back, "N17." Nolen often numbered his dials and others have been discovered signed in a similar format. It is interesting to note that this dial does not incorporate a false plate. This implies that it was on hand when the clockmaker was making the movement. The four spandrel areas are painted decorated with colorful florals. The time ring is formatted in a traditional display. The hours are marked in Roman numerals and the five minute markers are painted in an Arabic format. A wonderful coastal scene is painted in the arch of this dial. This arch is slightly concave. This provides the space for the automated ship to move in front of the painted scene. This sailing ship is automated by the motion of the pendulum. As a result, it will gently rock side to side with the motion of the pendulum. This automated display is a very desirable feature. The ship is depicted flying two American Flags. It is located off the American coast. We know this because a lighthouse is standing in the background to the left and is also flying an American flag. This dial is signed by the Maker, “W. CUMMENS / WARRANTED." This block letter signature can be plainly seen with in the time track.
This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars support the two 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 clock was made circa 1795 an stands approximately 7 feet 9.5 inches tall, 20 inches wide and 10 inches deep.
About William Cummens of Roxbury, Massachusetts.
William Cummens was born 1768 and died on April 20, 1834 at the age of 66. He worked in Roxbury as a clockmaker as early as 1789 through 1834. He was trained by Simon Willard and along with Elnathan Taber, Cummens stayed in Roxbury and made many clocks for his own clients while maintaining a close working relationship with the Willard family. In this Roxbury location, Cummens had direct access to the same suppliers, such case makers and dial painters that the Willards used. As a result, his clocks are very similar in form. He was one of the first persons authorized by Simon Willard to manufacture the new patent timepiece. Over the past 45 plus years in business, we have owned and sold many tall case clocks, Massachusetts shelf clocks and wall timepieces signed by this important clockmaker. Very few tall case examples are found with his original set up label.
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