Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts

This is a very rare and important mahogany case tall clock made by Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts. This movement is engraved with the Maker's name, “G. Brown 1755. No; 77.” and numbered “No; 77” on the front plate. Currently, this is the only example found to date that is dated and numbered.

Very few Clockmakers live and worked in the states during this early time period. Pre-Revolutionary clocks made in this country are quite rare and very few exist. The majority of clocks that would have been available would have been from English sources.

This rare clock is typical of the early Boston form. It stands on a large double step molding that rests flat to the floor. The waist door is tombstone shaped and fills the waist or middle section of the case. The bonnet features a caddy top with two carved gilt finials that surmounts this clock. The bonnet door is arched in form and opens to a composite brass dial that is signed by the maker. This style of dial predates the painted dial form. It is composed of a brass sheet and is decorated with applied brass spandrels, name boss and time or chapter rings. The movement is constructed in brass and is weight driven. It is designed to run eight days on a full wind and strike each hour on a cast iron bell. The bell is mounted above the movement which is good quality. This clock was made circa 1755. We know this because the front plate is skillfully engraved, “G. Brown 1755. No; 77.” This is a wonderful and important discovery. Prior to this, it was not known that Brown number any of his clocks.

This example stands 7 feet 8 inches tall overall. It is inventory number T-26.

About Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts.

Gawen Brown was born in England in 1719 and died in Boston at the age of 82 in 1801. It is recorded that he came to this country sometime before 1749. It is in that year, on February 6th, that he advertised in The Boston Evening Post that he was a “…Clock and Watchmaker lately from London, Keeps his shop at Me. Johnson’s Japanner, in Brattle Street, Boston, near Mr. Copper’s Meeting House, where he makes and sells all sorts of plain, repeating and Astronomical Clocks, with cases plain, black walnut, mahogany or Japann’d or with out.” During his lifetime, much was written about his making and installing a tower clock at the Old South Church in Boston. The Old South Church was erected in 1730 without a clock. Brown installed his clock sometime between 1768 and 1770. Between the period of 1752 and 1760, Brown moved his shop and home several times. He married three times and had a total of twelve children. On April 5, 1750, Brown married Mary Flagg. Together they had six children before she died in 1760. She was only 31 years old. His second wife, Elizabeth Byles, was the daughter of Mather Byles. Mather was a famous clergyman who presided over the Hollis Street Church. Elizabeth lived only three more years and had no children. She died in 1763. In 1764, Brown married Elizabeth Hill Adams. Elizabeth was the widow of Dr. Joseph Adams who was the brother of Samuel Adams. Elizabeth bore him six more children. Based on a number of newspaper advertisements, Brown imported a number of English clocks and watches from England. During the period of 1789 through 1796, Brown is listed in the business directories as a watchmaker.

Gawen Brown has been often referred to as “The Tory Clockmaker.” This title implies that he was loyal to the King of England. In fact, an article written in magazine Antiques in January of 1929 suggests that Brown left the Colonies and returned to England during the Revolution. This simple cannot be true due to the fact that he had an extensive military career. Brown first enlisted in the Independent Company of Cadets on December 7, 1776. The Cadets were an independent organization and accordingly, it was possible for one to hold an official rank with them as well as with another military company at the same time. He served as a Corporal in the Rhode Island Expedition from April 15, 1777 to May 5, 1777. In April of this same year, he was appointed the rank of Captain in a Continental Regiment lead by Colonel Henry Jackson. He resigned form this on October 23, 1778. In 1779 he was made Brigade Major of the Penobscot Expedition. This tenure lasted from July 2, 1779 to October 8, 1779. Brown left military service in 1781. At that time, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Very few Clockmakers live and worked in the states during this early time period. Pre-Revolutionary clocks made in this country are quite rare and very few exist. The majority of clocks that would have been available would have been from English sources.

A portrait of him is reportable owned by The A. W. Mellon Educational Charitable Trust. Reproductions of which proudly hang in the Old South Church and in the Cadet Armory.

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