Benjamin Willard of Roxbury, Massachusetts. No. 135. Circa 1772. Tall clock.
This is a fine Chippendale cherry case tall clock featuring an engraved brass dial that is finished with a silver wash and a moon phase or lunar calendar. It is signed by the clockmaker "Benjan. Willard, Roxbury. No. 135."
This nicely proportioned tall clock case is constructed in maple and features a rich mellow finish. The case is supported on a four ogee bracket feet. These are applied to a double stepped molding. The waist section is long and centers a large shaped waist door. This door is trimmed along its perimeter with a molded edge. This door opens to access the pendulum and weights. The sides of the waist are fitted with fluted quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The columns are stop fluted with brass rods. The hood or bonnet features a pierced an open New England style fret work pattern. Three finial plinths, each of which are fluted and capped at the top, are fitted with large brass ball and spike finials. The front bonnet columns are also brass stop fluted and are mounted in brass capitals. The back quarter columns are simply shaped and neatly fitted into the corners of the case. The sides of the hood feature tombstone shaped side lights. The bonnet door is also an arched form and fitted with glass. This door opens to access the dial.
This 13 inch dial is constructed from a sheet of brass. It gets it's silver color from a wash that is applied after it has been engraved. The engravings are skillfully executed. The rococo scroll work theme is consistent in the four spandrel area and at the top of the arch. If one looks closely, you will notice the profile of a man's face incorporated in the design of the upper spandrel areas. American eagles are depicted on either side of the calendar date. This dial is signed and numbered by the Maker. The "No. 135" can be found inside the subsidiary seconds dial. The Maker's name and working location "Benjan' Willard / Roxbury" is positioned in the center of the dial and can be plainly seen. This is signed in a script format. In the arch of the dial is a lunar calendar or a moon phase mechanism. Interestingly, the moon and the blue night sky is painted. The moon has a pleasing face. The time ring is laid out in a traditional format. The hours are indicated in Roman numerals and the five minute markers are indicated in an Arabic form. The day of the month is also displayed through a small square opening above the Roman numeral "Six."
This clock features an eight day brass movement. It is weight driven and wound with a key. It is designed to strike each hour on a cast iron bell. The movement is of good quality. It is interesting to note the quality of this example because we have owned and seen numerous other signed Benjamin examples where the quality is somewhat crude.
This clock stands approximately 91.5 inches or 7 feet 7.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial. The upper bonnet molding is approximately 21.5 inches across and 10.5 inches deep. This clock is inventory number 214010.
This clock was made circa 1772-1773. I consider this date to be very accurate. It is based on the fact that Benjamin Willard's clock number 131 is dated on the front plate 1772. This clock, number 135, must have been made shortly after based on his production output.
About Benjamin Willard of Grafton, Lexington, and Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Benjamin Willard is the oldest of four Willard clockmaking brothers. His younger brother Simon is considered by many to be America’s most famous Clockmaker. The two other younger brothers that also made clocks include Ephraim and Aaron. Benjamin was born March 19, 1743. As a New England Clockmaker, he never stayed in one location for an extended period of time. In December 1764, he advertised himself as a maker of shoe lasts and that he was located in East Hartford, Connecticut at the home of Benjamin Cheney. Because Cheney was and established clockmaker, it is logical to assume that he received some wooden geared clock training from him. In fact, two signed Benjamin wooden geared clocks are known and interestingly, both feature the Cheney construction form. Returning from Hartford to Grafton sometime in 1766 and by early 1767, Benjamin relocated to Lexington, Massachusetts. Here it is recorded that he worked with and then succeeded the brass clockmaker Nathaniel Mulliken. It is thought that Benjamin received some level of brass construction clockmaking training from Mulliken before he past in late 1767. Shortly there after, he hired a John Morris to teach himself and his brothers Simon and Aaron brass clockmaking. During this period, he advertised that he maintained separate shops in both towns until 1771 when it appears he moved the Lexington shop to Roxbury. The Roxbury shop then moved to Brookline in 1775. During the period 1777-78 he advertised being located in Medford. Benjamin moved back to Grafton and then later Worcester and then to Baltimore, Maryland where he died in September of 1803.
On September 3rd of 1789, Benjamin advertised in the Herald and Worcester Recorder that he had moved from Grafton to Worcester and that he had manufactured 359 clocks in the past 23 years. That works out to approximately 15 or 16 clocks per year during that period. He also states that he had left Roxbury in 1775. Current research suggests that somewhere shortly after clock number 239 he moved from Roxbury and these are perhaps pre-revolutionary.
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