Astronomical Regulator. Bigelow & Brothers of Boston, Massachusetts.

An important and rare astronomical regulator made for Bigelow & Brothers of Boston, Massachusetts. This may have very well been their shop clock and as a result, their company’s most important physical asset.

John Bigelow was born in Westminster, Massachusetts on May 26, 1802. His parents were Luke Bigelow and Asenath (Winship) Bigelow. John was trained as a silversmith and is first listed as doing business in Boston as early as 1824 as John Bigelow & Co. In the early 1830’s, he was joined by his brothers Alanson & Abraham O. Bigelow prompting the firm’s name to change to Bigelow Bros. & Co. The company expanded its business from jewelry to include high quality clocks, watches and altar silverware. Their merchandise was privately manufactured and sold at their store in Boston. Martin Parry Kennard of Brookline, Massachusetts joined the firm in 1845, which prompted the company to change its name to Bigelow Bros. & Kennard until 1863. From 1863 to 1972 the firm was called Bigelow, Kennard & Co. The store was closed in 1971-72.

This eight-day regulator movement is of the best quality and was most likely manufactured by Thomas Leyland of Prescot, England. Leyland was a clockmaker and instrument maker working in Prescot in Lancashire circa 1818-1858. He was very talented and made many clocks and supplied clock components for other clockmakers and retailers of clocks. He is known to have worked for William Hardy, a London clockmaker who developed the spring pallet escapement. In fact, he is credited with cutting the wheels and pinions with teeth truly epicycloidal on the very clock that was submitted by Hardy for trails at the Royal Observatory under the direction of Dr. Maskelyne. Leyland also made clocks for and to be sold by James Condliff of Liverpool, Charles Fordsham of London, Molyneux & Sons and for Tiffany & Co. of New York, USA.

This is a wonderful example of his work. An interesting note is that there are 109 screws in the assembly of this movement. The plates are heavily constructed and are substantial. Five heavy pillars or posts are screwed through the front and back in order to support them. The movement features a dead-beat escapement, the pallet facings are jeweled, the gearing is light and designed with six crossings, the pinion count is high having as many as 16 leaves, end stops are positioned on each pivot and are adjustable by screw regulation and the front pivots are carried by heavy bridges. Other features include, Harrison’s maintaining power, a spring loaded winding guide or stop, and fine adjustments for the beat and the crutch are located at the back of the movement. The pendulum is carried or supported by a heavy bar that spans both plates and extends beyond the backplate. A nicely shaped cradle locks the pendulum in place. The pendulum features a steel rod that supports a single jar that is intended to hold mercury. This steel jar is is supported by a decorative cradle. It is attractive and incorporates a fine regulation adjustment in the design. The brass weight features a decorative shell and hangs from a pulley that features six crossings. The four original brass dust-proof plate covers provide a complete shrouding of the mechanism. These are held in place with beautiful turned brass threaded knobs.

The brass dial is engraved in the traditional astronomical format having separate seconds, minutes and hour displays. It is also signed by the original firm "Bigelow & Brothers, Boston" in fancy script. This dial is treated with a silver wash for contrast. The three hands are blued steel and original to this clock.

The case is constructed in mahogany and features flamboyantly figured mahogany veneers. The veneers are first rate and exhibit vibrant grain patterns. A number of interesting moldings are applied to the case adding interest to the overall design. This case measures 6 feet and 3.5 inches tall to the top of the hood or 7 feet and 7 inches tall to the top of the finial.

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