William Cummens of Roxbury, Massachusetts. A mahogany cased grandfather clock. PP158.

This mahogany cased example is very nicely proportioned and has a long history of ownership in the Roxbury Area.

The fine mahogany case exhibits very good proportions. The layout of this case does not include richly grained mahogany veneers or brass stop fluted quarter columns. It is solidly constructed and illustrates through its overall form that a Roxbury cases can stand on proportions alone. We have owned a fair number of these simpler designed cases with other Roxbury Makers signed on the dial. Benjamin, Simon, Ephraim and Aaron Willard examples are know to us. This case form must have been ordered by a true Yankee.

The mahogany wood retains an older shellac finish that has mellowed over time. Many scholars would consider this an original finish. The base stands four applied ogee bracket feet. They are well formed and are applied to a double step molding. The base panel features a mahogany panel that exhibits a long sweeping grain pattern and is positioned horizontally. The waist section is long and narrow. It is fitted with a large tombstone shaped waist door. This door is trimmed a simple molded edge. The bonnet features a traditional pierced and open fretwork design and is surmounted with three brass ball and spiked finials. The bonnet door is arched and fitted with glass. The two smoothly turned bonnet columns flank the bonnet door. They are free standing and mounted into brass capitals. They provide the illusion of supporting the upper bonnet molding.

The iron dial is nicely paint decorated. The four spandrel areas feature large lacy gilt designs. Under which is an applied layer of gesso that raises much of this design detail on the dial. A colorful painted pastoral scene is depicted in the lunette. A well dressed couple is together under a large tree. This tree is on the bank of a slow moving river just outside of town. The young woman is seated. She is well dressed and is handing the young gentleman a sheep herding staff. She appears to be slightly blushing as she turns away from the boy. This boy is a reoccurring figure in a number of painted dials produced by the Nolen & Curtis dial firm located in Boston. Here, the boy is wearing blue pants, a scarf and aa wide brimmed hat. This dial displays hours, minutes, seconds and calendar day in a traditional format. This dial is signed by the Maker, “Wm. Cummens” in fancy lettering.

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. The History of ownership in the local area is determined by the repair notations found scratched into the front plate. Elnathan Taber serviced this clock multiple times. Two dates he recorded are in February of 1839 and May of 1859.

This austere example was made circa 1795. It stand approximately 7 feet 10.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial.


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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