John Foss of Somersworth, New Hampshire. A mahogany case tall clock. UU48.

This fine example is fitted in a very interesting case. If you looks closely at the shaping of the moldings and the forms used in various elements of the case, it becomes evident that the casemaker was not familiar with the standard case forms. The molding profiles are non traditional. This case is constructed in mahogany and retains an older finish. The rich brown color is excellent. The case is supported by an applied bracket molding that is applied to the bottom of the base. This molding forms the feet as it is cut open in the center. This base is somewhat compressed in relation to the long waist section and the boldly formatted hood as was the tradition of this early form. Just below the lower waist molding is a scalloped design that is applied to the base panel. This is an attractive detail. The waist section is long and narrow. It is simply formed, not having quarter columns which become more commonly found on later case designs. The waist door is tombstone shape and is fitted with an applied molding. Access to the interior of the case is granted through this door. The molded arched bonnet or hood features an unusual crest. It is double stepped and is finished in an interesting interpretation or variation of a swan’s neck form. The arches terminate in carved pinwheels. Three turned wooden finials decorate the top. The arch molding is hand carved and the joiners tooling marks are evident. This form is visually supported by four fully turned bonnet columns. All four are smoothly turned, tapered and carved. Wide tombstone shaped side lights are cut into the side of the hood. These openings are fitted with glass and provide visual access to the movement. The bonnet door is arched in form and also fitted with glass. It opens to access the composite brass dial.

This style of dial predates the painted dial form. It is composed of a brass sheet and is decorated with six applied matching cast brass Rococo style spandrels, a centrally fitted name boss in the arch, an engraved time or chapter ring, an engraved seconds register that is sunk into the dial and is trimmed with a scalloped border, an aperture for the calendar day and a matted center. This dial is signed by the maker in the name boss. It reads, “ John Foss / Somersworth.” The engraved decorations that frame this boss are wonderful executed and worth pointing out. The engraved time ring retains a subtle silver cast. Please note the wonderful shaping of the hands.

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 striking system features a rack and snail set up. The cast iron bell is mounted above the movement. The movement is good quality.

This rare clock was made circa 1770. The case stands approximately inches tall (7 feet 7 inches) to the top of the central wooden finial. The bonnet is 19 inches wide and 9.5 inches deep.

This clock is inventory number UU-48.

About John Foss of Somersworth and Barrington, New Hampshire.

John Foss was born in 1732 and died in 1819. He was the son of Joshua and Lydia (Rand) Foss and was baptized in Rochester, NH on September 18, 1732. According to William D. Knapp and his book Somersworth: An Historical Sketch and Joseph Tate’s Journal 1769-1778 (now located in the New Hampshire Historical Society) John moved to Somersworth which was part of Dover until it became a separate town in 1754. John Foss is recorded as being a pew holder at the time of building a new meeting house in 1772. He also purchased part of the estate of one Ebenezer Wentworth at a venue in 1773. John is noted to have moved from Somersworth to Barrington, New Hampshire on February 14, 1777 and lived there until he died in 1819. He is buried in a family plot located in Locke’s Mills.

John Foss is known to have made both 8-day and 30-hour clocks. All of the current examples known to us are all fitted with brass dials. Another example of his work is pictured in Distin & Bishops, The American Clock on page 33.

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