Joshua Wilder. Hingham, Massachusetts Clockmaker. A fine cross banded and line inlaid mahogany tall case clock.

Joshua Wilder (1786-1860) is an important Hingham clockmaker. He was a member of the renown and influential group of Quaker clockmakers from the Hingham and Hanover area of Massachusetts.

This inlaid mahogany case tall clock stands on four nicely formed flared French feet. Between the feet is a drop apron. The feet transition smoothly up into the base section. They are visually separated from the base with a band of inlay. The base panel is frames with a cross banded mahogany border. The interior edge is finished with a thin line inlay of light wood. Each of the four corners of this pattern are cut away enhancing the overall design. This inlaid construction element is repeated on the long rectangular waist door. The waist door is also fitted with an applied molding that frames the outside edge. One would open this door in order to gains access to the inside of the case where the pendulum and weights are located. The sides of the case are fitted with reeded quarter columns. These terminate at both ends in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet is surmounted with a pierced and open lacy fret work design that incorporates three reeded and capped finial plinths and three fancy brass ball and spike finials. Fully turned and reeded bonnet columns visually support the upper bonnet molding. These are mounted in brass capitals and are free standing. The arched bonnet door is fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial.

This painted iron dial was manufactured in Boston by Spencer Nolen and measure 12 inches across. The raised gesso work located in the four spandrel areas and also the beaded ring positioned around the time track are hallmarks of this ornamental artist and his workshop. This complexity of this example could be considered some of his best work. Most of his dial do not include the beaded ring which must have been time consuming to produce. All of the gesso work is highlighted in gilt paint. The spandrel areas are also decorated with urns. In the lunette is a moon phase or lunar calendar display. The lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is a mechanical almanac. This feature was most likely a special order function due to the extra work involved in producing it. This display would have been valuable to a number of people. Farmers tracked the moon phase so they could anticipate the days of the most available moonlight in order to aide them in scheduling their tilling and harvesting of their fields. Sailors and merchants needed to know when the high tide would allow their ships to sail easily from port. Numerous religious groups had an almost superstitious litany of rituals that were best performed in accordance with lunar events. The actual lunar month represents an inconvenient interval of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. A tall clocks lunar calendar is set at 29.5 days from new moon to new moon, a full cycle. As a result, a 9 hour setback is required at the end of a single year in order to keep it current. The time track of the dial is formatted with Arabic style numerals. Nicely formed steel hands display the time. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker below the calendar aperture. It reads, “Joshua Wilder / Hingham.”

A lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is a mechanical almanac and was most likely a special order function. It would have been valuable to farmers who would want to anticipate the most available moonlight to aide them in scheduling their tilling of the fields. Sailors and merchants needed to know when high tide would allow their ships to sail from port. And many religious groups had an almost superstitious litany of rituals best performed in accordance with lunar events. The lunar month represents an inconvenient interval of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. A clocks lunar calendar is set at 29.5 days from new moon to new moon, a full cycle. Thus requiring a 9 hour setback at the end of a single year.

This movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. It is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is 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.

Dimensions: Height including center finial: 92 inches; Width 19 inches; Depth 10 inches.

About Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts

Joshua Wilder was born on December 2nd, 1786 in Hingham, Massachusetts. He was trained in the art of clockmaking by John Bailey Jr. of Hanover, MA. Wilder completed this apprenticeship some time around 1807. It appears he stayed in Hanover for a brief period of time before moving back to Hingham to established his home and business located on Main Street in the South Parish. Here, he was the first clockmaker to settle in this prosperous town and found a ready market for tall case clocks, dwarf clocks, wall timepieces, the Massachusetts shelf form and mirror clocks. Wider becomes one of America’s most prolific Makers of the dwarf clock form.

Wilder also becomes very active in the local religious Society of Friends and became known as the “Old Quaker Joshua Wilder.” He was also involved with the Temperance Society and Peace Society of Hingham. Wilder’s business eventually evolves into a retailer of common goods. Wilder is said to have trained several Clockmakers that includes his son Ezra Wilder, Reuben Tower, Allen Kelley and Phillip Bennet. About 1840, it is said that his son Eza joined him in business. Joshua dies on October 4, 1860 in the town of Scituate.

A fair number of clocks made by this maker have been found. Many of which are the dwarf form but also include in much smaller numbers tall case clocks, timepieces, shelf clocks and mirror clocks. Currently, the Hingham Library is displaying a tall case clock made by him.

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