Benjamin Clark Gilman of Exeter, New Hampshire. This birch case tall clock is a country form.

Inside this case is a hand written label. This label reads, “Birch Tall Clock 7’4” / by / Benjamin Clark Gilman / Exeter, N.H. / c. 1800 / Purchased by William W Keller / Laconia, N.H. From / Edwin B. Burt, Exeter, / N.H. / November 1965 / $750 – clock- / Refinished + restorei?ose $90. / by Bird + Elliot. Tilton, N.H.”

Although this dial is not currently signed, it may have been at one time. We have owned several tall clocks made by Gilman that were signed below the calendar aperture with his initials, “B.C.G.” One or two of which were now faintly signed. The paint used had been worn away leaving a ghost signature. This example does have a number of reoccurring construction characteristics that help suggest Gilman as the Maker. The shape of the bracket feet the general case form and the shape of the hands have been seen on other signed examples. I wonder if this dial was signed in 1965? Or did Mr. Burt associate this example to the Maker based on the construction?

This example features a case that is constructed primarily in birch and features New England white pine secondary woods including the backboard. The birch wood features a lighter finish that is best described as have a warm tone or coloring. This case stands on applied bracket feet which elevate the clock up off the floor. This bracket design features a distinctive and interesting pattern. It is more complex than the patterns used in regions like Concord. The waist door is a rectangular form that is trimmed with a simple molded edge. This door fills the waist section of the case. Open it and one can easily access the weights and brass faced pendulum bob. A nice construction feature are the four exposed pins that secure the door fame. The bonnet is a swan’s neck form. This pattern was very popular and is commonly found on a number of other New Hampshire area cases. The moldings are well formed and terminate in carved pinwheels of an unusual design. This example also includes three plinths. The two located on the outside corners are reeded. The central plinth is part of the hood structure and is well formed. Each of these supports a cast brass period finial. The bonnet columns are simply turned and mounted in brass capitals. These visually support the section of the hood. The large sidelights are a tomb-stone form and are fitted with glass panels. The bonnet door is also arched and fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial. This painted iron dial is of English manufacture. It was made by the Osbourne Manufactory in Birmingham England. The spandrels are decorated with traditional floral patterns. Depicted in the lunette is a pastoral scene. Here a small thatched roof cottage is set on the hillside. A fire in the fireplace is a welcoming thought. A man stands aside a small pond in the foreground. The time track displays the hours and minutes in a traditional format. A subsidiary seconds dial and calendar window are also present. The steel hands are wonderfully formed.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned brass pillars support the two brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved to accept and guide the weight cords. Each holds approximately eight days of winding cord. The escapement is a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is 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 on a bell stand.

This case measures approximately 7 feet 4 inches tall to the top of the center finial. It was made circa 1800. It is inventory number 219095.

About Benjamin Clark Gilman of Exeter, New Hampshire.

Benjamin Clark Gilman was born July 8, 1763 and died on October 13, 1835. He was youngest of eleven children born to Major John and Jane Deane Gilman. In 1788 he married his cousin Mary Thing. Together, they had eight children. He served as a selectman for the town of Exeter for eight years. Frank O. Spinney wrote in an article for the September, 1943 magazine “Antiques” titled, “An Ingenious Yankee Craftsman.” In that article, Spinney listed many of Gilman’s talents. He was a “silversmith, engraver, watch and clockmaker, builder, hydraulic engineer, merchant, landlord and instrument maker.” On the April 8th, 1791 edition of the “New Hampshire Gazetteer,” Gilman advertised, “That he carries on clockmaking at his shop in Exeter. As he has done something in the Business for several years past, he now flatters himself of having a thorough knowledge of it – and while he is endeavoring to promote so useful an Art, he requests the particular encouragement of his Friends and Customers.” As an hydraulic engineer, Benjamin was involved with the construction of several aqueducts. These were constructed by boring out the center of logs and joining them together in order to move water. He worked on projects as far away as New London, Connecticut and the coastal cities of Salem and Boston, Massachusetts as well as Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As a builder, it is known that he constructed a lighthouse at the entrance of Portsmouth harbor in 1803.

Over the years of being in the business of buying and selling clocks, we have owned over a half a dozen tall case clock made by this maker. The vast majority of which have had painted dials that were signed with his initials just under the calendar. An engraved brass dial clock has also been recorded. In addition to tall clocks, a Massachusetts shelf clock is pictured in Albert Sack’s “Fine Points of Furniture.” Another interesting shelf clock is pictured in Parsons, “New Hampshire Clocks and Clockmakers.” The collection of the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire reportedly owns several silver spoons by Gilman as well as an engraved watch paper. Several instruments which include a carriage pedometer a nocturnal and an engraved copper plate used to print dials for a surveyor’s or mariner’s compass have been recorded.

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