Elmer Stennes. Reproduction Girandole wall timepiece.

This is an outstanding reproduction Girandole Wall Timepiece made by Elmer Stennes of East Weymouth, Massachusetts. This form was made famous by the Concord Massachusetts Clockmaker, Lemuel Curtis.

In 1802 Lemuel Curtis was an apprentice of the Willard family in Boston. In 1811, he moved to Concord and set up shop as a Clockmaker who specialized in timepieces. Over the years he made many improvements in the Willards original design. An example of such an improvement is the single screw movement mounting system and changes to the clocks suspension. His ultimate achievement would have to be the design of this Girandole form. However, this was not a financial success. As a result, a small number were originally produced. Most of which are in the collections of our Countries best museums. Many individuals and some companies have since made reproductions of this form. Some of which include the Waltham Clock Company, Ted Burleigh and Foster Campos. This is a faithful copy of the original form.

This wonderful example in is excellent condition. It is signed on the dial by the Maker in script. This case measures forty-five inches long. The case wood used is mahogany. The rich brown coloring of the wood can be best seen on the sides of the case. The sidearms and the bezel are brass. (The sidearms are the decorations that are fitted to the sides of the case. The bezel forms the door that allows one access to the dial.) The frames that hold the two reverse painted tablets, the carved wooden eagle finial and the ornately formed presentation bracket are wonderfully gilded in gold leaf. The condition of the gilding is excellent. The reverse painted tablets are done in very good colors. Both pieces of glass are a convex form. The throat is an intricate traditional theme and is signed “Patent” in the lower section. The bottom circular tablet depicts “Aurora” and is so titled. The dial is painted on metal and features the the Maker’s signature and working location. The format of this dial is done in the traditional Concord format having a gold ring. Below the 6:12 position on the time ring, one will notice a small bee painted on the dial. The hands are a traditional Curtis form having concentric circles and barbed pointers. The movement is brass and die stamped with the numeral “4” on the front plate. This fine quality movement is weight powered and designed to run eight days on a full wind. This is truly a wonderful example of a beautiful clock.

About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

For 30 years, between the 1940s and the 1970s, Stennes was famous for being the only large-scale reproducer of classic American clock cases in the country. But his former friends and associates remember him for another reason. Elmer killed his wife and later was himself killed. In fact, it’s hard to say whether the clocks and other items made by Stennes are so collectible today because of their quality or because of his notoriety. He lived at 45 Church Street in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, in a house he built himself in 1938. He used a design by Royal Barry Wills, the 20th-century American designer of reproduction Colonial-era dwellings. (So, the house, like his clocks, is a facsimile.) It is a classic two-story cedar-shingle Cape Home.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1911. Trained as a cabinetmaker who worked in the shipyards, Stennes made his mark as a case-maker for the clocks he sold with his name painted on the dials. His production was significant as compared to others that were not set up as a factory with employees. He made a variety of forms. These included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock, a copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole, several shelf clock forms, tall case clocks which he called grandfathers, grandmothers and an in between size he designed and dubbed the Wessagusset. The name Wessagusset is the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. Elmer was a good marketer and his clocks were sold nationwide through the contacts he made as a member of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC).

Stennes began making is cases full time by 1948. It is then that he left the shipyards to manufacture clocks. He did not manufacture the movements. At first, he used movements from what was then common clocks. Soon he had to find another more reliable source and used good quality reproductions. By 1959, he built a barn to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located on Tic Tock Lane.

Elmer’s first wife was Eva who had three of her own children before they married. Together, they had a daughter. Eva died on December 2, 1968. As a result of an argument, Elmer took out his .357 magnum derringer and shot one bullet into Eva’s head. She staggered from the kitchen and died on the bathroom floor. Elmer reportedly called the Weymouth police himself. He was arrested in his home and later released on a bond of $25,000. It was business as usual until his trail. During this period he branded his clock cases with the initials, “O.O.B.,” to signify his new status out on bond. Stennes pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter and was sentenced to eight to ten years. His term was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth. The retired Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Judge Steadman was Stennes’ personal friend customer and counsel before the crime. He had purchased a cherry-wood grandmother clock and Elmer had made him a gavel for his bench. Soon Stennes was teaching carpentry classes in the prison wood shop. One could argue that he was using prison equipment and inmates to construct clock cases. These were stamped “M.C.I.P.,” the abbreviation for “Made Case in Prison” or some have claimed it was the acronym for the prison, “Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth, which was actually in Carver, Mass.

After having served only two years and four months, Stennes was paroled in January 1972. He soon remarried on December 15, 1973. Her name was Phyllis Means. On October 4, 1975 the couple was shot while they were sleeping in their upstairs bedroom. Two men broke into the house, Elmer was shot five times. Phyllis was shot seven times. When the police arrived, she was covered in blood and was screaming that Elmer was dead.

Phyllis accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had seen his face, recognized his clothes, and heard his voice say, “Dad.” Elliot had five witnesses testified that at the time of the shooting he had been with them at a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire. As a result, the charges were dropped.


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