Henry Griffen of New York, New York. Case attributed to John & Thomas Seymour of Boston.

An important Hepplewhite tall case clock with dial signed by “Henry Griffen / New York.” The inlaid mahogany case is attributed to the Boston cabinetmakers John & Thomas Seymour.

This veneered and inlaid mahogany formatted case is attributed to Charlestown cabinetmakers John and Thomas Seymour. It exhibits wonderfully figured selections of veneers and is constructed on a grand scale all while maintaining excellent proportions. The case also retains what may be considered and original now mellowed surface. The base proudly stands on an applied bracket base that features large flared French feet. Please note the subtle shaping or flare incorporating small pads into the form. These feet are gently splayed in the manner consistent of documented Seymour construction. The feet and the central drop apron are visually separated from the base by a complicated line inlay pattern and a molding that steps back into the base section. The front of the base panel is veneered with a highly figured selection of mahogany. An inlaid framing of mahogany and light wood stringing defines a cross banded outer border. The waist is long and features a rectangular shaped waist door. The door provides access to the interior of the case where one will find a brass covered pendulum bob and the two tin can drive weights. This door is fitted with an applied molding along the perimeter. The center panel is also veneered with a figured panel of mahogany and is framed along the outer edge with a cross banded border. The sides of the case are fitted with brass stop fluted quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fretwork design that is surmounted with three cast brass ball and spiked finials. The supporting plinths are decorated with line inlay and are capped at the top. Fully turned and brass stop fluted bonnet columns support the upper bonnet molding. These are mounted in brass capitals and flank the bonnet or hood door. The arched bonnet door is decoratively line inlaid and the opening is fitted with glass. It is interesting to note that the mask board that is behind this door and frames the dial is painted white. It is trimmed with a brass border.

ThIs colorfully painted iron dial is oversized measuring 14 inches across and almost 20 inches in height. It was manufactured in England by the Osbourne firm and is fitted with their cast iron false plate which is signed at the top. In the arch of this dial, one will find the automated feature of a moon phase mechanism or lunar calendar. It is interesting to note that one of the painted scenes depicted between the moons is that of a ship burning at sea in the dark of night. This is scene is a reoccurring theme that can be found on a small number of moon-dials. The significance of this is not know to me. Each of the four spandrel locations are decorated with colorfully painted scene. They are the representations of the four seasons. Each depicts a woman dressed appropriately for the specific season represented. Winter is illustrated in the lower right corner. She is depicted warmly dressed an sitting aside a fire. The hours are indicated by large Roman style numerals. The five minute markers are each indicated in an Arabic format. A subsidiary seconds dial and a calendar date dial are displayed in the traditional locations. The information to be displayed here is indicated by small separate hands. This dial is signed. The signature is now “ghost signature.” In good light it reads “Henry Griffen,” in block lettering to the left of the center arbor. His working location of “New York” is written in an old English font and is positioned to the right of the center arbor. Ghost signatures appear today in some frequency. We speculate that when this dial was painted at the Osbourne shop in England, it was imported to this country for sale as an unsigned dial. All of the artwork was prepared and fired at the factory. In this case, the clockmaker would then buy it at a supply store as needed. He would then have his name put on it before it was delivered to his customer. Because the dial was signed at a later time, the signature was most likely not fired and as a result is more fragile then the rest of the artwork. It has a tendency to wear off quicker. One interesting point to note that when a dial is signed in this manner, the signature paint often raises the paint underneath it. This allows one to read the ghost.

The weight driven 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. This movement may be Boston made?

This important clock, our inventory number 213003 was made circa 1810 and stands approximately 8 feet 9 inches (105 inches) tall to the top of the center finial. This is a very impressive height.

Condition: This example retain it’s original feet. The mahogany veneered drop aprons have been fully restored. The finish appears to be period and has been recently waxed. The dial has had some relining to the black. The scenes including the spandrels are in wonderful original condition. The movement has been fully serviced and is in excellent working order.

For a more in depth study on the Seymour Brothers please read, THE FURNITURE MASTERWORKS OF JOHN & THOMAS SEYMOUR written by Robert D. Mussey Jr.

About Henry Griffen of New York and Brooklyn, New York.

Henry Griffen is listed as a clockmaker working in New York City and in Brooklyn, New York as early as 1791 through 1818. Currently, very little is known of his business and of his output. This construction of this clock and case suggests that at one time, he had some ties to Boston. I would speculate that he ordered this entire clock, the case, the movement and an unsigned dial from there for his own client. When it arrived in his shop, he had his name and working location painted on the dial.

For more information about this clock click  here .