Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts. A rocking ship tall case clock. 3/4 size.

This is a very handsome example that is stamped in the interior with the number “2.” The case exhibits excellent figured selections of bird’s-eye and tiger or curly maple. This wood was selected for its vibrant grain patterns and can be considered the best of its class. This case stands on four applied ogee bracket feet. They exhibit excellent height and a bold return. The long rectangular shaped waist door is trimmed with a simple molded edge. Through this door one can gain access to the two brass covered weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The bob is supported by a wooden rod. Fluted quarter columns flank the waist section. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet columns are also fluted and are fitted into fully turned brass capitals. These visually support the molded arch. Above this is a pierced and open fretwork design. It is a traditional New England pattern incorporating three brass finials that are mounted on plinths. The arched bonnet door is fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial.

This 10.5 inch is smaller than the standard of 12 inches. The four spandrel areas decorated with lacy designs that frame a medallion in the center. The designs are highlighted in gilt paint. The time ring is formatted in a traditional display. The hours are marked in Roman numerals and the five minute markers are painted in an Arabic format. Inside the time ring is a subsidiary seconds dial and two lovely bluebirds. A lovely cape cod coastal scene is painted in the arch of this dial. It incorporates an automated ship that moves with the side to side motion of the pendulum. This automated display is a very desirable feature. The ship is depicted at sail and heading around the point. This dial is signed by the Maker, “Elmer O. Stennes, / WEYMOUTH, MASS.”

This German made two train weight driven movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four 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 designed to run eight days on a full wind. The strike is designed a rack and snail striking system. Interestingly, this clock will strike each hour twice or on two bells that are mounted above the movement. It also strikes twice on each half hour.

This clock was made circa 1970 an stands approximately 82 inches tall.

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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