Walter Durfee of Providence, Rhode Island. Wall Time Piece or Banjo clock. Retailed by the firm, Tilden-Thurber of the same city. Clockmaker, Waltham. Artist, D. J. Steele. Sceen, Wasp and Frolic.

This is an outstanding example of a Federal Massachusetts improved timepiece or “Banjo” clock made by Walter Durfee of Providence, Rhode Island circa 1910. It was retailed by Tilden – Thurber of Providence, Rhode Island.

What makes this example so outstanding is the presentation of the case and the coloring and skill of the reverse painted tablets.

The case is constructed in mahogany and retains its’ original finish. This model features a presentation bracket, flat mahogany veneered frames, brass side arms and dial bezel that retains elements of their original gilding, and a large cast eagle as a finial. All of which is in excellent condition.

The reverse painted tablets are hand painted in good colors and demonstrate excellent skill. Both tablets are painted from the back. They are somewhat unusual in that they feature a brown field. The throat is decorated with a number of traditional themes. First period banjo clocks throat frames are often found with depictions of the American shield geometric designs and the E. Pluribus Unum insigna of the Eagle clutching arrows over the American Shield. This example incorporates all of these in blue, red and gilt paint. The lower tablet depicts the naval battle of the “WASP AND FROLIC.” On the morning of October 18th, 1812, the USS Wasp came across a damaged and weak HMS Frolic and engaged it in battle. With in hours the Wasp took control and added another naval victory to the Americans resume. (Please read the history of this naval engagement for the rest of the story.) This is an excellent tablet. The skill level is very high. The colors and detail are excellent. It is signed by the artist in the lower left hand corner. The Artist name is D. J. Steele. This scene is framed in an interesting border. It is predominately decorated with floral themes. What I find interesting are the American shield in each of the four corners.

The brass bezel is fitted with convex glass and opens to a painted iron dial featuring Roman hour numerals and the Retailer’s name printed in small block lettering. It reads, “TILDEN – THURBER / PROVIDENCE.” The hands are a traditional Waltham Clock Company form.

Durfee signed movements have always been thought of as being made to the highest standards. This movement helps substantiate the legend. The construction of it suggests that it was ordered from the Waltham Clock Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. The weight driven movement and is designed eight days on a full wind. As one might expect, the quality is outstanding. It features heavy cast brass plates, maintaining power and a Geneva Stop winding mechanism. The front plate is die-stamped with the Durfee’s name in the upper right corner. It is also numbered “6113” on the left. (Please note that this clock was photographed before we serviced the movement.) It is powered by a lead weight. This weight is also stamped with the Durfee logo.

This very attractive clock measures approximately 42.5 inches long overall. It was made circa 1910.


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