Philander Noble of Westfield, Massachusetts. An inlaid cherry case tall clock.

This is a wonderful inlaid cherry case tall clock made by the Westfield, Massachusetts clockmaker, Philander Noble. This case is constructed in cherry and features decorative holly wood inlay patterns and mahogany highlights.

This fine case stands on nicely shaped applied French feet. These are delicately formed and are applied to the bottom of the case. The base panel features a large inlaid mahogany oval panel that is framed with thin line inlays. A line inlaid box also frames this base panel. The waist is section is long. The center is fitted with a rectangular door. An applied molding gives the door some depth. In addition, a line inlay frames the interior outside edge. In the center section is an inlaid oval that has been stretched. This is a mahogany veneer that exhibits a good grain pattern. Fully turned and fluted columns are inset into the corners of the waist. These are mounted in turned wooden capitals that have been gilded. A checkered rope or a barber pole inlay pattern trims the rest of this outside edge. This is a nice subtle detail that is difficult to pick up in the photographs. The bonnet or hood features a swan’s neck pediment. The horns are delicately formed and terminate in inlaid pinwheels. The horns are connected with a cut out fret pattern, In the front facade, one will find a stylized urn inlaid in the center of this section. Three brass ball and spiked finials surmount this case. The two located on the outside of the case are mounted on reeded plinths. The inlaid rope pattern featured in the waist section is reestablished here. Fluted bonnet columns flank the arched bonnet door. This door is also line inlaid.

The painted dial is mounted to the movement with a false plate. The spandrel areas are decorated with fanciful gesso patterns that help highlight the gilt florals painted over green medallions. This dial is boldly signed by the clockmaker. The time track is formatted in the traditional Roman numerals marking the hours and Arabic numerals are used for each of the five minute markers. A calendar and seconds bit are in the traditional locations. A moon phase mechanism or lunar calendar is located in the arch.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. These plates have been cut out at the bottom in an attempt to conserve brass. The back plate is wonderfully engraved in script, “ Philander Nobel / Westfield May 1830.” In addition, a six petal flower also decorates this area. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are unusual in that they are wooden and smoothly turned. The escapement is a recoil designed. 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. The hammer is returned to it’s ready position via an interesting coil spring. This movement is good quality.

This clock stands approximately 92 inches tall

About Philander Noble of Westfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Philander Noble Inventor, Clockmaker, Silversmith, Moneymaker and Counterfeiter.

Philander Noble was born on April 20, 1772 in Westfield, Massachusetts and died there on February 27, 1845 at the age of 72. The small town of Westfield, Massachusetts had the distinction of being the colony’s western most settlement for decades after its founding in the seventeenth century. Philander was one of seven children born to Daniel Noble of Westfield and Anna (Norton) Noble of Suffield, Connecticut. (Anna was born on October 31, 1744.) The Noble family tree is somewhat confusing due to its large size. It is recorded that Philander did not like farming and took to and excelled in the trades. We currently do not know who trained Philander as a clockmaker. A possible suspect is Jacob Morse who was working as a clockmaker in Westfield on the corner of Main Street and Broad Street from about about 1790 through 1800. A tall clock is recorded as being made by Philander in 1796 that is so dated. This would imply that Philander may have made it when he was 24 years old. He is soon listed as working in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as a clockmaker and as a silversmith. Another clock is known that is signed with Pittsfield as the place location. Philander married twice. His first wife was Naomi Wheeler of Lanesboro, Mass. They were married in 1797. Lanesboro is abuts Pittsfield’s norther border. It seems that Naomi may have died shortly after they were married. Philander married a second time 20 years later to Anna Owen on March 28, 1817. It is during these 20 years that Philander traveled a bit and expanded his interesting set of skills.

It is recorded in Ben Tarnoff’s: A Counterfeiter’s Paradise. The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three American Moneymakers, that Philander was an artisan, entrepreneur, and an accomplished engraver. His nimble fingers earned him a living as a silversmith, a clockmaker and as an inventor. In 1800 he invented a machine that was used to grind gun barrels. He complained that his is employer at the time had underpaid him and stole the idea and the credit for the invention. With in years, 1803, Philander moved north to the area of the New York, Vermont and the Canadian border. Here he used his skills engraving copperplates to counterfeit currency in the form of bank notes and cash. In 1807, he was in captured in Plymouth, Vermont for counterfeiting. It was recorded that his skill level was very high. Two years latter he was arrested in Canada for the same offense and was convicted. This new venture must have been profitable for him because he continued in the business. In fact, he is credited with training David Lewis in his new trade and together, in 1813, they moved to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. It was not long after his arrival in that town that Philander was arrested and examined on suspicion of being a British spy. (United States vs. Philander N. Noble.) By 1815, Philander returned to Westfield and is listed as a clockmaker. His name is recorded in several federal census records as living in that town. In 1835, he applied for a patent for propelling boats (granted January 20, 1836) with a a coil spring that can be wound with ones fingers. It appears that he applied a fusee cone to the going train in order to level out the power of the spring. The patent office found this to have been previously patented in England in1795. They claimed the plan was too absurd to reason about and too contemptible even for ridicule.

Philander remains in Westfield until his death in 1845. Very few of his clocks have come to market.

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