James Almy. A Massachusetts dish dial full striking shelf clock.

This Massachusetts dish dial shelf clock is signed by the New Bedford clockmaker James Almy. The case was made by Henry Willard in Boston and retains his original stamped label on the backboard. This label reads, “HENRY WILLARD / clock case / MANUFACTURER / 843 / Washington St. / BOSTON.”

In the evolution of the Massachusetts shelf clock form, this dish dial version followed the arched dial and then the kidney dial examples. This is considered the latest form and was quite popular in it’s day. The number of example that have survived far exceed those of the two prior versions. The vast majority of which were produced in the vicinity Boston. This example was almost certainly made in the Willards shop in Boston and wholesaled to Almy. This was a common practice during the period of 1825 through 1830 when this clock was most likely made. It is also interesting to note that many of the clocks wholesaled to the Southeastern Massachusetts region are striking examples.

This is a popular case form. It is elevated up off the shelf by four turned wooden compressed ball feet. These are applied or secured to the bottom of the case and are original to this example. The base section features a pillow molding of mahogany. Above this is the half round mahogany frame that is fitted with a period mirror. This also double as a door and is hinged. Through it, one can gain access to the interior of the case. The bonnet or hood of the clock can be removed in the same manner in which the tall case clock version is removed. It slides forward. This hood is surmounted with a nicely shaped fret pattern that centers a finial plinth and decorative brass finial. The bonnet door is framed in half round moldings. This framing supports a reverse painted glass tablet. The colors found here are excellent and the detail work is outstanding. It is in this location that this clock is signed James Almy along with his working location inside the red colored oval. This oval is surrounded with floral decorations. The spandrel areas are decorated with gilt themes that center a seashell. This door opens to access the iron dial which is a convex form. The hands are skillfully made and feature concentric circles on the shafts. These hands are excellent.

The movement is constructed in brass. It is a time and strike design and will run eight days on a full wind. It will strike the hour on the hour on a cast iron bell. This is a very unusual set up for a Massachusetts shelf clock. The vast majority of this form is found with a time only movement.

This clock was made circa 1825 and stands approximately 35 inches tall to the top of the finial. It is 13.25 inches wide and 6 inches deep. It has some local history inscribed in graphite behind the lower door. The inscription reads, “ J.J. Tobey / 36 W STREET / New Bedford / Mass / Cleaned / 3d 14th/ 62 (1862).” This clock is also pictured on pages 308 and 309 in Harbor & Home Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts 1710 1850 written by Brock Jobe, Gary Sullivan & Jack O’Brien.

About James Almy of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

James C. Almy is listed in Paul Foley’s book, Willard’s Patent Timepieces. He is listed as a Clockmaker and a Watchmaker working in 1820 -1872. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island on June 19,1802 and died in South Dartmouth, MA on February 2nd, 1872. He is listed as working in partnership with William Wall as Almy & Wall in New Bedford for the period of October 21, 1821 through August of 1823. Here, they made tall clocks, and wall timepieces. Within a couple of years of the Almy & Wall dissolution, James joined with John Bailey III in partnership as John Bailey & Co. This firm lasted from 1825 — 1827. IN March of 1828, Almy advertises that he has taken a store in Water Street (alone) nearly opposite the Merchants Bank. He moves in 1836 to Union Street and remains there until 1852. By 1856, his son James T. Almy takes over the business. James Almy’s name alone is only known of a few clocks.

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