An Important Hepplewhite Inlaid Mahogany Tall Case Clock by Aaron Willard, Boston, Circa 1790-1800. The dial attributed to John Minot

This very attractive tall case clock is a superb example of an early “Roxbury” case that were produced in Boston around 1790. The case exhibits many of the finest qualities associated with this desirable form. Some of which include high quality selections of mahogany, superb proportions, brass stopping in the columns, pattern inlays, a distinctive pierced and open fretwork pattern and cuffed ogee bracket feet. This clock was produce by the important clockmaker Aaron Willard [1757-1844], brother to the renown clockmaker Simon Willard. Aaron was a highly prolific Boston clockmaker for over sixty-five years beginning at the completion of his apprenticeship in 1778. A patriot during the revolution, he later moved to Roxbury with his brother Simon in 1780 and then on to Boston in 1792. The enterprising clockmaker produced a great number of fine tall case clocks in addition to many Massachusetts shelf clocks and patent timepieces or banjo clocks in his Boston workshops. The brightly painted dial is an early example manufactured in Boston and likely decorated by John Minot. A fine Willard Roxbury tall case clock with important features like an early Minot dial and multiple pattern inlays is highly prized by serious collectors.

This case features the finest ribbon and figured mahogany woods that retain a rich color and pleasing surface. Three brass ball and spire finials are mounted on three line inlaid chimneys or finial plinths. These frame a distinctive Roxbury type pierced fretwork. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice, all above a glazed tombstone-form dial door. This locking door is cross banded with a line inlaid detail. Brass stop-fluted colonnettes with brass capitals and bases flank this door. It opens to a finely painted iron dial of Boston origin. Each side of the hood is fitted with a glazed tombstone shaped window.

This early Boston dial features a painted moon phase disk in the lunette. It is decorated with alternating hand painted scenes. At the base of the lunette are two hemispheres each decorated with hand painted views, on the right is a harbor view with fishing boats and on the left is a cottage scene with river and a flock of birds. The early manufacture date of the dial is established by these painted scenes on the dial hemispheres. The more widely available dials manufactured in England, typically had map transfers on the hemispheres. These transfers were not available for the first generation of Boston-made dials. While some hemispheres were left blank, the finer examples were painted with similar detailed scenes. This technique is attributed to the decorative painter, John Minott who was active in 1793-1826. Minot had a lengthy and productive business relationship with the Willards. The dial is framed with four corner spandrels decorated with vivid berry and blossom sprays on a green ground all within gilt borders. The clock face has an inner ring of Roman numerals to demark the hours and an outer ring of Arabic numerals to demark the five minute makers. The dial is fitted with steel pointer form hands and has a second bit above the center arbor and a calendar window below. The dial is signed below the calendar with the makers name and locale “Aaron Willard / Boston”.

The hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared molding. The waist is set with brass stop fluted quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals. These flank a molded tombstone-form pendulum door. The door has a brass keyhole escutcheon and a line inlaid border centering an inlaid conch shell. This door opens to access the original pendulum which is constructed with a wood shaft and a brass capped bob. A pair of tin can weights drive the works. The weight driven, brass eight-day movement a time and separate strike train. The strike hammer blows a cast bell which is mounted above the movement. This movement has recently been serviced and is in fine running condition.

The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The base has a vibrantly grained panel decorated by a line inlaid border. Each corner is fitted with quarter fans. In the center of the panel is an inlaid conch shell that exhibits excellent detail. The base of the panel has a double stepped molding that joins to four ogee bracket feet. These feet are a specific form, with a distinct flared cuff, that date from the last decade of the 18th Century.

Dimensions: Height including center finial: 94”; Width: 20 3/8”; Depth: 10”.
Materials: Mahogany and mahogany veneers with lightwood inlays. Secondary woods are cherry and white pine.

About Aaron Willard of Grafton, Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts.

Aaron Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts on October 13th, 1757. Little is known of his early life in Grafton. It is here that he probably learned the skill of clock making from his older brothers Benjamin and Simon. It is recorded that he did march with them in response to the Lexington Alarm on April 19,1775. In 1780, Aaron moved from Grafton to Roxbury along with his brother Simon. Here the two Willard brothers establish a reputation for themselves as fine clock manufactures. They were both responsible for training a large number of apprentices, many of which became famous clock makers in their own right. The Willards dominated the clock making industry in the Boston area during the first half of the nineteenth century. Aaron worked in a separate location in Roxbury from his brother and relocated about a quarter mile away from Simon’s shop across the Boston line about 1792. Aaron is listed in the 1798 Boston directory as a clock maker ‘on the Neck’ and his large shop employed up to 30 people, while 21 other clock makers, cabinetmakers, dial and ornamental painters and gilders worked within a quarter-mile radius by 1807. We have owned a large number of tall case clocks made by this important Maker. In addition, we have also owned a good number of wall timepieces in the form of banjo clocks as well as numerous Massachusetts shelf clock forms.

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