A Fine Federal Inlaid Mahogany Tall Case Clock. The works attributed to the Hanover, Massachusetts clockmaker John Bailey II along with the cabinetmaker Abiel White of Weymouth. Circa 1815-20.

This handsome diminutive sized clock was most likely produced by the prolific Quaker clockmaker John Bailey II [1751-1823] of Hanover, Massachusetts. Since the clockmaker and not the cabinetmaker usually gets the credit for the clock, this attribution is based on the construction of the clock works. John Bailey was the most prolific member of a renowned family of skilled and innovative clockmakers. It is the Bailey family that is credited with training the majority of clockmakers from the Southeastern Massachusetts region. The construction of this brass movement is somewhat distinctive in that it features brass plates that are heavily skeletonised. This is the process of removing the excess brass from the plates in order to economize the use of this expensive material. The Baileys and a number of their apprentices are known to have participated in this practice. The plates used in the construction of this set of clock works are wonderfully scrolled out leaving behind a decorative free flowing pattern of multiple circles. The brass plates frame the gearing. The gears are supported on hardened steel shafts. The mechanism is powered by two heavy weights and it is designed to run eight-days on a full wind. One weight is for the time side of the mechanism, the second weight drives the hour strike train. The strike is actuated by a rack and snail set up which is mounted to the front plate of the works. When released, a hammer hits a cast iron bell the appropriate blows. This bell is mounted above the movement on a bell stand. The pendulum hangs from the back of the movement on a post. The lead bob is capped with brass on its’ forward facing surface. The movement is supported on a wooden “saddle board” and it is original to the case. The high quality construction and superb wood selections exhibited in this case suggests a sophisticated buyer. When ordering the case, he requested some to the best workmanship of the day. This exceptional example is fantastically proportioned. The formal case is an interpretation of the “Roxbury” style and was made in Southeastern, Massachusetts. The hood is fitted with a delicately scrolling fretwork set between three chimneys, each supporting its’ own period brass finial. The finials have a reeded ball below a spire. This fretwork rests on an arched molding. This is embellished with a complicated line inlay pattern set into the outer most detail of the molding. The molded arch is positioned above a glazed tombstone and mahogany cross-banded veneered dial door. The door is flanked by a pair of brass stop-fluted columns that terminate in brass capitals and bases. The sides of the clock hood have tombstone-form glazed windows. Through these one can see the clock’s mechanism. The dial door opens to a painted dial of Boston manufacture which remains in pristine condition with even crazing. During this period Boston was a center for dial manufacturing. Boston dials are known for their high quality and regional style and were employed by clockmakers throughout the United States. This dial features several floral decorations that are located in the lunette and also in the spandrel areas. The clock face has a ring of Roman numerals to demark the hours and an outer ring of Arabic numerals to demark five minute increments. The center arbor is fitted with cut steel hands. The dial is also fitted with a second’s bit above the center arbor and a calendar opening below it.

The hood transitions into the waist section with a flared throat molding above a hinged pendulum door. The door is flanked with brass stop fluted quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals and bases. The hinged pendulum door is fitted with an applied molding along its’ perimeter. The panel features cross banded border, line inlay and a vibrantly figured mahogany veneer. The cabinetmaker used dramatically contrasting inlay patterns in both this door and the lower panel. This contrast is emphasized by the deep surface color to great effect. The door is fitted with a lock and brass keyhole surround.

The narrow waist section transitions to the base with a flared molding. The rectangular base panel has a cross-banded mahogany border around a rich crotch-grained panel of mahogany veneer. Additional light line inlays frame these elements. The base is elevated on four nicely formed feet with spur returns. This distinctive pattern is associated with the cabinetmaker.

The overall height is 88.5 inches of 7 feet 4.5 tall to the top of the center finial. At the upper hood molding ist is 19.75 inches wide and 8.75 inches deep.

About John Bailey II of Hanover, Massachusetts.

John Bailey II of Hanover, Massachusetts. A quaker clockmaker. An exceptional mechanic and an inventor.

John Bailey II was born in Hanover, Massachusetts the son of John (A shipbuilder) and Ruth Randall Bailey on May 6, 1751. He died there 72 years later on January 23, 1823. It is thought that he learned clockmaking at a very young age and may have been self taught. John is responsible for training numerous apprentices. Many of which include his younger brothers Calvin and Lebbeus, his son John III, Joseph Gooding, Ezra Kelley and Hingham’s Joshua Wilder. Many of these trained apprentices moved to other south eastern Massachusetts towns and become well known to their local communities. John was the most prolific maker of the six Baileys that were involved in the clock business. He was Quaker preacher and an ingenious mechanic as well as an instrument maker. In addition to clocks, a surveyor’s compass is known and is now in the Hanover Historical Society’s collection. He was also an inventor and received a patent for a steam operated roasting jack. This device was designed to turn meat over a fire in order to cook it more evenly.

John’s clocks are loosely broken down into two categories. The first is a home developed style. Often these examples have sheet brass dials that are engraved and treated with a silver wash. Several examples have been found with movements that are constructed in wood. Others are constructed in brass and the plates are fully skeletonized. Some of these incorporate wooden winding drums. It is interesting to note that he made both types of strike trains. We have seen examples signed by him that feature a count wheel set up and also the more popular rack and snail. Very few clockmakers used both set ups. The cases are typically constructed in indigenous woods that include maple and cherry. These examples have pleasing country proportions and lack the sophistication of the Roxbury school. Sometime around 1790, the Roxbury / Boston influence must have played a big role in John’s production. The movements on these examples are more apt to incorporate fully plated movements. In addition, the cases resemble those being turned out by the Willard School. These feature mahogany cases and are often decorated with inlays. The second generation of output is much more formal in appearance.

Over the years, we have owned a fair number of clocks made by him. Some of which included numerous tall case clocks, dwarf clocks and the Massachusetts shelf clock form.

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