Samuel Martin. A New York City clockmaker. This is a GIANT tall case clock.

This is very impressive tall case clock. It is constructed in mahogany and is profusely inlaid in satinwood, holey and maple from top to bottom. The scale is wonderful. This case stands a full 110.5 inches tall to the top of the central brass finial. Obviously, this example was constructed on a special order with the intent to impress and may very well be Martin’s tour de force. Clocks built to this scale were not made in significant numbers. We speculate that clocks of this size were either made for the very wealthy or for settings such as a public space or even a private clubs. This clock must have been very expensive when first made. Every aspect of its construction, from the case through the movement and dial can easily be considered a step up from the more standard variety of the day.

This case stands on four nicely shaped flared French. These transition into a scrolled apron that incorporates five separate drops in its design. This apron hangs below the base section. The base panel is framed along the outer edge with a light wood banding. This also delineates the base section from the feet. The base section is decoratively inlaid with a large wheel which dominates the center. This wheel is constructed with alternating woods and colors and is nicely formatted. Also note the use of striped mahogany that is mitered in the corners of the frame where the wheel does not extend out to the frames edges. The waist is long. It is fitted with a number of decorative elements. The waist door is shaped at the top. Through this door one can access the weights and pendulum. The door is formatted with inlaid quarter fans in the corners. It also features a large oval mirror. This is original to this clock and to the design of the case. Just below the door is an Irish panel. The panel is decoratively formatted with inlays and features a inlaid conch shell in its center. An additional shell is positioned above the waist door, in between the bookend inlays. Two additional shells can be found below the fully turned and fluted waist columns. These columns are mounted in brass capitals. The hood or bonnet is a swan’s neck form. The swans neck moldings are gracefully shaped and center a decorative brass finial. Two additional shells are positioned in the frieze of the hood. The frieze is divided in the center by an inlaid key. The hood columns are fluted and stopped with wood. These flank the line inlay bonnet door. Inlaid quarter fans are added as an additional decorative detail. This door is glazed and opens to access the dial.

This is a very unusual dial. It is obviously oversized measuring 15 inches across and is constructed in brass and finished in a silver wash. The decorations in the four spandrel areas and the time ring have been engraved in the front surface and highlighted with black wax for contrast. Several ships are depicted in the arch. These are painted on tin and are also automated. They move side to side with the motion of the pendulum. One of the three ships is flying and American flag. Behind the shops is a painted backdrop. The sea is to the left and a peninsula is to the right. A large tree is out on the end of the land. An additional painted detail is the lunar calendar dial that is positioned below the hour numeral XII. It is very unusual to have a lunar calendar in this location. It is traditionally positioned in the arch. The time ring is formatted with Roman style hour numerals. Each of the minute positions are indicated with Arabic numerals. Dots are used for the the individual minutes on the minute ring. A month calendar is displayed below the center arbor. This dial is also signed below the moon phase display by the Clockmaker. It reads “Samuel Martin.” The city location of “New York” is engrave below the calendar day display.

The movement is very unusual. It is constructed in brass having nicely finished cast brass plates which are supported by smoothly turned brass posts. The gearing is brass and the pinions are steel. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. This clock strikes the hour on a bell. In addition, this movement will also strike on each of the quarter hours. It is fitted with three additional hammers and three additional bells. The bells are mounted above the movement. On the first quarter hour, this clock strikes once on the smallest bell. On the second quarter or half hour, this movement strikes with two hammers on two bells. On the third quarter, it strikes three bells with three separate hammers. On the hour, it strikes the hour on the largest bell. The winding barrels grooved. The movement is supported by a seaboard.

This clock was made circa 1815. Its overall height is 9 feet 2.5 inches tall. Another example of a tall case clock made by him is in the Yale University Art Gallery. A third clock is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Samuel Martin is listed in “American Clocks Volume 3. American Clockmakers & Watchmakers,” written by Sonya L. & Thomas J. Spitler and Chris H. Bailey. He worked as a clockmaker in New York City as early as 1801 through 1820. After 1820 he moved to south to Savannah, Georgia.

About Samuel Martin of New York City.

Samuel Martin is listed in “American Clocks Volume 3. American Clockmakers & Watchmakers,” written by Sonya L. & Thomas J. Spitler and Chris H. Bailey. He worked as a clockmaker in New York, New York as early as 1801 through 1820. After 1820 he moved to Savannah, Georgia.

We have owned at least four tall case clock by this Maker.


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