Aaron Willard of Boston, MA. An Inlaid mahogany cased tall clock featuring a lunar dial. XXSL23

This federal inlaid mahogany tall case clock made by Aaron Willard working in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1795.

This very attractive clock is a superb example of a “Roxbury” case that was produced in Boston circa 1795. The case exhibits many of the qualities associated with this desirable Boston form. Some of which include the use of high quality mahogany, superb proportions and form, line inlay decoration, brass stop fluting, pierced and open fretwork and cuffed ogee bracket feet. The clock was produce by the important clockmaker Aaron Willard [1757-1844], brother to the renown clockmaker Simon Willard. Aaron was a prolific clockmaker having a career that lasted 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 sometime about 1780 and then on to Boston in 1792. This enterprising clockmaker produced a great number of fine tall case clocks in addition to many Massachusetts shelf clocks and patent timepieces or banjo clocks.

This clock features the use of figured mahogany that retains a rich color and pleasing surface. The case is decorated with a thin line inlay pattern that can be found in the waist and base sections.

The molded hood is fitted with three fluted chimneys. These frame the pierced and open fretwork pattern. The chimneys also serve as plinths for the brass ball and spire finials. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice. Brass stop-fluted colonnettes with brass capitals visually support this molding. They also flank the bonnet door. This is glazed and opens to a finely painted iron dial. Each side of the hood has a glazed tombstone shaped window.

The colorfully painted iron dial features a painted moon phase disk in the lunette. This is decorated with alternating hand painted scenes. One side of this disk depicts a swan on a lake and the other is a country scene with a cottage and a figure on a path. The dial is framed with four corner spandrels that are decorated with vivid flowers all within gilt borders. The clock face has an inner ring of Roman numerals used to demark the hours and an outer ring of Arabic numerals to demark the five minute markers. The dial is fitted with steel pointer formed hands and has a second bit above the center arbor and a calendar window below. This dial is distinctly signed below the center arbor on two lines in “Old English” calligraphy with the maker’s name and locale, “Aaron Willard / BOSTON”.

The hood transitions down to the waist section with a broad flared molding. The waist corners are set with brass stop fluted quarter columns. These terminate with brass capitals and bases. A long rectangular-form pendulum door is centered in this section. The door has a brass keyhole escutcheon and a line inlaid border. It is also trimmed with an applied molding. This door opens to access the original wood shaft pendulum, brass capped pendulum bob and a pair of tin can weights.

The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The forward facing base panel is also decorated with a line inlaid pattern. The base is supported by a double stepped molding that joins four ogee bracket feet. These feet are a specific form, having a distinct flared cuff that date from the last decade of the 18th Century.

The clock works or movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. It is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is 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 movement has recently been serviced and is in fine running condition.

Dimensions: Height including center finial: 100 inches (8 feet 4 inches); Width: 20 1/2inches; Depth: 9.5 inches.
Inventory number XXSL-23.

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

Aaron Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts, on October 13, 1757. Little is currently known of his early life in Grafton. His parents, Benjamin Willard (1716-1775) and Sarah (Brooks) Willard (1717-1775) of Grafton, had eleven children. Aaron was one of four brothers that trained as a clockmaker. In Grafton, he first learned the skills of clock making from his older brothers Benjamin and Simon. It is recorded that Aaron marched with them in response to the Lexington Alarm on April 19, 1775, as a private under Captain Aaron Kimball’s Company of Colonel Artemus Ward’s Regiment. Aaron re-enlisted on April 26 and was soon sent by General George Washington as a spy to Nova Scotia in November. By this time, he had reached the grade of Captain. He soon returned to Grafton to train as a clockmaker. In 1780, Aaron moved from Grafton to Washington Street in Roxbury along with his brother Simon. Here the two Willards establish a reputation for themselves as fine clock manufacturers. They were both responsible for training a large number of apprentices. Many of these 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, in 1792, relocated about a quarter-mile away from Simon’s shop across the Boston line. Aaron is listed in the 1798 Boston directory as a clockmaker “on the Neck,” 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 many 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 and numerous Massachusetts shelf clock forms.


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