Daniel Burnap of Coventry, Connecticut. A tall case clock. 219058.

This important cherry case tall clock features an engraved brass dial that is signed by the clockmaker Daniel Burnap of Coventry, Connecticut. Interestingly, this dial features a lunar calendar which is a seldom seem feature on clocks by this Maker.

Daniel Burnap’s clock dials are of unusually fine workmanship. He was not only a clockmaker , but also a very skilled engraver. This dial is a fine representation of his work. The dial is made from a brass sheet. The decorations are engraved into the front surface. These designs are then filled with shellac or wax. Originally the surface would have been treated with a silver wash. The silver compound would adhere to the brass thus creating a stark contrast between the silver and the dark black filler inside the engraved decoration. Burnap was a master of this technique. Please note how wonderfully decorated the four spandrel areas are presented. The time ring is traditionally formatted. A closed minute ring separates the Roman style hour numerals from the Arabic five minute markers. A subsidiary seconds dial is inset and positioned below the hour numeral twelve. The calendar date of the month is displayed in the large aperture above the hour VI. The unusually shaped calendar window is a traditional form for this Maker. This is positioned above the hour numeral six. Across the middle of this dial is the clockmaker’s signature. It simply reads in script, “Burnap -Coventry.” In the arch of this dial, one will find a moon phase mechanism or lunar calendar. Very few engraved brass dials are fitted with this simple complication. The lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is a mechanical almanac. This feature was most likely made on special order due to the extra work involved in producing it. This display would have been valuable to a number of occupations during the colonial era. Farmers were known to track the moon phase so they could anticipate the days that offered the most available moonlight. A bright night would be more beneficial to them in scheduling their tilling and harvesting of their fields. Sailors and merchants track the lunar phases in oder to know when the high tide would allow their ships to sail easily from port or when the fishing might be best. Numerous religious groups had an almost superstitious litany of rituals that were best performed in accordance with lunar events. The actual lunar month represents an inconvenient interval of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. A tall clocks lunar calendar is set constant at 29.5 days which represents a full cycle. As a result, a 9 hour setback is required at the end of a single year in order to keep the lunar display current.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. The pillars are a distinctive form an commonly found in this cigar-shape in other works by this clockmaker. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or 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 cherry case retains an older finish. This case stands on a cut-out bracket base. The feet are a simple form. The cut-out is designed with a simple return or spur and a subtly shaped apron. The waist section is fitted with a rectangular shaped door that is trimmed with a molded edge. Through this door one can access the two drive weight and the brass faced pendulum bob. Fluted quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals are inset into the front corners of the waist. The fluted bonnet columns visually support the arch of the bonnet. They are mounted in brass capitals. A pierced and open fret work pattern is mounted above the arch molding. This pattern is unusual in that it is a combination of a pieced and Whale’s tails design. Three fluted finial plinths help secure the pattern to the top of the case. Each plinth support a brass finial. The bonnet door is an arched form and fitted with glass. It opens to access the engraved brass dial.

This clock was made circa 1785 and stands 88.5 inches (7 feet 4.5 inches) tall to the top of the center finial. It is 20 inches wide and 11 inches deep measured at the hood molding.


About Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Connecticut.

Daniel Burnap was the son of Captain Abraham and Susan (Wright) Burnap. He was born in Coventry, Connecticut on November 1, 1759. In 1774, he is listed as an apprentice of Thomas Harland’s. Harland was a very talented English born clockmaker who settled in Norwich in 1773. It is thought that here, he learned not only the skill of clockmaking but also engraving, silversmithing, watch repairing and other related skills. As a journeyman, Burnap settled in the town of East Windsor sometime before 1779. By 1805, he built the homestead which he continued to occupy during the remainder of his life. It is in this town that he was most active making clocks and training apprentices of his own. This includes one of Connecticut’s most famous clockmakers, Eli Terry. Other apprentices that are thought to have trained under Burnap include Daniel Kellogg, Harvey Sadd, Abel Bliss, Lewis Curtis, Nathaniel Olmsted, Levi Pitkin, Flavel Bingham, Ela Burnap and Thomas Lyman. Daniel was an active and respected citizen. He was for many years a Justice of the Peace and held court in a spacious room on the first floor of this house. In his latter years, probably before 1815, he gave up his shop and fitted up a room in the attic of the house where he could keep busy at the less arduous kinds of work such as engraving and repairing watches. He died in 1838 at the age of seventy-eight, a prosperous and respected citizen.


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