Joshua Wilder dwarf clock. Hingham, MA. Mahogany case with a time and alarm movement. AAA1

Wilder dwarf clocks generally fall into two categories. The first is a scaled down version of the tall clock form being produced during the period. These would have arched bonnets or hoods that featured the traditional New England style open fretwork designs. The second form appears to be one that he developed. This case generally features a flat cornice molding on top of the bonnet. This is often surmounted with a decorative molding in the shape of an inverted wall bracket that is applied to the top of the case. These case forms were constructed in both mahogany and in pine. The pine versions are generally paint decorated. Some in a simple red wash. Other are vibrantly painted in multiple colors. It is thought that the vast majority of Wilder cases were constructed by the Weymouth cabinetmaker Abel White. Wilder and White met early on at John Bailey’s shop and their relationship as business associates is now well documented.

This fine example features mahogany construction. The mahogany selected presents an active grain pattern. The grain incorporates variations of color and shading. This is a detail that that adds interest in the form. The case sits up on applied bracket base that is applied to the lower section of the case. The feet elevate the clock case nicely. A simply drop apron hangs from the center of the base section. The base panel features a cross-banded framing of mahogany along the perimeter of the base panel. The waist section is fitted with a rectangular shaped waist door. This is trimmed with and applied molding. It opens to access the interior of the case. The bonnet or hood is fixed solidly to the case. This is the traditional construction of this form. Smoothly turned and subtly shaped bonnet columns flank the hood door. This door features an arched opening that is fitted with glass. This door opens to allow one access to the dial. The top of the hood is fitted with a large plinth. Incorporated into the design is a reeded chimney that supports a single brass finial. Pierced fretwork is also worked into the design of this successful decoration.

Access to the movement is from the back of the case. The backboard of this clock along with additional secondary wood structures in New England white pine. The backboard opens along it’s entire length and is actually hinged as is the custom for this form. The movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. This is a time and alarm example that is designed to run eight days on a full wind and is powered by weights. Two brass plates are supported by four brass pillars or posts. The brass gearing is suspended between the plates on steel shafts. The time train is located on the right side. The alarm train is located on the left. One would wind the alarm portion of the movement and set the alarm hand on the front of the dial. When the alarm is released, the alarm weight provides power through the train. A crown wheel engages a shaft that is connected to the hammer. The alarm hammer moves back and fourth inside the bell which is mounted on a bell stand above the movement. The brass faced pendulum bob is supported by a steel rod that hangs from the back of the movement.

The painted iron dial was painted in Boston by the Spencer Nolen. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker in script, Joshua Wilder / Hingham” in the center. The time track is framed with a gilt ring both on the interior and exterior edges. The hours are marked with large Arabic hour numerals. A closed minute ring is divided into sixty segments indicating minutes. Each of the four spandrels areas are decorated with raised gesso work which is predominately highlighted in gilt paint. Several conch shells are depicted in the arch. This scene is nicely executed and incorporates additional colors. The two matching hands are steel and nicely designed. These are the hour and minute hands. The third hand is a simpler design. This is the alarm hand. It is this hand that you use to set the time for the alarm to ring. This hand is a more robust form because one would handle of manipulate it much more frequently than the others two. In some case daily.

This wonderful clock was made circa 1825. The approximate dimensions of the case are 50 inches tall, 11 inches wide and 6 inches deep.

It is inventory number AAA-1.

The two front feet have been restored. The lower portion measuring about an inch has been replaced.

The center section of the dial has had some in-painting and blending work performed due to the loss of paint around the dial feet.

About Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts

Joshua Wilder was born on December 2nd, 1786 in Hingham, Massachusetts. He was trained in the art of clockmaking by John Bailey Jr. of Hanover, MA. Wilder completed this apprenticeship some time around 1807. It appears he stayed in Hanover for a brief period of time before moving back to Hingham to established his home and business located on Main Street in the South Parish. Here, he was the first clockmaker to settle in this prosperous town and found a ready market for tall case clocks, dwarf clocks, wall timepieces, the Massachusetts shelf form and mirror clocks. Wider becomes one of America’s most prolific Makers of the dwarf clock form.

Wilder also becomes very active in the local religious Society of Friends and became known as the “Old Quaker Joshua Wilder.” He was also involved with the Temperance Society and Peace Society of Hingham. Wilder’s business eventually evolves into a retailer of common goods. Wilder is said to have trained several Clockmakers that includes his son Ezra Wilder, Reuben Tower, Allen Kelley and Phillip Bennet. About 1840, it is said that his son Eza joined him in business. Joshua dies on October 4, 1860 in the town of Scituate.

A fair number of clocks made by this maker have been found. Many of which are the dwarf form but also include in much smaller numbers tall case clocks, timepieces, shelf clocks and mirror clocks. Currently, the Hingham Library is displaying a tall case clock made by him.


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