Nathaniel Shepherd, Westport, Massachusetts. A tall clock with moon-phase dial display. XXSL-99.

This mahogany constructed cased tall clock features a number of unusual design elements that are worth noting. The first are the feet that elevate the case. All four are an ogee form. They are tall and slender. All four are three dimensionally designed and have two shaped facings that are positioned at a ninety degree angle. This is standard practice for the construction of front feet. It is very unusual to find the back feet constructed in this manner. This is due to the fact that molding at the back of the foot is generally not seen and it actually shims the clock off the wall slightly. The base section features and inset panel. The mahogany selected for this location is excellent. The grain pattern is vibrant and formatted vertically. The front corners of the base feature and unusual detail. They have been turned smooth in a three quarter round design and this softens the edges. The waist is long and centers rectangular shaped door. This door is also fitted with an inset panel. The use of inset panels in clock case construction in New England is unusual. It is more common in some of the southern locals. The outer edge of the door is trimmed with a narrow applied molding. Smoothly turned quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals flank the sides of the waist. These columns are actually veneered with figured mahogany. I can not remember the last time I saw this construction detail. The hood features a molded arch that supports a whale’s tail fret pattern. Three finial blocks help support this unusual fret pattern. The blocks also support cast brass ball and spike finials. The bonnet columns are smoothly turned and terminate in brass capitals. The side panels are drilled out in a diamond pattern. The holes are backed in red silk. The purpose of the holes is to let the sound of the bell when struck to more easily escape the inside of the hood. The bonnet door is arched in form and glazed opening to a colorfully painted iron dial.

This iron dial measures 13 inches across and was paint decorated by a Boston ornamental artist. Each of the four spandrel areas are decorated with a colorful medallion. These are framed with lacy raised gesso designs that are highlight with gilt paint. A lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is located in the arch of this dial. This dial also displays the hours, minutes, seconds and calendar date in the traditional locations. This dial is wonderfully signed by the Clockmaker in a script format. This signature is located below the calendar date display and above the Roman hour numeral VI. The signature simply reads, “Nath Shepherd / Boston.”

The brass constructed movement is weight powered and designed to run eight days on a full wind. The strike train in actuated by a rack and snail system. This clock is designed to strike each hour on a bell mounted above the movement on a stand.

This clock stands approximately 7 feet 6.5 inches tall overall. It was made circa 1816.

Inventory number XXSL-19.

About Nathaniel Shepherd working in Dartmouth, Westport and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Shepherd, clockmaker, watchmaker and goldsmith working in Dartmouth, Westport and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Nathaniel Shepherd was born in Dartmouth on February 21, 1795 and died in New Bedford on October 28, 1882. He trained as a clockmaker under John Bailey II in Hanover, Massachusetts. It is currently thought that he started working on his own in 1816. In 1820, he formed a partnership with Ezra Kelley and worked with him until 1823 and then again together in 1833 through 1835.

Several tall clocks are known. One signed example owned by us is signed with the place location listed as Westport. A similar Shepherd clock can be found in the Yale University Art Gallery collection, inventory no. 1964.54.2.


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