Walter Durfee of Providence, Rhode Island. Tall or Hall clock retailed by Tiffany & Co., New York. This is the Pattern No. 4. 22021

This impressive Walter Durfee tall case clock is cataloged as a “Pattern No. 4.” This example was Retailed by Tiffany & Co in New York and has all of the Walter Durfee earmarks. They will be discussed in the following description.

This case is constructed in solid mahogany and retains an older finish that has been recently rubbed out. The surface is excellent. This case design incorporates numerous carved moldings and architectural forms. These decorations are artfully displayed throughout the case construction of the case.

This case is raised up off the ground on applied feet. The two front feet are carved in the form of animal paws. The three toed paws are powerfully depicted clutching a ball. Between the front feet is a drop apron that is decorated with carvings. A substanial molding transitions the feet to the base section. This base features a bombe’ form. The bombe’ is nicely proportion and would have been difficult to construct. This is especially true when one considers that it is decorated with applied carvings. The central carving is in the form of a drop pendant. The top of the design transitions to the design located on the front corners of the base and then continues to the back of the case across the side panels to the wall. This is a fluid design. The carvings on the front corners of the base are complex and are poorly described as a leafy theme. Additional carved motifs are lcated in the freize above the bombe’ section and also on the molding that transitions the base to the waist section.

The waist section of this clock case is an interesting shape. It is appears to be tapered or narrows as it reaches up towards the bonnet. This is due to the design of the front corners of the waist. They are canted and feature a reverse taper. This design detail plays a trick on one eye. It make the waist look narrower at the top. The canted surface is also decorated with applied carvings. In order to conform tot he visual shape of the waist, he waist door is constructed in a manner that follows the form. It is a trapazoid form. This door frame is nicely decorated with a number of differnet carved motifs. The most interesting of which are the quarter fans which are located on the inside of the frame. The door is fitted with thick beveled glass that is shaped to the interior frame of the door. Through this, one can view the motion of the pendulum while the clock is in operation. The pendulm features a steel rod and a brass bob. You can also see the nine nickeled plated tubular chimes that hang in the back of this case. The tubes are each stamped by Durfee. The three brass covered weights that power the movement are also displayed in this location. This door is hinged on the right. The interior of these hinges are decoratively detailed. It has been said that these decorative hinges are a subtle Durfee trait. It is thought in some clock circles that the use of these hinges signifies that this is an example of the highest quality offered by this Maker and that it is a step above the standard model offered in his catalog. All of these components are highly finished. The upper waist molding is very interesting. From the top it is constructed with a dentil design. Below this is a shaped molding that transitions to a series of corbells. Each of these terminates in a delicate drop finial. Carved floral medalions, 14 of them are located in between each finial.

The bonnet rests on top of the upper molding. The break arch pediment is well formed. It features blocked corners. The arch moldings are accented with decoratively details. Carved balls are located on the bottom side of this molding. The horns terminate with ornately carved rosettes. They help center a carved key that extends down to the hood frieze. This key is actaully a finial plinth and supports a carved wooden finial in the form of an urn. The bottom of this urn is decroated with a reeded design. A floral carving hangs from the spike and drops along the sides of the urn. Two wonderfully additional carved wooden finals are located on the outer corners of the hood. These are more of a ball and spike form. All three are outstanding and are original to this clock. The sides of the bonnet are paneled. The carving used in this location is free flowing pattern of a pierced and open design. These are actually sound panels and are backed in silk. The hood frieze is decorated with a carved floral reith of tulips and a a carved ribbon. The bonnet columns flat and reeded. The arched bonnet door is also fitted with thick beveled glass. Through this one views the brass dial.

The bonnet door opens to access the brass dial. This dial is very complex and is skillfully designed. A brass sheet is decoatively engraved. This includes the four spandrel and the center mat areas. A number of applied details include the engraved lunar calendar date above the painted moon wheel, the engraved hemispheres, both selector rings, a subsidiary seconds dial and the twelve inch chapter or time ring. These are all finished in a silver wash. The Arabic style hour numerals are raised in brass. The dial plaque is engraved with the Retailer’s name, “Tiffany & Co., New York.” The back of the dial is also die-stamped with Walter Durfee’s name and the city location. All of this is excellent quialty.

Durfee signed movements have always been thought of as being made to the highest standards. This movement helps substantiate the legend. This movement is constructed in brass. The plates are thick and heavy. They are richly damascened on the larger flat surfaces. (Please note that we took the pictures of the movement before it was fully serviced.) This movement is signed “WALTER DURFEE” along the top of the back plate. This movement is a three train design. This means that it will keep time or run for eight days on a full wind. This movement is designed to strike each hour on a single tubular bell that measures approximately 7 feet long. Because of it’s long length, the tone wonderful. It is deep and low. This movement will also strike each quarter hour. The quarter hour sequence is progressive and is played on the 8 additional tubular chimes that hang in the back of the case. Each of the tubes are die-stamped with Walter Durfee’s die stamp and patent dates. The operator has the choice of listening to two selections. They are Westminster and Chimes on eight bells. Again, the sound is wonderful.

four turned pillars are substantial and support the two large damascened decorated brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. This movement is fitted with maintaining power. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is a Dead beat arrangement. This clock is designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a three train design striking the hour and quarter hours. The striking is actuated by rack and snail striking system. The quarter hour sequence is progressive and can be played on as many as eight tubular chimes that hang in the back of the case. Each of the tubes are die stamped with Walter Durfee’s die stamp and patent dates of 1892 & 1896. The operator has the choice of listening to two selections. They are Westminster Chimes and Bow Bells. The Westminster chime sequence on four chimes was made popular by the installation of the House of Parliament clock in London. This clock is better known as Big Ben.

This tall case or hall clock stands an impressive 104 inches 8 feet 8 inches tall and measures 27 inches wide and is a full 17 inches deep. This clock was made circa 1890-1895. It is the best example of this form we have ever encountered.

About Walter Durfee of Providence, Rhode Island.

Walter Durfee was born in Providence Rhode Island on March 23rd, 1857 to Elisha A. and Sarah Law (Allen) Durfee. He died at the age of 82 on August 4th, 1939. He was buried at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. Durfee’s father ran the Durfee Mill which made overcoats for the Union Army during the Civil War. Walter was educated in the local school system and studied to become an architect. In 1877, he left that occupation after a very short stint and opened an Antique business on 295 High Street. This was the first of several shop locations in the City of Providence. It is here that he began to sell antiques and developed an interest specifically in clocks. It is said that he traveled extensively looking for them. In 1881, Durfee took on a partner, Charles L. Pendleton. Pendleton was an attorney collector, friend and gambler. This partnership was called “Durfee and Enches.“ This lasted until 1884 when Pendleton was forced to sell out his share to Durfee. Pendleton had lost a fortune in gambling. Yet it is during this partnership, that they decided to purchase new, high quality clocks from England and sell them in the States under their own name. Pendleton was well traveled and began to develop connections to English manufactures. These newer clocks sold very well. So well in fact, that Durfee had to move to a larger shop on two occasions.

In 1887, Walter Durfee made a sound business decision. He obtained the U.S. Patent rights to the tubular chimes that were manufactured by Harrington in England. This new product was very well received and as a result, the rebirth of the Tall case clock was under way. These clocks sold for $500 in the late 1890’s This was and extraordinary sum. Yet the marketplace responded. Competitors began to emerge to take advantage of their popularity. Yet, Durfee was in a commanding position. If you, as a retailer of this type of clock, wanted by to purchase tubes or a tube clock, then you either purchased them from Durfee or directly from England. Either way, Harrington was paid their royalty. Durfee gave the American clock retailers multiple purchase options in this category. One could purchase the entire clock from him and retail it under their own name or purchase various components starting with the tubes. Many firms engaged in the practice. It is not uncommon to find clocks retailed by finer jewelry stores such as Tiffanys and Bigelow and Kennard with Durfee components. Sales for this type of item grew and Durfee expanded the use product due to its great sound. They began to sell them to theaters and opera houses around the world. They were also used in doorbells. In 1896, Durfee invested in the Tubular Bell Company of Methuen, Massachusetts. This firm produced a larger version of the tubular chime to be used in towers located on churches and universities throughout the country. They were so popular that it is reported that the Vatican in Rome purchase a set for $1,000. Business was good until 1902 when his patent was challenged and he lost. This opened the door for his competition to expand. These companies began to lower the quality and as a result lower the prices of these clocks. Durfee refused to follow this business model.

In 1907-1908, Durfee expanded his clock line to include Banjo clocks. The vast majority of these found in today’s marketplace are the Willard form and appear to have been made by the Waltham Clock Company. These clock, true to Durfee’s standard, are the higher grade examples. They almost always have skillfully painted tablets. Often the tablets are signed by the artist D. J. Steele. Several copies of Lemuel Curtis’ Girandole have been found. These are outstanding copies of the original version and also share many Waltham components. By 1930, he is more involved in repairing clocks then he is in selling and or assembling them.

Today, Walter Durfee is remember for making a superior product. This is a wonderful opportunity to purchase an outstanding example.


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