James Doull of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A cross-banded mahogany cased tall clock. The Boston painted dial featuring a tumbled number dial. 218020

An important Hepplewhite tall case clock with an automated lunar calendar painted dial signed by James Doull of Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The colorfully painted 13 inch iron dial is of local origin and was painted by the Boston artists Spencer Nolen & Samuel Curtis. Similarly decorated dials have been found with this artist's signature signed on the back of the dial. This example is signed by the Clockmaker, "James Doull," in script lettering. His working location "CHARLESTOWN" is written in block lettering and both are positioned below the day of the mouth calendar. This is a very unusual dial in that the Roman style hour numerals are presented in a tumbled format. In other words, they are positioned vertically. The minute ring is is presented in dots except where the five minute positions. Here a slash is used. The quarter hours are demarked in Arabic style numerals. These are also presented in a tumbled format. The perimeter of this time display is framed with a gilt ring. A subsidiary seconds dial and the month calendar are located inside this time display. In the arch of this dial one will find the automated feature of a lunar calendar or a moon phase mechanism. This is designed to track the phases of the moon. The lunar calendar month is approximately 29.5 days. Painted between the two moons, are two painted scenes that oppose each other on this disk. The first is nautical in that depicts a sailboat out at sea. The second view is a pastoral scene. A cottage is in the foreground. Two people are in the background. Their silhouette is lit up by the full moon that sits high in the sky. The four spandrel areas are decorated with brightly painted American shields. Cornucopias or goat’s horns are used to help frame or center the shields. Some of the deign is raised up on gesso that has been applied to the dial. This is a very effective detail. The hands are nicely formed and filed from steel.

The movement is constructed in brass and is very good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. 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.

This figured mahogany case is cross-banded with rosewood banding. The form exhibits good proportions. Several other signed Doull clocks are know that share this very pretty and uncomplicated case style. As a result, it is easy to speculate that these cases may have been made by the Seymour Brothers in their shop in Charlestown. Doull was known to have patronize their shop. One example of Doull signed tall clock and a very fancy Seymour case is currently in the White House collection in Washington, DC. This clock is frequently on display in the Oval Office. You should notice that this clock case, offered here, appears a touch wider than many of the earlier Boston area cases. This is because of the popularity of the larger 13 inch dial that is fitted into this example. The base is elevated on long and slender flared French feet. Please note the delicate shaping or flare and the wonderful height they provide. These gracefully transition across the front of the base into a double drop apron. The front panel of the base is framed with a narrow cross-banded border. The panel is veneered with a selection of mahogany that features long sweeping vertical lines. The waist is long and is fitted with a large rectangular shaped waist door that is trimmed with an applied molding. Positioned just inside this molding is an inlaid cross-banded feature. Open this door and one will have access to the two drive weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. Time adjustments are executed for the bottom of the bob. Affixed to the back of the door are two of William Guy Langdon’s repair labels. Mr. Langdon was a long time clock repairman that worked in the Boston Area for more than 70 years. His shop was located at 89 Court Street over the Oriental Tea Store. The front corners of the waist are fitted with reeded quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fretwork design. This is an interesting form. Circles and loops are the primary features. The frets are fitted into three reeded finial plinths. Each of these supports a single brass ball and spire finial. Fully turned and reeded bonnet columns support the upper bonnet molding. Tombstone shaped side lights are fitted into the sides of the hood. The arched bonnet door is decoratively veneered. The opening is fitted with glass.

This wonderful clock was made circa 1810 and stands approximately 7 feet 11.5 inches tall, 20.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep.


About James Doull of Charlestown, Massachusetts.

James Doull was born in Scotland in 1785 and immigrated to the United States, Boston in 1806 at the age of 29. In 1807, he is listed in the Boston tax records as working as journeyman with Boston clockmaker Aaron Willard. This suggests that he came to this country highly skilled and must have been trained overseas. Because he is listed for only one year in Boston, it is assumed he moved to Charlestown shortly after this date. In 1823, Doull moved to Pennsylvania and he took up residence in the city of Philadelphia. Here he is listed as having a number of addresses over the years. In 1823, he is listed at 112 High. In 1825, Doull moves to No. 3 Castle. During the period of 1828 – 1833, he is listed on the south east corner of South and Spruce. In 1835 through 1849, he is listed at the south east corner of 4th and Spruce. In 1856, Doull moves on to south 4th and stays there until 1856.

Over the years we have owned a dozen or more tall case clocks, several shelf clocks and small number of timepieces made by this fine and talented clockmaker. James Doull’s most famous clock is in the White House Collection in Washington, DC. This clock is frequently on display in the Oval Office. It features a signed painted dial and a case that is attributed to the Seymour Brothers cabinetmaking firm.


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