Simon Willard. A labeled (Joseph Russell label) tall case clock made in Roxbury, Massachusetts. ZZ59.

This inlaid mahogany cased tall case clock was made by Simon Willard of Roxbury, Massachusetts. It retains its original set up label which was printed by Joseph Russell.

This handsome tall clock epitomizes the formal “Roxbury” style cases that were so popular in Boston during the late 18th century. These clocks produced in the Boston borough of Roxbury. The region became well known for providing clock cases that possessed high quality construction, pleasing proportions, brass stop fluting, and choice figured mahogany. This representative example was produced by the premiere Boston clockmaker Simon Willard, (born: Grafton Massachusetts April 3, 1753, died: Boston, Massachusetts August 30, 1848.) Willard was a patriot during the revolution. Simon was a highly prolific and innovative clockmaker and worked for a period that extended over sixty-five years. He trained many clockmakers that became famous in their own right. He built and sold clocks to some our country’s most famous citizens.

This fine example survives in wonderful condition and exhibits a superb surface that highlights the rich figuring on the mahogany wood and the details of the light line inlays. The case also retains a highly desirable Joseph Russell Label set up label. This label was printed by in Boston, Massachusetts sometime around 1795. Joseph russell had a partner for some time. His name was John Green. Green and Russell published The Boston Post-Boy and then later The Massachusetts Gazette. Both men were Loyalists. When present, his printed labels add value and appeal to Simon Willard’s clocks. A labeled Simon Willard tall clock, in a fine Roxbury case, is considered by sophisticated collectors to be among the most highly prized furniture forms.

The inlaid mahogany case exhibits excellent proportions and is decorated with inlays. The case stands on four ogee bracket feet. These are applied to the base section under the double stepped base molding. The base is inlaid with a subtle line pattern that follows the shape of the base. The corners of this inlay pattern have been cutout (olovo) and follow and interior 90 degree turn. In the center of the panel is a full paterae. This is constructed with 16 individual petals. Each is shaded on one side in an effort to provide visual depth to the pattern. The waist section is long and narrow. It is fitted with a large rectangular shaped waist door. This door is trimmed with and applied molding. It is also decorated with the same inlay pattern found in the base section. Brass stopped fluted quarter columns flank the sides of the case. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fretwork design, capped and line inlaid finial plinths and three brass ball and spire finials. Fully turned and brass stop fluted bonnet columns or colonnettes visually support the upper bonnet molding. These are mounted in brass capitals and are free standing. The sides of the hood feature side lights or windows. These are fitted with glass. The arched bonnet door is also line inlaid and is fitted with glass. This door opens to access the dial.

The painted iron dial is signed by the Maker, “Simon Willard” in block lettering. The location of the signature is positioned just below the month calendar aperture. In the arch of this dial, one will find a decorative simple floral pattern. The four spandrel areas are also decorated with gilt designs and floral themes. These are painted on a green field background. The hours are indicated by large Roman style numerals. The five minute markers are each indicated in an Arabic format. A subsidiary seconds dial and a calendar dial are displayed in the traditional locations.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is 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 clock was made circa 1795 and stands approximately 7 feet 10 inches or 94 inches tall to the top of the center finial. Measured at the lower bonnet molding, the case approximately 19.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep.


About Simon Willard of Grafton and Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Simon Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts on April 3, 1753. It is in Grafton that Simon learned and began a successful career as a Clockmaker. On April 19, 1775 Simon answered the Lexington alarm along with his brothers. It is thought that by 1780 he moved from Grafton and took up residence in Roxbury. Simon was a Master Clockmaker as well as an Inventor. Some of his designs or inventions include “The Improved Timepiece” or Banjo clock, a roasting jack patent that rotated meat as it cooked in the fireplace, and an alarm clock patent. In addition, he trained many men to make clocks who intern became well known Clockmakers once their apprenticeships were served. Some of which include William Cummens, Elnathan Taber, and the brothers Levi and Able Hutchins. Some of the more notable public clocks Simon built include the clock that is in The United States Capital, the one located in the U. S. Senate, and the one located in the House of Representatives. As a result, his clock were searched out by many affluent New England citizens of his day. Simon died on August 30, 1848 at the age of 95.


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