Reproduction Girandole wall timepiece Owned by Marcus Coolidge. Possibly made by James Conlon in Boston, MA. 221161

This very good copy of a Girandole Timepiece has had almost a century of history of foiling buyers. It has been purchased several times under the pretense that this is an original Lemuel Curtis made model. This elaborate form was made famous by the Concord, Massachusetts Clockmaker Lemuel Curtis.

In 1802, Lemuel Curtis was an apprentice of the Willards in Boston. In 1811, Curtis moved to Concord and set up shop as a Clockmaker who specialized in timepieces. Over the years he made several improvements in the Willards original design. Examples of which are the single screw movement mounting system and changes to the clocks suspension. His ultimate achievement would have to be the design of this Girandole form. However, this form was not a financial success and as a result, a small number of clocks were originally produced. A fair number of these original clocks are in the collections of the Country’s best Museums. Many individuals and some companies have since made reproductions of this form. Some of the more prolific makers of the form include the Waltham Clock Company, Elmer Stennes and Foster Campos.

The known provenance of this clock begins in 1932 when Marcus Coolidge, a US Senator from the state of Massachusetts purchased this clock on September 1 from L. J. Wyman. Wyman was a Boston Antiques Dealer whose shop was located at 110 State Street. Wyman wrote to Coolidge that the Curtis Girandole originally belonged to E. Martin in Portsmouth, NH and that he bought it from Martin’s sister. A copy of the payment receipt is dated Sept 1, 1932 and this is included with sale of this clock. After Marcus past, his daughter Helen Coolidge Woodring inherited the clock. Her husband Harry Woodring, was US Secretary of War in 1936 through 1940. Helen’s son, Cooper Coolidge Woodring inherited the clock next.  In 1977, Cooper had this clock appraised by a leading clock dealer located in New York. They mis-identified it as an original Curtis Girandole clock and assigned it an appraised value of $30,000. Twenty-four years later, in 2001, Cooper consigned the clock to Phillips Auction House in St. Louis, MO. They also believed the clock to be first period and promoted it in their catalog with a 3 page color spread [pages 25-27], and an estimate of $50,000—$60,000.  The clock was sold for $34,000 plus the buyer penalty. It was soon returned to Phillips because it was determined by another clock expert that it did not have a circa 1815 movement.  Phillips honorably refunded the monies and returned the clock to Cooper Woodring.  A clock specialist living and working in Central Massachusetts later helped Cooper negotiate a private sale of this 20th century made clock. Four years latter it was consigned to Schmitts Auction in New Hampshire where it again sold to a collector for $17,120.

It is our opinion that this fine mahogany cased example was made circa 1920. It was made to resemble a clock that was made by Lemuel Curtis in the 1820’s. The wood work and the patina has been messaged in order to simulate the look of a period clock.

This very attractive clock measures approximately forty-four inches long. The frames, eagle finial and the lower bracket are wonderfully gilded in gold leaf. The gilding is in very good condition and exhibits a period patina. The other decorative elements are brass. The s-shaped sidearms are well formed. The brass bezel is decorated with 24 applied brass balls. The reverse painted tablets are colorful and the execution is very good. The two tablets are convex or bowed. The throat is done in an intricate traditional theme. It features the wording “L. CURTIS / CONCORD” in the lower section above the eagle. Additional themes include two bunches of acorns and an American shield. The floral themed background is excellent. The bottom circular tablet id titled “COMMERCE.” It depicts a chariot scene. This is a very popular theme. The technique, coloring and detailing are good well done. The slightly convex metal dial is painted and features the traditional Concord gold ring. The hands are a traditional Curtis form having concentric circles and barbed pointers. The hour numerals are an Arabic form. The movement is constructed in brass. It is weight powered and is designed to run eight-days on a full wind. The weight is cast iron and descends below the works in the center of the case.

This is truly a wonderful example of a beautiful clock.

221161

About James E. Conlon of Brookline, MA.

James Edward Conlon (1880–1948) was an antiques dealer and clock maker/restorer who work in Boston from the 1910s through the 1940s. He was very talented with his hands and also enjoyed researching the Clockmakers that worked a century before him. He was highly respected in the community of collectors and was eager to share his research with others. He gave lectures on the history of New England clock making at a number of local historical societies. He also lectured at a meeting of the Boston Clock Club an organization that was formed to share information about clockmakers by their enthusiasts. The Boston Clock Club restricted their membership and excluded dealers. They made an exception for James Conlon. This organization describes James Conlon as someone who “has long been engaged as a clock maker and probably has had a broader experience with fine clocks than any other person in this section. In addition to his practical experience, he has in years past devoted a great deal of time and energy to consideration of the origin and history of New England clock makers.” It is thought today that he produced a number of museum quality copies of several early American clocks. Interestingly enough, Conlon did not sign his clocks with his name. We have seen out of period Willard wall primitives, timepieces, lyre clocks, lighthouse clocks and Curtis style girandole clocks that have been attributed to Conlon by the collectors of his day. This folklore has been passed down through the years. James E. Conlon died on December 31 1948 at his home in Brookline, MA. He left behind his six sons and five daughters. His Son James G. Conlon took over the business in 1948.

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