Simon Willard of Roxbury, Massachusetts. An important tall clock. This case is attributed to Stephen Badlam's cabinetmaking shop located in Dorchester's Lower Mills. BBB32

This is an important tall case clock with dial signed by America’s most famous clockmaker Simon Willard working in Roxbury, Massachusetts. This wonderfully inlaid mahogany case is attributed to the Boston area cabinetmaking shop of Stephen Badlam. Badlam’s shop was located in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester. This impressive clock was made circa 1795 and stands approximately 8 feet (96 inches) tall to the top of the center finial.

This veneered and inlaid mahogany case exhibits excellent proportions and color. It retains an older finis that highlights the grain exhibited in the mahogany wood and the contrast between the darker mahogany and the light inlays. This is in the condition that I prefer. The base proudly stands on four applied ogee bracket feet. These are well formed and feature large returns. The feet are mounted to a double stepped molding that is applied to the lower section of the base. This molding is of unusual construction in that the grain of the wood runs in a vertical direction as compared to the more common horizontal formatting. This is thought to have been a somewhat common practice for Badlam made pieces. The base panel features an intricate inlay design. It is constructed with design elements that include barber pole line inlay, multiple layers of cross-banding, inlaid quarter fans, and highly figured veneers. Much of this is repeated in design of the waist section. The barber pole inlay that is positioned at the top edge of the base panel continues along the sides to the back of the case. It is also positioned on the front corners of the base. The first framing of cross-banding is quite wide and is mitered at the corners. Additional barber pole line inlay is used to form the next frame. Here the interior corners are fitted with quarter fan inlays. Another line of inlay frames the vibrantly figured panel of crotch mahogany. The waist door is formatted in a similar manner. This rectangular shaped door is featured in the waist of the case. This door provides access to the interior of the case where one will find a brass covered pendulum bob and two tin can drive weights. In addition, this door is fitted with an applied molding along the outer edge. An interesting design element is the alternating patten of light and dark wood that is line inlaid into the door frame. This is a detail we seldom see. The front corners of the waist are fitted with brass stop fluted quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fancy fretwork design. The supporting plinths are capped at the top and brass ball and spike finials are mounted on them. Fully turned and brass stop fluted bonnet columns support the upper bonnet molding. These are mounted in brass capitals. The hood molding is complex. This design element is one we see one many Badlam made cases. The molding is divided by a frieze section. This is decorated with and interesting inlay pattern. Bookend inlays are positioned above the columns. An alternating pattern of dots and ovals in light wood conformed to the shape of the arched molding. The columns flank the bonnet or hood door. The arched bonnet door is decoratively line inlaid and the opening is fitted with glass.

This colorfully painted iron dial was manufactured in England by the Wilson firm. It is fitted with a false plate and is signed at the top. The dial is oversized measuring 14 inches across and almost 19.75 inches in height. In the arch or lunette of this dial one will find the automated feature of a moon phase or lunar calendar. The four spandrel areas are decorated with colorfully painted floral themes. 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 an indicated by separate hands. This dial is signed by the clockmaker, “Simo. Willard” in block lettering.

The weight driven 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 beautiful clock was made circa 1795. It stand approximately 8 feet tall (82 inches) to the top of the center finial. Measured at the upper bonnet molding, this case is 21.25 inches wide and 10.25 inches deep. The case is constructed in mahogany with holly line inlays and New England white pine is used as a secondary wood. The mahogany retains a deep rich finish.


About Stephen Badlam of Dorchester Lower Mills, MA.

Stephen Badlam was born on May 7, 1751, in Stoughton now Canton, MA. His parents were Deacon Stephen Badlam who worked as a part time cabinetmaker and as a tavern keeper and his wife Hannah (Clapp) Badlam. They had four children, Hannah, Eliza, Stephen and William. Stephen’s mother Hannah died on March 16, 1756 when he was just 5 years old. His father married again but he died soon after. This left Stephen and his siblings with a challenging childhood. He was essentially orphaned. At the age of 15, he moved to Dorchester to live and work with his older brother Ezra. Stephen was trained at an early age as a surveyor and as a cabinetmaker. In 1773, the two brothers formed a furniture making partnership and settled in the Lower Mills section of that town.

Stephen was a patriotic man, he answered the Lexington Alarm as a sergeant in Captain Daniel Vose train band company. He joined the American Army in 1775 and served honorably during the Revolutionary War. First commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, he was promoted quickly to 1st Lieutenant and then to the rank of Captain in the same year. In military service, he met Washington, whom he admired greatly. He also met Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, who presented him with a sword. Badlam’s regiment was ordered to Canada, and he sailed up the Hudson River in command of the artillery. At this time he was made a Major. On July 4, 1776, he took possession of a rise of ground opposite Fort Ticonderoga, and on July 18th, he named it Mount Independence, a name subsequently confirmed by General Gates. A serious illness forced him to resign from the army and Stephen returned to Massachusetts. In 1777, he and his wife Mary settled with a newborn daughter, Polly, in Dorchester’s lower Mills. They had six other children: Stephen, Abigail, Nancy, Lucretia, John and Clarissa. After the war, Stephen was was made a General in the Massachusetts militia. By 1785, he re-established his cabinetmaking career. It is now thought that he did very little hand work. His role was to keep his employees busy and ran the day to day operations of the shop. An advertisement placed on March 3, 1785, advertised “Mahogany Desks, Tables, Bureaus, Chairs, Bedsteads, and Cabinet Work of various Kinds, made and sold on reasonable Terms, By Stephen Badlam, of Dorchester near Milton Bridge, when any person may be supplied with good Work for shipping or other use, and have it delivered at any Place required.” He soon built up a substantial business. He also provided turnings for other cabinetmakers in the neighborhood and sold picture-frame materials and window glass. A number of pieces of furniture have been found with his cabinetmakers stamp. We also know that he made clock cases of the finest design for Simon, Aaron and Ephraim Willard. He also sold them to a number of their apprentices which included William Cummnens and Elnathan Taber. His Dorchester home became a center of current discussion and served as a school from 1793-1799. He was active in civic affairs and was also appointed Justice of the Peace in 1791. He opposed the annexation of Dorchester Neck by the City of Boston. In 1798, Elizabeth Turner became his second wife. Stephen died in 1815.

Stephen Badlam’s estate was valued at over $24,000 in 1815. In contrast, it is said that the average labor earned about $30 a year. This was a considerable sum for the time and is an indication of the position he enjoyed. Today, Badlam’s furniture is recognized by collectors for its fine quality and is eagerly sought out.


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