Aaron Willard Jr. mahogany cased tall clock with rocking ship dial and Paul Revere set up label. This clock was made on Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. BBB33

This fine mahogany case tall clock features long, narrow proportions. It was made by Aaron Willard Jr. of Boston, Massachusetts, and features an automated rocking ship dial and the Clockmakers’ original setup label.

This mahogany case is very nicely proportioned and retains an older shellac finish. This case stands on four flared French feet that exhibit very good height. The transition between the feet forms a nicely shaped apron hanging below the base section. The feet are visually separated from the base by a thin molding that is applied to the three sides of the case. The front-facing panel of the base features a vibrant selection of mahogany. The grain pattern is positioned so that it appears to be rising from below as it radiates up and outward. This is truly a special selection of wood. The large rectangular-shaped waist door is trimmed with delicate applied molding. The veneer selected for this location features a grain pattern that exhibits long sweeping lines. The door provides access to the interior of the case. Here one will find the two original red painted tin can drive weights and the original wooden pendulum rod that supports a brass-faced bob and rating nut. On the back of the door is the Clockmaker’s original setup label. It lists the “Directions for putting up the Clock.” This label is credited to have been printed by the American Patriot Paul Revere. It is the version of the label that implies that the clock or movement was not installed in the case at Willard’s shop. This suggests that the clock was ordered and sent some distance away from Boston. Clockmaker’s labels are not often found. This is a wonderful addition to the history of this clock and is well worth mentioning. Long reeded quarter columns flank the sides of the case. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The lower capitals are fitted on veneered blocks. The hood or bonnet features a free-flowing lacy pattern of fretwork. The open fretwork is supported with three reeded finial plinths. Each is fitted with a brass finial. These finials are a ball form having an eagle on top. Reeded mahogany bonnet columns are positioned on both sides of the door. These are also mounted in brass capitals. The bonnet door is an arched form, and the opening is fitted with glass.

This very colorful painted iron dial was painted by the Boston ornamental artists Nolen & Curtis. It is a 12-inch dial and features a rocking ship display in the arch. The rocking ship is an automated feature. The fully rigged painted ship is depicted flying the American flag and sailing across the turbulent waves. The water is lively. This ship is cut from tin and actually moves or gently rocks from side to side with the motion of the pendulum. The painted scene behind the sailing ship is quite interesting. It includes a large fortification on the left that is built high on top of a rocky point. This nautical theme is painted on a convex piece of metal which adds to the visual depth to the scene. The four spandrel locations are decorated with geometric and floral patterns. The colors, including green, red, and gold, attract one’s attention. These are highlighted with raised gesso beads that are finished in gilt paint. The time ring is formatted with all Arabic numerals. Inside the outer gold band, Arabic numerals are used to indicate the five-minute positions. A dotted minute circle divides these from the larger Arabic-style hours. A subsidiary seconds dial and month calendar display are located in the traditional locations. The hands are filed from steel and have been blued. The minute and hour hands are an unusual form to be used on a tall case clock. This style is more traditionally found on Massachusetts shelf clocks of the period. Both hands are very nicely made and are three-dimensionally hand filed. The Clockmaker signed this dial, “Aaron Willard Jr. / BOSTON.”

The clockworks are constructed in brass and are of 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 in a recoil format. The movement is weight-driven and designed to run for 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 mounted above the movement. This design is very reliable and is an excellent timekeeper.

This is a very attractive example. It measures approximately 8 feet 2.5 inches or 98.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial, 20.5 inches wide, and 10.5 inches deep. This clock is inventory number BBB-33.

About Aaron Willard Junior of Boston, Massachusetts.

Aaron Willard Jr. was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on June 29, 1783. He had the good fortune of being born into America’s leading clockmaking family. His father Aaron and uncle Simon had recently moved from the rural community of Grafton and began a productive career of manufacturing high quality clocks in this new ideal location. Based on the traditions of the day, it is thought that Aaron Jr. probably learned the skill of clockmaking from his family. We have owned a large number of wall timepieces or more commonly called banjo clocks that were made by this talented maker. Based on the numbers seen in the marketplace, it is logical to assume he was one of the most prolific makers of this form. We have also owned a fair number of tall case clocks, Massachusetts shelf clocks and gallery clocks. Aaron Jr. retired from clockmaking sometime around 1850 and moved to Newton, Massachusetts. He died on May 2nd, 1864.

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