Daniel Burnap. Engraver and Clockmaker working in East Windsor, Connecticut. This is a cherry case tall clock featuring an engraved brass dial signed by one of Connecticut's premier clockmakers, Daniel Burnap of East Windsor. BBB11

This is a very important example to the ongoing study of Daniel Burnap’s clock business. This dial on this example helps tie together the known association between Daniel Burnap and his apprentice, Daniel Porter. Porter’s written indenture to Burnap is known. The back of the calendar gear on this dial is skillfully engraved with both names, suggesting that Burnap may have also trained Porter in the skill of engraving. It is not unusual to find engraving patterns on the back of clock dials. The nature of this engraving suggests that Porter was practicing by engraving his Master’s name several times as well as his own.

Daniel Burnap’s clock dials are of unusually fine workmanship. He was not only a clockmaker but also a very skilled engraver. This dial is a fine representation of his work. The dial is made from brass. It was hammered by hand into a thin flat sheet. The decorations were then engraved into the front surface. These designs are filled with shellac or wax, and the front surface is treated with a silver wash. The silver compound adheres to the exposed brass surfaces, thus creating a stark contrast between the applied silver and the dark black filler that remains inside the engraved decorations. Burnap was a master of this technique. Please note how wonderfully decorated the four spandrel areas are presented. The time ring is traditionally formatted. Thinly formed Arabic-style numerals are used to mark the five-minute locations outside the closed minute ring. This minute ring separates them from the large Roman-style hour numerals. A subsidiary seconds dial is inset and positioned below the hour numeral XII. The calendar date of the month is displayed in the large aperture above the hour VI. The unusually shaped calendar window is a reoccurring form found in other works by this Maker. This dial signed this dial in the lunette. The signature is written in script, “Daniel Burnap / E. Windsor.” The shaping of the steel hands is a reoccurring theme found on other Burnap signed dials.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is of good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass rectangular-shaped plates. The pillars are a distinctive form, cigar-shaped with ring turnings, and are commonly found in other works made by this Clockmaker. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement in this clock is a dead-beat. The movement is weight-driven and designed to run for eight days. It is a two-train or a time and strike design having a rack and snail strike. As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour. A steel hammer hits a cast iron bell mounted above the movement.

The wood used in the construction of this case is primarily cherry. This case features a somewhat modern finish, and the color is excellent. This case stands on four boldly formed ogee bracket feet. The knees and the double spur returns are nicely shaped. The feet are applied to the bottom of the case. The base molding profile is a reoccurring form exhibited in other examples made in this region. The cherry panels used in the construction of the base section are positioned horizontally. The lower waist molding is somewhat compressed. The waist section is fitted with a shaped door. The edge of this door features a molded edge. Through this door, one can access the two drive weight and the brass-faced pendulum bob. The fluted quarter columns that terminate in turned wooden quarter capitals are inset into the front corners of the waist. The upper waist molding is flared outwards and supports the bonnet. Turned and fluted bonnet columns visually support the molded arch of the bonnet. A pierced and open fretwork pattern is fitted to the top of the arch molding. Three fluted finial plinths help secure the frets to the top of the case. Each plinth supports a brass ball and spiked finial. The sides of the bonnet are fitted with tombstone-shaped sidelights. The bonnet door is an arched form and fitted with glass. It opens to access the engraved brass dial.

This clock was made circa 1785 and stands approximately 88 inches (7 feet 4 inches) tall to the top of the center finial. It is 20.25 inches wide and 10.75 inches deep measured at the hood molding.


About Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Andover, and Coventry, Connecticut. A clockmaker, silversmith, engraver, and instrumentmaker.

Daniel Burnap was the son of Captain Abraham and Susan (Wright) Burnap. He was born in Coventry (now Andover), Connecticut, on November 1, 1759. Burnap is listed in numerous clock reference materials as an apprentice of Thomas Harland’s. Harland was a very talented English-born clockmaker who settled in the village of Norwich in 1773. It is now thought that Burnap arrived at Harland’s door in 1774 with a fair amount of clock training already learned. The relatively short period of time Burnap stayed in Norwich would not have been long enough to learn the complete art of clockmaking. We speculate that Burnap may have learned the skills of engraving, silversmithing, and musical tall clock manufacturing at Harland’s shop. The mystery remains, who provided the groundwork of knowledge to Burnap before he trained with Harland? Burnap settled in the town of East Windsor sometime before 1775 and was working as a journeyman. By 1776, he had built the homestead located a few rods north of Bissell’s Tavern in East Windsor. Soon, Burnap was active making clocks and training apprentices of his own. His most well-known apprentice is Eli Terry, who became Connecticut’s most famous clockmaker. Terry was a pioneer in the development of mass-production techniques in this country. He is credited with being the first person in America to manufacture goods, or more specifically clocks, that had interchangeable parts. Other apprentices that Burnap trained include Daniel Kellogg, Harvey Sadd, Abel Bliss, Lewis Curtis, Nathaniel Olmsted, Levi Pitkin, Flavel Bingham, Ela Burnap, Thomas Lyman, and Daniel Porter. Interestingly, we owned a Burnap tall clock movement engraved with Daniel Porter’s name on the front plate. The presence of this engraving suggests that Porter signed the works of the clock while working for Burnap as an apprentice. We have also owned a signed Burnap dial that has evidence of Porter practicing his engraving skills on the back. Burnap’s East Windsor clock cases are somewhat similar. Many of these cases were supplied by the East Windsor cabinetmaker Simeon Loomis. In 1782, Burnap married Deliverance Kingsbury. They did not have any children. In 1795, Daniel began to purchase land in his hometown of Coventry. While Daniel’s land/house was in the town of Coventry, it was also within the borders of the Andover Ecclesiastical Society, which existed as early as 1747 and included parts of Coventry, Hebron, and Lebanon. When Andover became a town in 1848, it simply took the same boundaries as had been defined the society. In 1798, Burnap built a sawmill there, and this became a major source of his income. It appears that he maintained his East Windsor shop for a time while living 20 miles away in Coventry. He did this until 1805, when he closed the East Windsor shop.

Daniel Burnap was an active and respected citizen. He was for many years a Justice of the Peace and held court in a spacious room on the first floor of this house. In his later years, Burnap gave up his shop and fitted up a room in the attic of the house where he could keep busy at the less arduous kinds of work such as engraving and repairing watches. He died in 1838 at the age of seventy-eight, a prosperous and respected citizen.


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