Luther Smith of Keene, New Hampshire. An inlaid cherry case tall clock on diminutive size. GG49

This inlaid tall case clock is a diminutive size. It stands a mere 7 feet 1.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial. The case is nicely proportioned and is constructed with indigenous woods. The primary wood featured is cherry, and New England white pine is used as the secondary option. The case retains its original surface or finish. Some areas have developed a wonderful crackelature that is in keeping with this clock’s sophisticated country presence.

Four wonderfully formed ogee bracket feet elevate this case off the floor. They retain excellent height. They are shapely and feature a sharp spur or return. The base section is decorated with a scalloped apron or molding. The apron is applied to the bottom of the waist molding and visually hangs below it. This very successful architectural detail is one we see on numerous clock cases found in the Connecticut River Valley region of New England. A large tombstone-shaped door is fitted into the waist section of this case. This door is inlaid with a star or pinwheel in the center. The inlay makes use of two shaded of wood. Light and dark panels are laid out in an alternating pattern. The coloration attracts one’s attention. Fluted quarter columns flank the waist section. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet or hood is fitted with an unusual New England style pierced fretwork pattern. The design is complex. Three fluted chimneys or final plinths support this fretwork. Each of these is capped at the top and supports a brass ball and spike finial. Fully turned and fluted bonnet columns or colonnettes visually support the upper bonnet moldings. These are mounted in brass capitals and are free-standing. The sides of the hood are fitted with diamond-shaped sidelights, and they are fitted with glass. The arched bonnet door is also equipped with glass and opens to access the painted iron dial.

This painted dial is of local origin. A quick inspection reveals that the artist’s hand is looser and less refined than the artwork found on dial produced in Boston, MA, and Birmingham, England, during this colonial period. This dial has a folk art quality to it. This distinctive paintwork is attributed to the ornamental artist Thomas Shapley. Shapely advertised in December of 1794 that he was conducting business at Luther Smith’s shop. The dial sheet is iron. The paint primer used was red in color and has shrunk. This resulted in the ivory enamel color to crack. The surface is now somewhat stable, and the texture adds to the historic charm. The dial is decorated with floral themes. The time is displayed in a traditional format. Each of the five-minute positions is marked with Arabic-style numerals. A dotted minute ring separates these from the Roman-style hour numerals. The subsidiary seconds dial and calendar dial display is located inside the time ring. Thinly shaped steel hands will indicate the time. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker in the lunette. It reads, Luther Smith / Keene.

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is of good quality. Four turned, and shaped 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 a recoil format. 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 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 clock was made circa 1800. It stands approximately 7 feet 2 inches tall or 86 inches tall to the top of the center finial. This case is 19.5 inches wide and 1.25 inches deep at the upper bonnet molding.

Luther Smith was born in Colrain, Massachusetts, around 1767 and had moved to Keene, New Hampshire, sometime around 1793. He married Sarah Eveleth in Bolton, Massachusetts, in 1798. His shop was located on Federal Row, which is now Main Street in Keene. He also purchased a mill from Nathan Blake on what is now known as West Street. In Keene, he built the first public clock, which was installed in the old meeting-house at the head of Main Street in 1794. Its’ cost, including a ten-year warranty, was 36 pounds. The clock’s one dial faced to the south, and unfortunately, the clock was lost in 1828 when the meeting-house was moved. Smith also built the first brick tavern house in Keene in 1805. Other tall clocks, as well as banjo clocks, New Hampshire mirror clocks, and tower clocks, have been found by this Maker. He died on October 21, 1839, at the age of 73. He is buried in the Washington Street Cemetery.

It is inventory number GG-49.

About Luther Smith of Keane, New Hampshire.

Luther Smith was born in Colrian, Massachusetts around 1767 and had moved to Keene, New Hampshire sometime around 1793. He married Sarah Eveleth in Bolton, Massachusetts in 1798. His shop was located on Federal Row which is now Main Street in Keene. He also purchased a mill from Nathan Blake on what is now known as West Street. In Keene, he built the first public clock which was installed in the old meeting-house at the head of main street in 1794. Its’ cost, including a ten year warranty, was 36 pounds. The clock’s one dial faced to the south and unfortunately the clock was lost in 1828 when the meeting-house was moved. Smith also built the first brick tavern house in Keene 1805. Other tall clocks as well as banjo clocks, New Hampshire mirror clocks and tower clocks have been found by this Maker. He died on October 21, 1839 at the age of 73. He is buried in the Washington Street Cemetery.

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