Elmer Stennes. Reproduction Girandole wall timepiece. OO-26

This is an outstanding reproduction Girandole Wall Timepiece made by Elmer Stennes of East Weymouth, Massachusetts. This 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. This is a faithful copy of the original form.

This wonderful example in is excellent condition. It is signed on the dial by the Maker in script. This case measures forty-five inches long. The case wood used is mahogany. The rich brown coloring of the wood can be best seen on the sides of the case. The sidearms and the bezel are brass. (The sidearms are the decorations that are fitted to the sides of the case. The bezel forms the door that allows one access to the dial.) The frames that hold the two reverse painted tablets, the carved wooden eagle finial and the ornately formed presentation bracket are wonderfully gilded in gold leaf. The condition of the gilding is excellent. The reverse painted tablets are done in very good colors. Both pieces of glass are a convex form. The throat is an intricate traditional theme and is signed “Patent” in the lower section. The bottom circular tablet depicts “Aurora” and is so titled. The dial is painted on metal and features the the Maker’s signature and working location. The format of this dial is done in the traditional Concord format having a gold ring. Below the 6:12 position on the time ring, one will notice a small bee painted on the dial. The hands are a traditional Curtis form having concentric circles and barbed pointers. The movement is brass and die stamped with the numeral “4” on the front plate. This fine quality movement is weight powered and designed to run eight days on a full wind. This is truly a wonderful example of a beautiful clock.

About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

For 30 years, from 1945 through 1975, Stennes was famous for being the only large-scale reproducer of classic American clock cases in the country. But his former friends and associates remember him for another reason. Elmer killed his wife and later was himself killed. In fact, it’s hard to say whether the clocks and other items made by Stennes are so collectible today because of their quality or because of his notoriety. He lived at 45 Church Street in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, in a house he built himself in 1938. He used a design by Royal Barry Wills, the 20th-century American designer of reproduction Colonial-era dwellings. (So, the house, like his clocks, is a facsimile.) It is a classic two-story cedar-shingle Cape Home.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1911. He was self-taught as a cabinetmaker, and received a certificate for completing a one-year course in Carpentry and Architectural Drawing, from Wentworth Institute in Boston in 1934. He also worked in the Model Shop in the Quincy shipyards during WW-II. Stennes made his mark as a case-maker for the clocks he sold with his name painted on the dials. His production was significant as compared to others that were not set up as a factory with employees. He made a variety of forms. These included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock, a copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole, several shelf clock forms, tall case clocks which he called grandfathers, grandmothers and an in between size he designed and dubbed the Wessagusset. The name Wessagusset is the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. Elmer was a good marketer and his clocks were sold nationwide through the contacts he made as a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC). Stennes began making his cases full time in 1945 when he left the model shop at the end of the war. He did not manufacture the movements. At first, he used movements from what was then common clocks. Soon he had to find another more reliable source and used good quality reproductions. By 1959, he built a barn to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located on Tic Tock Lane. Elmer’s second wife was Eva G. Annanis. They had two children, son Elliott and daughter, Ester. Eva died on December 2, 1968, as a result of an argument., Elmer took out his .357 magnum derringer and shot one bullet into Eva’s head. She dropped and died on the bathroom floor. Elmer reportedly called the Weymouth police himself. He was arrested in his home and later released on a bond of $25,000. It was business as usual until his trail. During this period, he branded his clock cases with the initials, “O.O.B.,” to signify his new status Out On Bond. Stennes pleaded not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years. His term was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth -a minimum security prison. The retired Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, Judge Steadman was Stennes’ personal friend customer and counsel before the crime. He had purchased a cherry-wood grandmother clock and Elmer had made him a gavel for his bench. Stennes entered prison on October 24, 1969 and took over the maintenance cottage, moved in and set up his personal machine and hand tools and began making cases using inmates as helpers. One could argue that he was using prisoners, at the expense of Massachusetts taxpayers, to make his products. These were stamped “M.C.I.P.,” the abbreviation for “Massachusetts Correctional Institute Plymouth’ which was actually in Carver, Mass. After having served only three years and three months, Stennes was paroled on January 12, 1973. He later remarried on December 15, 1973. Her name was Phyllis Means. On October 4, 1975 the couple was shot while they were sleeping in their downstairs bedroom. Two men broke into the house, Elmer was shot five times. Phyllis was shot six times. When the police arrived, she was covered in blood and was screaming that Elmer was dead. Phyllis accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had seen his face, recognized his clothes, and heard his voice say, “Dad.” Elliot had five witnesses testifying that at the time of the shooting he had been with them at a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire. As a result, the charges were dropped. There were other considerations, however, the case of Elmer Stennes’s death has never been solved.

I would like to thank David Howard with helping me get this Stennes bio correct.

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