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.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1911. After high school, he attended the Wentworth Institute in Boston during the 1933 and 1934 school year. From Wentworth, Stennes had received a certificate that stated he had completed a special course in carpentry and architectural drawing. This document is signed by the Principal, Frederick E. Dobbs. During WW-II, Stennes worked as a cabinetmaker / patternmaker in the Quincy, MA shipyards. After the war, Stennes a skilled woodworker, became interested in making clocks and by the late 1940’s he was at it full time. His business evolved over time. He built the cases for the clocks he sold. They were always of very good quality and nicely finished. Stennes cases were copies of popular clocks made in the early 1800’s by well known clockmakers that included Simon Willard and Lemuel Curtis. Stennes was not a clockmaker. As a result, he sourced many of the movements and components from the whole clocks he purchased. At the time, the more common E. Howard products like the model numbers 5 and 70 were inexpensive. He would buy clocks like these for the components and discard their cases. He also used various spare movements that could be bought through the trade. Stennes signed the dials of the clocks he made with his name and marketed them as his own. Stennes sold a considerable number of clocks through the network he developed in the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC). He was an active member and the numerous meetings and marts were at the time busy places of trade. His reputation grew as his clocks were attractive, available and reasonably priced.

Many of the forms that Stennes copied were of clocks that were difficult to come by and often very expensive when they did turn up in the marketplace. One example of this is his copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole clock. Of course his business model evolved over the years. He made a wide variety of forms which included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock which was one of his best sellers. His copies of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole also sold well and are still very popular today. Later on, he expanded his catalog and made several shelf clock forms and several versions of the tall case clock or grandfather clock including the a grandmothers version and an in between size he called the Wessagusset. This model was named after the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. In addition to clocks Stennes made a small amount on furniture. As clock collecting grew in popularity, companies were formed to supply the needs of the hobby. Soon the movement and component manufacturers began to supply the trade. Stennes began to patronize their stores for parts.

By 1959, Stennes had built a barn on his property to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located at No., 1 Tic Tock Lane. I remember visiting there as a young boy.

Elmer Stennes may be better known today for his actions that took place on December 2, 1968. After an argument wife his second wife Eva, Elmer shot her in head with his pistol in the kitchen of their home. Stennes called the Weymouth police and told them what he had done. He was arrested in his home and later released on $25,000 bond. While free on bond, Stennes continued to makes clocks. He signed the clocks made during this period with the initials “O.O.B.” This was to signify that the clock was made while he was out on bond. During his trial, Stennes entered a plea of not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter. For this crime he was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison. This was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth (M.C. I. P.) He was incarcerated at M.C.I.P. in October of 1969. Stennes was well connected politically. Soon he was put in charge of the wood working shop at the prison. Foster Compos, Stennes’s full time employee once told me that he would visit him on weekends and pick up the cases that were made at the prison that week. Foster would then assemble them in the Weymouth shop and then sell them. The clocks made during this period were marked M.C. I. P. In less than four years, Stennes was paroled on January 12, 1973. In December of that year he married Phyllis Means on the 15th. Almost two years later, on October 4, 1975, the couple was shot multiple times while they were sleeping in their bedroom. Two men broke into their house. Elmer was shot five times and killed. Phyllis was shot seven times and managed to survive by rolling off the bed and playing dead on the floor. Phyllis later accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had retold the story to people I knew that she recognized his voice when he said, “this is for my mom.” While in court, Elliot had five witnesses testify that they were together in a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire at the time of the shooting. As a result, the charges against him were dropped. This case has never been solved.

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

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For more information about this clock click  here .