Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts. A dwarf clock. RR72.

RR-72 Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts. Dwarf Clock.

Wilder dwarf clocks fall into two main categories. It appears that he offered a scaled down version of the standard size tall clock being produced during the period. These would have arched bonnets or hoods that featured the traditional style New England open fretwork designs. The second form features a flat cornice molding on top of the bonnet surmounted with a decorative molding in the shape of an inverted wall bracket that is applied to the top of the case. These case forms were constructed in both mahogany and in pine which was most likely paint decorated. It is thought that the vast majority of Wilder cases were constructed by the Weymouth cabinetmaker Abiel White. Wilder and White met early on at John Bailey’s shop and their relationship as business associates is now well documented.

This example features mahogany construction. The case sits up on applied bracket feet. These retain their original height and elevate the clock up off the floor nicely. A simply drop apron hangs from the center of the base section. The base panel and waist door are crossbanded in mahogany. The waist door is trimmed with and applied molding. It opens to access the interior of the case. The bonnet or hood is fixed solidly to the case. This is the traditional construction of this form. Smoothly turned and subtly shaped bonnet columns flank the hood door. This door features an arched opening that is fitted with glass. The upper corners are decorated with carved fans. This is a very unusual and interesting detail. This door opens to allow one access to the dial. The top of the hood is fitted with a large plinth. Incoperated into the design is a single brass finial. Access to the movement is from the back of the case. The backboard of this clock anlong with additional secondary wood structures in New England white pine. The backboard opens along it’s entire length and is actually hinged as is the custom for this form.

The painted iron dial is signed by the Clockmaker in script, Joshua Wilder. The place location of Hingham is painted in block lettering. The time track features a closed minute ring and the hours are marked with large Arabic hour numerals. A gold band separates the decoration from the center section. Each of the four spandrels areas are decorated with raised gesso work which is predominately highlighted in gilt paint. A touch of red and black help structure the urn forms. In the arch is a floral basket. This is nicely executed. This dial was painted in Boston by the Spencer Nolen.

The movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. This is a time only example that is designed to run eight days on a full wind and is powered by a cast iron weight. The brass faced pendulum bob is supported by a steel rod that hangs from the back of the movement.

This clock was made circa 1820. The approximate dimensions of the case are 48 inches tall, 11 inches wide and 6 inches deep.

About Joshua Wilder of Hingham, Massachusetts

Joshua Wilder was born on December 2nd, 1786 in Hingham, Massachusetts. He was trained in the art of clockmaking by John Bailey Jr. of Hanover, MA. Wilder completed this apprenticeship some time around 1807. It appears he stayed in Hanover for a brief period of time before moving back to Hingham to established his home and business located on Main Street in the South Parish. Here, he was the first clockmaker to settle in this prosperous town and found a ready market for tall case clocks, dwarf clocks, wall timepieces, the Massachusetts shelf form and mirror clocks. Wider becomes one of America’s most prolific Makers of the dwarf clock form.

Wilder also becomes very active in the local religious Society of Friends and became known as the “Old Quaker Joshua Wilder.” He was also involved with the Temperance Society and Peace Society of Hingham. Wilder’s business eventually evolves into a retailer of common goods. Wilder is said to have trained several Clockmakers that includes his son Ezra Wilder, Reuben Tower, Allen Kelley and Phillip Bennet. About 1840, it is said that his son Eza joined him in business. Joshua dies on October 4, 1860 in the town of Scituate.

A fair number of clocks made by this maker have been found. Many of which are the dwarf form but also include in much smaller numbers tall case clocks, timepieces, shelf clocks and mirror clocks. Currently, the Hingham Library is displaying a tall case clock made by him.


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