Joseph Ives tall case clock. 8-day wooden geared movement. Bristol, Connecticut tall clock.

This is an important tall case clock having a wooden geared movement made by Joseph Ives in Bristol, Connecticut.

This is an outstanding example. Very few examples of Ives tall cases exist today. (Another example can be found exhibited at the American Clock & Watch Museum which is located in Bristol, Connecticut.) This case is constructed in woods that are indigenous to New England. The primary wood is cherry. It is inlaid with maple and the secondary wood is white pine. The case retains an older finish which presents the case in a wonderful mellow tone. It stands up off the floor on four cutout bracket feet. They are visually separated from the base by a horizontal line inlaid pattern. A drop apron hangs down from the center section of the base. The waist is long. It is fitted with a large rectangular door. This door is trimmed with a simple molded edge. The center is inlaid with an oval that is framed with a delicate line inlay of maple. The wood selected for the oval form is richly grained and shows well in this location. Open this waist door, which locks on the left, and one can gain access to the two tin can weights and the pendulum. The sides of the waist are fitted with fluted quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features a swan’s neck pediment. The arches are nicely formed and are decorate with a simple molding that terminates in a plain rosette. Three capped plinths are located at the top of the bonnet. These were never fitted with finials. The bonnet columns are fully turned and fluted. These are mounted in brass capitals. They visually support the top of the bonnet. The bonnet door is a rectangular shape It is fitted with glass. The sides of the hood have been drilled in a simple diamond pattern. This is to allow the sound of the bell to more easily escape the case. The rectangular shaped dial in constructed in wood. It is framed by a simple molding that is decorated with gilt paint. The dial features a time ring that is formatted with Roman hour numerals. The four spandrel areas feature delicate floral designs. The upper section of this dial depicts a pastoral scene consisting of a small home located on the edge of a river. The movement is constructed in wood. Oak is used for the plates, cherry for the wheels and mountain laurel is used in the construction of the roller pinions. The use of roller pinions was an Ives improvement in an attempt to reduce that amount of friction in the design of the movement. This clock is powered by weights and is designed to run eight days on a full wind. The weights are original to this example and are tin cans that have been filled with sand, rocks and whatever else was handy. The time train is compounded by a pulley and as a result, the barrel diameter on the time train is larger in order to hold more cord. This movement is also designed to strike each hour on a bell.

For a more in depth discussion regarding Joseph Ives, please read Kenneth Roberts’ book, THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF JOSEPH IVES TO Connecticut Clock Technology 1810 – 1862.

This clock was made circa 1813 and stands approximately 7 feet 4 inches tall.

About Joseph Ives of Bristol, Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York.

Joseph Ives was born on September 21, 1782. He was one of six children born to Amasa Ives who married into the Roberts family of Bristol, Connecticut. Gideon Roberts is recorded as the first clockmaker to have worked Bristol and it is now thought that he trained his five sons in clockmaking and possibly trained Joseph and his brothers in the trade as well. They all would have been trained before Gideon died of typhoid fever in 1813.

It appears the Joseph Ives began making wooden geared clocks clocks about 1811 in East Bristol and shortly thereafter, he moved to Bristol and continued in the trade. The type of clocks being manufactured were called “wag-on-the wall” or hang ups.” These were sold across the countryside by peddlers who could carry a small number of them on horse back. A hang up consisted of a movement, dial, hands, weights and pendulum. They were general sold without cases because of the added cost and the difficulty in transportation. As a result most cases were made locally if one could afford to have one built. Ives clocks are distinctive in that they typically feature a rolling lantern pinions instead of leaf pinions in their movement design . This was an Ives improvement that was patented.

By 1820, Eli terry was enjoying great success in selling his 30 hour wooden geared shelf clocks of his own design. Terry’s clocks were powered by weights and Ives began to experiment with a spring powered version having roller pinions attached to a wooden movement. Due to financial difficulties, Joseph moves to Brooklyn, New York about 1825 and is working on Poplar Street. Here he begins the production of a movement that is constructed with rolled brass strips which are then riveted together to form the movement frame. Roller pinions and the leaf spring power is also used. The case of these clocks have a Ducan Phyfe furniture influence.

In 1830, Ives creditors catch up with him again and he on the verge of being sent to debtors prison. John Birge hears of this and travels from Bristol to Brooklyn to settle his debts and to persuaded Ives to return to Connecticut to make clocks. First with C. & L.C. Ives who were using his strap frame design and then with John Birge under Birge & Fuller name. This company used the leaf or wagon spring power in many of their clocks. This design of power was also patented by Ives.

Joseph Ives sold the rights to his patents and continued to work in the clock fields under various firms. He was never financially successful but is credited as being one of the most ingenious Connecticut horologists. Joseph dies in 1862.

For a more complete description of Joseph Ives and his working career, please read, The Contributions of Joseph Ives to Connecticut Clock Technology 1810-1862 written by Kenneth Roberts.


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