David Wood of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Shelf clock. -Sold-

The Massachusetts shelf clock can be loosely categorized into four forms that are most often described by the shape of the dial. The earliest examples features dials that were constructed in brass having decorations that were engraved into the front surface. Often times these dial were finished in a silver wash. This quickly transition into the painted dial which was often colorfully decorated. The first versions of these were an arched form sharing the same shape found on the majority of tall clocks of the same period. Although, shelf clock dials are much smaller in scale. This seems to have evolved into the “Kidney” form. Why the trade refers to these as kidney dials I do not know. They are rounded at the top and turn in before they turn back out again at the bottom. The added space below the timering is the area where the Clockmaker often signed his work. The last of the dial shapes was the convex circular painted dial. These was produced in the greatest numbers. Please keep in mind that as the dial shaped changed, so to did the cases that housed them.

Early case examples are generally decorated with applied moldings to the extent that they are refereed to as architectural cases. Very few of these are found in the marketplace and as a result, are not easily found pictured in books. To my knowledge, currently, the only reference that has multiple examples pictured is Diston & Bishop’s, The American Clock. As the form progresses, the cases start to incorporated veneers and inlays. The construction decorations resemble those found in tall clock construction of contemporary clocks. This again changes to a case that features eglomise’ tablets. These tablets are very colorful and depict many themes. It is this last form that was made in quantity.

This is a handsome Massachusetts shelf clock. It is considered an early from having a case that exhibits architectural features. This case is constructed in mahogany and features a lovely painted arched dial that signed by David Wood of Newburyport, Massachusetts. This rare form was made circa 1795 and is so dated on the dial.

The case is constructed in mahogany and retains an older finish and a wonderful mellow patina. It is supported by an applied molding that rests flat to the surface it is placed on. The lower section is fitted with a large door. This door features a series of applied moldings that form an arch. They consist of two fluted columns which are applied to the lower two thirds of the door. They are mounted in a vertical position being parallel to each other. Both columns are capped with wooden moldings at each end. Each supports one end of an arch molding that connects them. One would open this door in order to gain access to the lead weight and the pendulum. The sides of this lower section are decorated with additional fluted columns or moldings. The horizontal moldings that separate the base and the hood is complex. This provides the support for the hood section. The door is an interesting form in that it incorporates a breakarch that is surmounted by a stylized pagoda that supports an applied New England style pierced and open fretwork. The frets are a free flowing design. They are attached to the three fluted finial plinths. Each is capped at the top and supports a brass finial. The pagoda is also framed with fluted molding at each end. In the center or in the top of the bell is a carved pinwheel that dominates the front facade. Large tombstone shape side lights or windows are located in the sides of the bonnet. These are fitted with glass. The long fluted columns that flank the hood door are actually attached to it. One would open this door in order to access the dial.

This iron dial is very colorfully painted and of English origin. It was manufactured and painted by the Wilson Dial Manufactory (1777-1809) in Birmingham, England. This firm was in the business painting dials for the English and the American market. In their day, they were the dominate player. This dial measures approximately 9.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide and features a signed Wilson false plate. It is skillfully decorated on the front with flowers and berries. The quality of the artistry is excellent. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker. The signature reads, “Wood / Newburyport.” The time track is formatted in both Roman and Arabic numerals. Roman numerals are used to mark the hours. Arabic numerals are used to indicate each of the five minute markers. The iron hands are hand filed and gracefully formed. They are very effective.

The brass movement is of good quality. Two cast brass plates are supported by four decoratively turned posts. Brass gearing and hardened steel pinions make up the time train. This movement is weight driven and designed to run for approximately eight-days on a full wind. This movement is fitted with a fall off strike. This means that it will strike once on each hour. The bell is supported by a bell stand that is mounted to the back plate of the movement.

This clock stands approximately 33 inches tall. It is 11 inches wide and 5.75 inches deep.

About David Wood of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

David Wood was born the son of John and Eunice Wood in Newburyport, Massachusetts on July 5, 1766. It is thought that he may have been apprenticed to either Daniel Balch Senior or one of the members of the Mulliken family. All of whom were prominent Clockmakers in this region. On June 13, 1792, David advertised that he had set up a shop in Market Square, near Reverend Andrews Meeting House, where he made and sold clocks. Three short years latter, he married Elizabeth Bird in 1795. It has become evident, that David Wood was also a Retailer. In 1806, he advertised that he had for sale “Willard’s best Patent Timepieces, for as low as can be purchased in Roxbury.” In the year 1818, he and Abel Moulton, a local silversmith, moved into the shop formerly occupied by Thomas H. Balch. In 1824 he advertised that he had moved on the westerly side of Market Square opposite the Market House. After his wife’s death in 1846, he moved to Lexington to live near is son David, who was a merchant in that town.

It has become quite obvious to us that David Wood was a very successful Clockmaker and Retailer of Clocks. Over the last 40 plus years of being in the business of selling clocks, we have sold many examples of wall, shelf, and tall case clocks bearing this Maker’s signature on the dial.


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