Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts. Tall case clock.

This is a very rare mahogany case tall clock made by Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts.

This case sits flat to the floor on an applied molding that is secured to the bottom of the base. The short base section is a traditional feature of this early form and is formatted with the wood grained positioned in a horizontal manner. The long waist section that is fitted with a large tombstone shaped waist door. This door is nicely trimmed with an applied molding. The door fills the waist or middle section of the case. Open this and one will gain easy access to the two brass covered lead weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The dome shaped bonnet or hood is considered an early form. It was use during this time period in London as well. The molded arch is boldly constructed. Just below it is a section of blind frets. All of this is visually supported by smoothly turned bonnet columns. These terminate in wooden turned capitals. It is interesting to note that all four are applied to the case. They are not free standing. The bonnet door is arched in form and opens to a composite brass dial.

This style of dial predates the painted dial. It is composed of a brass base sheet that is decorated with applied brass spandrels and chapter rings. The chapter ring, name boss and calendar dial are finished in a silver wash for contrast. In the arch of this dial is the Maker's name boss. This three dimensional detail is skillfully engraved with the Maker's name and working location. The large chapter ring is also applied to the dial. This ring displays the hours in a Roman numeral format. The five minute markers are indicated in each of the hour positions with Arabic style numerals. The center of this section is nicely matted. This was most likely done to aide in ones ability to located the hands while reading the dial. A brass dial will tarnish making it somewhat difficult to read in a room lit by candles. This dial also features the subsidiary seconds dial which is engraved and silvered. The calendar day is located in the aperture below the center arbor. The steel hands are wonderfully made.

The movement is constructed in brass having nicely finished cast brass plates which are supported by smoothly turned brass posts. The gearing is brass and the pinions are steel. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. This clock strikes the hour on a bell. The strike train is located between the plates and is actuated by a rack and snail design. The winding barrels grooved. The movement is supported by a seaboard.

This is a fine example made by a well known Boston Clockmaker circa 1770. This example stands 7 feet 1.5 inches tall overall. It is approximately 20.25 inches wide and 9.25 inches deep.

Inventory number 214034.

About Gawen Brown of Boston, Massachusetts.

Gawen Brown was born in England in 1719 and died in Boston at the age of 82 in 1801. It is recorded that he came to this country sometime before 1749. It is in that year, on February 6th, that he advertised in The Boston Evening Post that he was a “…Clock and Watchmaker lately from London, Keeps his shop at Me. Johnson’s Japanner, in Brattle Street, Boston, near Mr. Copper’s Meeting House, where he makes and sells all sorts of plain, repeating and Astronomical Clocks, with cases plain, black walnut, mahogany or Japann’d or with out.” During his lifetime, much was written about his making and installing a tower clock at the Old South Church in Boston. The Old South Church was erected in 1730 without a clock. Brown installed his clock sometime between 1768 and 1770. Between the period of 1752 and 1760, Brown moved his shop and home several times. He married three times and had a total of twelve children. On April 5, 1750, Brown married Mary Flagg. Together they had six children before she died in 1760. She was only 31 years old. His second wife, Elizabeth Byles, was the daughter of Mather Byles. Mather was a famous clergyman who presided over the Hollis Street Church. Elizabeth lived only three more years and had no children. She died in 1763. In 1764, Brown married Elizabeth Hill Adams. Elizabeth was the widow of Dr. Joseph Adams who was the brother of Samuel Adams. Elizabeth bore him six more children. Based on a number of newspaper advertisements, Brown imported a number of English clocks and watches from England. During the period of 1789 through 1796, Brown is listed in the business directories as a watchmaker.

Gawen Brown has been often referred to as “The Tory Clockmaker.” This title implies that he was loyal to the King of England. In fact, an article written in magazine Antiques in January of 1929 suggests that Brown left the Colonies and returned to England during the Revolution. This simple cannot be true due to the fact that he had an extensive military career. Brown first enlisted in the Independent Company of Cadets on December 7, 1776. The Cadets were an independent organization and accordingly, it was possible for one to hold an official rank with them as well as with another military company at the same time. He served as a Corporal in the Rhode Island Expedition from April 15, 1777 to May 5, 1777. In April of this same year, he was appointed the rank of Captain in a Continental Regiment lead by Colonel Henry Jackson. He resigned form this on October 23, 1778. In 1779 he was made Brigade Major of the Penobscot Expedition. This tenure lasted from July 2, 1779 to October 8, 1779. Brown left military service in 1781. At that time, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Very few Clockmakers live and worked in the states during this early time period. Pre-Revolutionary clocks made in this country are quite rare and very few exist. The majority of clocks that would have been available would have been from English sources.

A portrait of him is reportable owned by The A. W. Mellon Educational Charitable Trust. Reproductions of which proudly hang in the Old South Church and in the Cadet Armory.


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