David Wood of Newburyport, Massachusetts. -Sold-

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

The case is constructed in mahogany and retains an older re finish which has mellowed into a wonderful color. The case is supported by four brass ogee bracket feet. These are fitted to the base molding that is applied to the bottom of the case. The case is then divided into two sections. The lower section is dominated with a large inset panel located in the front of the case. This panel is actually a door that provides access to the lead weight and the brass faced pendulum bob. The door is constructed with a mortised and tennon frame. The interior of the frames features a wonderful scallop pattern The molding steps down gently to a mahogany panel features a lively grain pattern. The sides of the case are fitted with brass carrying handles. These are more for decoration than for carrying prepossess. A boldly formed horizontal molding separates the base and the hood. It also provides the support for the hood section. The hood features an applied molding at the top of the case. It steps back as it gets taller. Two cast brass urn finials are mounted on the front corners. The hood door mimics the shaping of the dial. It is fitted with glass. One would open this door in order to access the dial.

This iron dial is colorfully painted and of Boston origin. It is an interesting version in that it is decorated with a deep blue field. The time space is left white as is the space for the Maker’s information. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker. The signature reads, “David Wood / Newburyport.” Floral patterns are also included in the decoration to the sides of this space. The time track is formatted in both Roman and Arabic numerals. Roman numerals are used to mark each of the twelve hours. Arabic figures are used to indicate each of the quarter hour 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 two and a half days on a full wind.

This clock stands approximately 35 inches tall to the top of the center finial. It is approximately 14 inches wide and 6.55 inches deep.

The Massachusetts shelf clock can be loosely categorized into four forms that are most often described by the shape and construction of the dial. The earliest examples feature dials that are generally constructed in brass and are decorated with engraved details such as floral themes and geometric patterns. These are engraved into the front surface of the dial. Often times these dials were finished in a silver wash. This dial transitions into the painted dial form. The painted dial is 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. Please keep in mind, shelf clock dials are much almost always smaller in scale. This traditional shape evolves into what the trade calls the “Kidney” form. These dials are rounded at the top and turn in before they turn back out again at the bottom. The added space below the time ring is the area where the Clockmaker often signed his work. The last of the dial shapes is the circular painted dial. More often then not, it is a convex form. These clocks that share this late dial form were 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 seem to have been produced and as a result, are difficult to find in the marketplace. To my knowledge, the only reference that currently has multiple examples pictured is Diston & Bishop’s, The American Clock. As the form progresses, the cases start to incorporated veneers and inlay details. The construction decorations resemble those found in tall clock construction of the day. 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.

The town of Newburyport, Massachusetts certainly has its share of accomplished clockmakers. Names that easily come to mind include Mulliken, Balch and David Wood. This historic city, the center of which is located on the south side of the mighty Merrimac River is approximately three miles from the ocean.

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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