Aaron Willard Tall case clock. Boston, Massachusetts

This mahogany line inlaid and cross banded tall case clock was made in Boston, Massachusetts by Aaron Willard.

This is an outstanding example. This mahogany case exhibits excellent proportions and excellent wood selections. The case has been appropriately refinished and as a result, the grain of the wood is on display. This line inlaid example stands on four applied French feet. The mahogany used in the construction of the base panel is formatted in a vertical position. The grain features long sweeping lines. The waist is long and narrow and fitted with a large tombstone shaped waist door and excellent contrast. The perimeter is framed with a cross banded border. This design element is repeated in the construction of the rectangular waist door. This door is trimmed with and applied molding. Brass stopped fluted quarter columns flank the sides of the case. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fretwork design that is surmounted with three brass ball and spiked finials. Fully turned and brass stop fluted bonnet columns or colonnettes visually support the upper bonnet molding. They are mounted in brass capitals and are free standing. Nicely turned quarter columns are set into the back of the bonnet. These are smoothly shaped and terminate in ring turned wooden capitals. The sides of the hood are fitted with tombstone shaped side lights and they are fitted with glass. The arched bonnet door is also fitted with glass and opens to access the dial. The mask board retains it’s original white paint decoration.

This iron dial was paint decorated by Boston ornamental artist. The four spandrel areas are decorated with colorful themes. A lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism is located in the arch of this dial.. This dial also displays the hours, minutes, seconds and calendar date in the traditional format. This dial is boldly signed by the Clockmaker in block lettering. This signature is located below the calendar date and above the Roman hour numeral six. The signature simply reads, “AARON WILLARD / BOSTON.”

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system. As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour. This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement. The strike hammer is returned to the ready position via a coil spring. This clock retains it’s original tin cans weights and pendulum.

This fine example is nicely proportioned and stands approximately 7 feet 10 inches or 94 inches tall to the top of the center finial. Measured at the feet, this clock is 20.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep. It was made circa 1810.

About Aaron Willard of Grafton, Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts.

Aaron Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts, on October 13, 1757. Little is currently known of his early life in Grafton. His parents, Benjamin Willard (1716-1775) and Sarah (Brooks) Willard (1717-1775) of Grafton, had eleven children. Aaron was one of four brothers that trained as a clockmaker. In Grafton, he first learned the skills of clock making from his older brothers Benjamin and Simon. It is recorded that Aaron marched with them in response to the Lexington Alarm on April 19, 1775, as a private under Captain Aaron Kimball’s Company of Colonel Artemus Ward’s Regiment. Aaron re-enlisted on April 26 and was soon sent by General George Washington as a spy to Nova Scotia in November. By this time, he had reached the grade of Captain. He soon returned to Grafton to train as a clockmaker. In 1780, Aaron moved from Grafton to Washington Street in Roxbury along with his brother Simon. Here the two Willards establish a reputation for themselves as fine clock manufacturers. They were both responsible for training a large number of apprentices. Many of these became famous clock makers in their own right. The Willards dominated the clock-making industry in the Boston area during the first half of the nineteenth century. Aaron worked in a separate location in Roxbury from his brother and, in 1792, relocated about a quarter-mile away from Simon’s shop across the Boston line. Aaron is listed in the 1798 Boston directory as a clockmaker “on the Neck,” His large shop employed up to 30 people, while 21 other clock makers, cabinetmakers, dial and ornamental painters, and gilders worked within a quarter-mile radius by 1807. We have owned many tall case clocks made by this important Maker. In addition, we have also owned a good number of wall timepieces in the form of banjo clocks and numerous Massachusetts shelf clock forms.


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