Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts. A rocking ship tall case clock. 3/4 size.

This is a very handsome example that is stamped in the interior with the number “2.” The case exhibits excellent figured selections of bird’s-eye and tiger or curly maple. This wood was selected for its vibrant grain patterns and can be considered the best of its class. This case stands on four applied ogee bracket feet. They exhibit excellent height and a bold return. The long rectangular shaped waist door is trimmed with a simple molded edge. Through this door one can gain access to the two brass covered weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The bob is supported by a wooden rod. Fluted quarter columns flank the waist section. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet columns are also fluted and are fitted into fully turned brass capitals. These visually support the molded arch. Above this is a pierced and open fretwork design. It is a traditional New England pattern incorporating three brass finials that are mounted on plinths. The arched bonnet door is fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial.

This 10.5 inch is smaller than the standard of 12 inches. The four spandrel areas decorated with lacy designs that frame a medallion in the center. The designs are highlighted in gilt paint. The time ring is formatted in a traditional display. The hours are marked in Roman numerals and the five minute markers are painted in an Arabic format. Inside the time ring is a subsidiary seconds dial and two lovely bluebirds. A lovely cape cod coastal scene is painted in the arch of this dial. It incorporates an automated ship that moves with the side to side motion of the pendulum. This automated display is a very desirable feature. The ship is depicted at sail and heading around the point. This dial is signed by the Maker, “Elmer O. Stennes, / WEYMOUTH, MASS.”

This German made two train weight driven movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four 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 designed to run eight days on a full wind. The strike is designed a rack and snail striking system. Interestingly, this clock will strike each hour twice or on two bells that are mounted above the movement. It also strikes twice on each half hour.

This clock was made circa 1970 an stands approximately 82 inches tall.

About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1911. After high school, he attended the Wentworth Institute in Boston during the 1933 and 1934 school year. From Wentworth, Stennes had received a certificate that stated he had completed a special course in carpentry and architectural drawing. This document is signed by the Principal, Frederick E. Dobbs. During WW-II, Stennes worked as a cabinetmaker / patternmaker in the Quincy, MA shipyards. After the war, Stennes a skilled woodworker, became interested in making clocks and by the late 1940’s he was at it full time. His business evolved over time. He built the cases for the clocks he sold. They were always of very good quality and nicely finished. Stennes cases were copies of popular clocks made in the early 1800’s by well known clockmakers that included Simon Willard and Lemuel Curtis. Stennes was not a clockmaker. As a result, he sourced many of the movements and components from the whole clocks he purchased. At the time, the more common E. Howard products like the model numbers 5 and 70 were inexpensive. He would buy clocks like these for the components and discard their cases. He also used various spare movements that could be bought through the trade. Stennes signed the dials of the clocks he made with his name and marketed them as his own. Stennes sold a considerable number of clocks through the network he developed in the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC). He was an active member and the numerous meetings and marts were at the time busy places of trade. His reputation grew as his clocks were attractive, available and reasonably priced.

Many of the forms that Stennes copied were of clocks that were difficult to come by and often very expensive when they did turn up in the marketplace. One example of this is his copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole clock. Of course his business model evolved over the years. He made a wide variety of forms which included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock which was one of his best sellers. His copies of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole also sold well and are still very popular today. Later on, he expanded his catalog and made several shelf clock forms and several versions of the tall case clock or grandfather clock including the a grandmothers version and an in between size he called the Wessagusset. This model was named after the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. In addition to clocks Stennes made a small amount on furniture. As clock collecting grew in popularity, companies were formed to supply the needs of the hobby. Soon the movement and component manufacturers began to supply the trade. Stennes began to patronize their stores for parts.

By 1959, Stennes had built a barn on his property to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located at No., 1 Tic Tock Lane. I remember visiting there as a young boy.

Elmer Stennes may be better known today for his actions that took place on December 2, 1968. After an argument wife his second wife Eva, Elmer shot her in head with his pistol in the kitchen of their home. Stennes called the Weymouth police and told them what he had done. He was arrested in his home and later released on $25,000 bond. While free on bond, Stennes continued to makes clocks. He signed the clocks made during this period with the initials “O.O.B.” This was to signify that the clock was made while he was out on bond. During his trial, Stennes entered a plea of not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter. For this crime he was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison. This was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth (M.C. I. P.) He was incarcerated at M.C.I.P. in October of 1969. Stennes was well connected politically. Soon he was put in charge of the wood working shop at the prison. Foster Compos, Stennes’s full time employee once told me that he would visit him on weekends and pick up the cases that were made at the prison that week. Foster would then assemble them in the Weymouth shop and then sell them. The clocks made during this period were marked M.C. I. P. In less than four years, Stennes was paroled on January 12, 1973. In December of that year he married Phyllis Means on the 15th. Almost two years later, on October 4, 1975, the couple was shot multiple times while they were sleeping in their bedroom. Two men broke into their house. Elmer was shot five times and killed. Phyllis was shot seven times and managed to survive by rolling off the bed and playing dead on the floor. Phyllis later accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had retold the story to people I knew that she recognized his voice when he said, “this is for my mom.” While in court, Elliot had five witnesses testify that they were together in a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire at the time of the shooting. As a result, the charges against him were dropped. This case has never been solved.

I would like to thank David Howard with helping me get this Stennes bio correct.


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