Aaron Willard of Boston, Massachusetts. Having the clockmaker's set-up label. A tall case clock.

This mahogany line inlaid and cross banded tall case clock was made in Boston, Massachusetts by Aaron Willard. This case retains its original set up label that is thought to have been printed by the American Patriot, Paul Revere. This label lists Willard’s working location as “Boston.”

This is a very good Boston made example. This case is constructed on a broader more masculine scale in order to accommodate the expaned size of a 13 inch painted dial. This mahogany case exhibits fine inlay details and excellent wood selections. The grain patterns selected for the construction of this case are nicely figured and accentuate the form. The older finish is stable and is somewhat clear. The result is that the grain patterns exhibited in the wood is on display.

This line inlaid example stands on four applied ogee bracket feet. The mahogany used in the construction of the base panel is formatted in a vertical position and visually lifts the case. This crotch pattern radiates with long sweeping lines. The panel is decorated with a thin line inlaid frame. Each of the corners of this box are fitted with inlaid quarter fans. The fans are composed of five individual petals that are shaded on one side. This helps provide dimension or depth to this detail. The waist is fitted with a large rectangular shaped waist door. This door features interesting construction. The outer edge is trimmed with a simple molded edge. This steps into a banded detail that features two parallel mahogany bandings. This framing is laid out in an alternating or perpendicular grain direction. The two bands are separated by a thin light line inlay. The interior corners are fitted with the same quarter fan detail that is exhibited in the base section. On the back of this door is the Maker’s set up label. This is the version that is associated as being printed by Paul Revere. As a result, he would have been responsible for engraving the plate that the label is printed from. Very few Willard clocks retain their labels today. This is a wonderful additional detail. This label has been wonderfully preserved behind glass and is in good overall condition. It lists the place location as “Boston” which helps date this clock. Brass stopped fluted quarter columns flank the sides of the case. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features a very fancy and lacy open fretwork design. This is supported with three fluted plinths. Each plinth is capped at the top and fitted with a cast brass ball and spiked finial. 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. The sides of the hood are fitted with tombstone shaped side lights and they are fitted with glass. The arched bonnet door is line inlaid and is also fitted with glass. It opens to access the dial.

This iron dial measures 13 inches across and was paint decorated by Boston ornamental artist. Each of the four spandrel areas are decorated with a colorful medallion. These are framed with lacy raised gesso designs that are highlight with gilt paint. 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 locations. This dial is wonderfully signed by the Clockmaker in a script format. 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 wooden rod pendulum.

This fine example is nicely proportioned and stands approximately 7 feet 8 inches or 92 inches tall to the top of the center finial. Measured at the feet, this clock is 21.5 inches wide and 10.25 inches deep. It was made circa 1810. This clock is inventory number TT-90.

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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