Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen, New Hampshire circa 1810. A colorfully inlaid birch case tall clock. UU29

This nicely proportioned country case is constructed woods found locally to the central, New Hampshire region. The primary wood in the construction of the case is birch and the secondary wood is New England white pine. This case also feature a birds-eye maple panel, mahogany cross banding and the light wood inlays that are most likely maple. This case has been appropriately refinished and retains its original red staining of the birch. The overall presentation is very attractive.

This fine example stands up on four feet. These are cut out of the base section and retain excellent height. The cutout design between the feet forms a subtly shaped apron that drops or hangs from the base section. There is a light wood line inlay pattern that forms a frame around the perimeter of the base panel. This line inlay is more robust than what is traditionally used. Five petal fans are positioned inside this framing in each of the four corners. The individual petals are lightly shaded added definition to each and depth to the overall pattern. The waist section is fitted with a rectangular shaped waist door. The perimeter of this door is trimmed with a a distinctive applied molding. The door is nicely formatted. Just inside the molding is a cross-banded mahogany border. This frames the large birds-eye maple panel. The bird’s-eye maple features a very unusual grain pattern and as a result, becomes a focal point of the clock. Centered in this section is a large inlaid pinwheel. It is comprised of twelve individual petals. Each of these is a nonlinear form and they are slightly shaded on one side. This is a very nice decorative detail. The waist door opens in order for one to gain access to the interior of the case and the components that include the original tin can weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The sides of the waist are fitted with quarter columns that are turned smooth. These are mounted in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet is surmounted with a pierced and open fret work that is a traditional country New England design. It is supported by three boldly reeded plinths. Each plinth is fitted with a brass ball and spike finial. The molded arch is supported by smoothly turned and subtly shaped bonnet columns. These are free standing and mounted in brass capitals. They are positioned to flank the arched bonnet door which is fitted with glass. Small tombstone shaped side lights are positioned on the sides of the hood.

The painted iron dial is an American product. It was paint decorated by the ornamental artist, Spencer Nolen in his Boston workshop. The four spandrel areas are decorated depictions of conch shells. The lunette of this dial is decorated with a striking color combination of green, blood red and yellow. The central theme is a decorative urn, with swags and florals. The design also incorporates gilt highlights, some of which are applied on raised gesso decorations. This dial also displays the hours, minutes, seconds and calendar date in the traditional format. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker in very fancy lettering. This signature is located below the calendar date and above the Roman hour numeral six. It reads, “Benja’ Morrill / BOSCAWEN.”

This movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. It is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is 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.

This fine example was made circa 1810 and stands 7 feet 6 inches tall to the top of the center finial.


About Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen, New Hampshire.

Benjamin Morrill was born in Boscawen on January 16, 1794, and died on April 21, 1857. His parents were Samuel Morrill and Sarah (Atkinson) Morrill. He was their fifth child. The small village of Boscawen is located just to the northwest of Concord, NH. He lived in the house his grandfather, Reverend Robie Morrill built in 1769. It is located on King Street. It was the first framed house in that town. Robie was a graduate of Harvard College in 1755. It is summarized that Benjamin was a practical man and educated. His work demonstrates a creative skill in mechanical matters. It is not presently known who trained Benjamin as a clockmaker. He was first recorded as setting up a shop in 1816. Benjamin’s oldest sister Judith married Joseph Chadwick. He was also a clockmaker from the same town and was seven years older than Benjamin. On November 22, 1818, Benjamin married his first of two wives, Mehetable Eastman. She was the daughter of Simeon and Anna (Kimball) Eastman of Landiff, New Hampshire. They had two children before she died on July 6, 1828. Benjamin remarried six months later to Mary Choate of Derry, New Hampshire. Together, they also had two children. Benjamin died on April 21, 1857. As a clockmaker, signed examples of tall case, banjo, shelf, mirror, and tower clocks are known. As production clocks made their way into his region, he was also known to manufacture scales and musical instruments that included melodeons and seraphines.

A tower clock made by him was set up in Dover, NH, at the cost of $300. It was installed in the 1st Parish Meeting House. The whereabouts of this clock is not known. A second clock was installed in Henniker, NH. The Henniker clock is now at the American Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. It was given to them by the late Frederick Mudge Selchow. A third tower clock had been originally installed (date unknown) in the 1839 Advent Church in Sugar Hill, now part of Lisbon, NH.

A fine example of a mirror clock is in the collection of the New Hampshire Historical Society.


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