Silas Parsons of Swanzey, New Hampshire. A cherry case tall clock.

We have recently owned several tall clocks with painted dials signed by Silas Parsons of Swanzey, New Hampshire. Many of which have shared a number of construction characteristics that this clock exhibits in it’s design and presentation. Some of which include: Cases which are constructed in cherry and feature white pine as a secondary wood. The dimensions of this case are very narrow measuring from the front plain of the waist to the wall. This example measures less than 6.5 inches deep. This leaves very little room for the pendulum and weights. These clocks also stand on very delicate ogee bracket feet that are applied to the bottom of the case. The waist sections sections are generally long and narrow. The sides of the cases are fitted with inset quarter columns. They are deeply fluted and terminate in brass quarter capitals. This waist door is shaped like an older style tomb-stone having an arched top. The doors are generally long and in my opinion, this adds a lot to the overall look of this clock. The bonnets or hoods are surmounted with a distinctive fret work pattern which we have seen on other clocks signed by this Maker. The three boldly fluted chimney plinths support the three brass finials. The bonnet columns are also boldly fluted. They flank the arched glazed door.

This painted dial is very distinctive in the manner in which it is decorated. Note the spandrel designs and their lack of a border or framing. The artwork is quite light and has a country or rural non-production feel. This clock is signed on the dial by the Maker. This signature is done in script lettering and can be seen below the calendar aperture.

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 wonderful example stands 7 feet 10.5 inches tall to the top of the final. It was made circa 1805.

About Silas Parsons of Swanzey, New Hampshire.

Silas Parsons (1773-1859) of Swanzey, New Hampshire. Silas is the son of Aaron Parsons and Damaris (Whitcomb) Parsons. He was born in Swanzey on May 29,1773 and died there on March 15, 1859. Silas married Patience Haskins (Hoskins) the daughter of Silas Haskins of New Salem Massachusetts on March 25th, 1806. She died on February 1, 1865. Together, they had 4 children. Silas jr. was born in 1809, Damaris was born in 1812 and died in 1815 at the age of three, a second Damaris was born in 1817 and Patience born in 1820. It appears that Silas prospered financially. He is credited with donating approximately $20,000 for home and foreign missionaries

Silas is a celebrated clockmaker. A small number of New England case styles have been found and documented. They include tall case clocks, Massachusetts shelf clock and a dwarf clock. A Massachusetts Shelf clock is now in the possession of the Henry Ford museum. It is reported that he made three musical tall clocks as wedding gifts for his three daughters. These played waits on weekdays and hymns on Sunday. One of these clocks is signed on the inside of the case by the cabinetmaker. This inscription reads, “Made by Samuel (?) Sweeny 1811.” So far, all of the tall clock cases I have seen are very similar in design and form. It is logical to assume that Sweeny was Parsons go to cabinetmaker.

The town of Swanzey is composed of a group of hamlets just South of Keene: Swanzey Center, North Swanzey, West Swanzey and East Swanzey. Parsons lived in West Swanzey. His home still stands. 1775 is cut into the chimney, his work shop is now gone.


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