A country case tall clock attributed to Jacob Willard of Ashburnham, Massachusetts. This example features a very unusual dial.

The attribution to Jacob Willard is based on a signed clock found with a similar dial display that includes a calendar and tidal complications. The calendar portion of that clock is very similar to this example. This newly discovered clock is signed on the dial, “Jacob Willard.”

It is interesting to note that such an unusual dial, a complicated dial from a wooden geared point of view, is house in a case that is constructed in a simple manner. One would think that this insert would command a more sophisticated case design. This might suggest that this case was made locally to where the original purchaser of the movement lived. This clock was found with in 30 miles of Ashby. A common practice in wooden geared tall clock sales was to sell the movement, dial, weights and pendulum as a unit. The purchaser would then find a local joiner and have a case made locally. This is a good candidate for that practice.

This case is constructed in pine and is presently in a dry natural finish. The color os now a pleasing light brown that suggests age. It stands on an applied molding that wraps around the base. This molding rests flat on the floor. The waist section is long and simple lacking corner decorations like quarter columns. It is fitted with a long rectangular waist door. Through this door one can accesses the interior of the case. This includes the pendulum and the two original tin can weights. It is form this central location that this clock is wound. The bonnet features a swan neck pediment. This is somewhat unusual for an Ashby made clock. The vast majority of clock cases that were made in the Ashby school of clockmaking tend to have fret-work decoration. This case exhibits a number of primitive construction details. The hood moldings are simply formed and the hood door is simply constructed. Three turned wooden finials are positioned at the top of the hood. The center finial is in the form of an oversized acorn. Fully turned bonnet columns support the arch. They are free standing. The hood door is fitted with glass.

This clock features a wooden dial. The back is treated with a red wash. The front is very nicely decorated. Tin the arch, one will find a basket of fruit being displayed as the central theme. This is displayed with in the brown painted oval. The four spandrels or corners are also decorated in brown. This unusual field of color provides a good background for the featured grape decoration which is executed in gilt paint. These four spandrel areas of brown also frame the information part of the dial. The hours and minutes are displayed in a traditional format. The hours are indicated in Roman style numerals. With in the time ring are three subsidiary dials. Here you will find the seconds, day of the week and calendar day displayed on separate dials. This is a very unusual combination. I can not remember the last time I have seen this calendar arrangement on a wooden geared clock.

The wooden geared movement is the construction one expects from the Ashby / Ashburnham clockmaking school. These types of wooden geared movements are designed to run 30 hours on a full wind and strike the hour on a cast bell. They are weight driven and need to be wound daily by pulling on cords inside the waist of the case. The quality of the mechanism is very good as compared to other wooden geared examples made in Connecticut. This is a latter example. The winding drums are divided so that the counter weight cord and the drive weights cords stay separated. The wooden plates are supported by four posts. These posts are nicely shaped and extend beyond the plates on both sides. The extensions on the front of the movement double as dial posts. On the back side they protect the count wheel striking system.

This case stands 7 feet 2 inches tall and was made circa 1820. This clock is inventory number VV=18.

About Philander Jacob Willard of Ashburnham, Massachusetts

Philander Jacob Willard was the son of an Ashburnham, Massachusetts farmer, Jacob Willard (1734-1808) and his wife Rhoda Randall of Stow, Massachusetts. Philander was born in this small New England town on September 29,1772. He had one younger brother who was also a clockmaker. His name is Alexander Tarbell Willard. It is now thought that he served his clockmaking apprenticeship with the brothers Abraham and Calvin Edwards of Ashby. Philander’s first shop was located in Ashburnham and may have made clocks as early as 1793. His clocks are typical of the Ashby design being constructed from wood, wound by pulling on a cord and running 30 hours. Interstingly, he may have signed his clocks in several formats. Some of which include, “P. Willard/ Ashburnham”, “J. Willard / Ashburham” or “Jacob Willard / Ashburnham.” He was not a prolific maker. Philander moved to Ashby after 1825 and died there on December 26, 1840.

Currently clocks found signed Philander Willard, J. Willard and Jacob Willard are all asscoiated to have been made by this Maker.


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