Aaron Willard. Boston, Massachusetts. An important gilded case Gallery Clock.

This important gilded case Gallery Clock was made by Aaron Willard of Boston, Massachusetts.

The true weight driven gallery wall clock form is rarely offered for public sale. The vast majority of these clocks where originally sold to public halls, meeting places and houses of worship. They are usually prized possessions being originally purchased by the members or perhaps donated to the organization by a wealthy patron. As a result, this usually means that these clocks became an asset of the organization. As a result, it should take the vote of a committee to deaccession them. In many institutions, this is not an easy proposition. Therefore, this is a rare opportunity to purchase such a clock.

This outstanding example is approximately 44.75 inches long. This includes the applied carvings fitted to the top and the bottom of the case. The with is 27.5 inches in diameter and the case is 5.5 inches deep. The top pendant is approximately 9.75 inches long. The carved eagle at the top of the case is 8.5 inches tall and the wings are 17.5 inches from tip to tip. These carvings are wonderfully formed and original to this clock. The front surfaces of the case have been gilded and are in excellent condition. There are sixteen wooden balls that are positioned around the circular form of this case. They are set into the inch and a half wide concave banding. This design adds a richness to the overall appearance of this form. It was an obvious step up as compared to the more basic unadorned efforts. One could convincingly argue that this case may have been made in John Doggert’s workshop. Doggert had a long documented relationship with several clockmakers including the Willards. Related gallery clocks are available for comparison and can be found in Meeting Houses in and around New England.

The wooden mahogany dial measures approximately 22 inches in diameter. This is a convex form. In fact, it is a board that has had it’s edges planed thin. It is this tapering detail that add to the three dimension quality of the clock case. The dial is then fitted into a shallow recess and is held in place with brass screws. This dial retains it’s original paint. It is signed by the clockmaker, “Aaron Willard” in bold script just below the winding arbor. The Roman hour numerals measures three inches tall and are large and easy to read. The quarter hours are marked with stylized Fluer -de-lis . The time is indicated by the two wonderfully shaped steel hands. Both hands appear to be original to this example.

The brass constructed movement is located behind the dial. Long trapezoidal shaped plates frame the movement. The front plate bears the Maker’s die stamp. It reads, “A. WILLARD BOSTON.” The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. This is possible because the original lead weight is compounded and hangs to the right of the movement. The gears are nicely made and the quality is excellent throughout. The pendulum features a brass covered bob and the steel rod hangs from the bridge which is mounted to top of the front plate. The timing is adjustable from the top of the case. The gearing is well designed and this movement features a deadbeat escapement.

This very rare and important clock was made circa 1840.

Additional notes: This clock retains an Aaron Willard watch label that is pasted inside the case. This clock is also pictured and discussed in Paul Foley’s book, Willards Patent Time Pieces.

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.


For more information about this clock click  here .