John Bailey Jr. (1787-1883) of New Bedford, Massachusetts. An impressive mahogany tall case clock. XXSL-21

This very impressive tall case clock was produced for the highly influential and historically important abolitionist, John A. Collins of New Bedford. It exhibits monumental proportions including a wonderful oversized, fourteen-inch, moon phase dial. The case can be described as a classical design featuring superlative figured mahogany selections and extremely high quality construction. This stunning clock was made and sold by the influential Quaker preacher and clockmaker, John Bailey Jr. (III). Bailey spent much of his career working first in Hanover and then later in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Bailey and his family members were responsible for training the majority of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century clockmakers in southeastern Massachusetts. In 1824, he had moved his business from Hanover to the growing city of New Bedford, on the Massachusetts south coast. In addition to his reputation as a fine clockmaker and businessman, Bailey became well known for his Anti-slavery convictions. He traveled extensively, including to the South, to preach his message of abolitionism.

This fine clock was produced and warranted for fellow abolitionist, John A. Collins [1810-1879]. Collins was an early and influential member of the Anti-slavery movement who figures prominently into the inception of the cause. Collins, as general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, attended a convention in Nantucket at which the former slave, Frederick Douglas, who had recently escaped to freedom, spoke of his life in slavery. Collins was so impressed, that he urged Douglas to become a full-time lecturer for the organization. Douglas accepted and soon became one of the prominent orators and leaders of the Abolitionist Movement.

This case is a wonderful regional interpretation and was almost certainly made in New Bedford where the dial was signed. It can be surmised that both Bailey and Collins were making a statement by producing a clock of such unusual size and of the finest quality. It is important to keep in mind that during the late period in which this clock was made, virtually no tall case clocks were being produced. Tall case clocks had been supplanted by the much less expensive production examples from Connecticut. It is possible that the case was produced by the free slave cabinetmakers from New Bedford, William and Samuel Mingo. The Mingo brothers worked in New Bedford and surrounding communities. Both Bailey and Collins were closely acquainted with their Polly Mingo, their sister. She was a black confectioner and prominent abolitionist in New Bedford, who provided Frederick Douglas with his first home in freedom. The mahogany hood is fitted with a shaped splat that is framed by rectangular plinths. The spurs of this splat terminate with applied turned disks. The original carved pineapple-form finials are mounted on the plinths. This pediment treatment rests on a flared molding situated above a rectangular dial door formatted with vibrant mahogany cross banding. The door is flanked by turned and blocked colonnettes. The sides of the hood have small circular cut-outs arranged in a diamond pattern. The dial door opens to a terrific Boston-made dial that remains in superb condition.

This painted iron dial features a moon phase disk in the lunette. It is decorated with hand painted scenes. At the base of the lunette are two hemispheres, each decorated with terrestrial map transfers. The clock face has Roman numerals to demark the hours and an outer ring of Arabic five minute markers. The dial is framed with vibrant gilt scroll spandrels centering green oval medallions. The center arbor has wonderful cut steel hour and minute hands and is fitted with a third alarm hand. The dial is also fitted with a seconds bit above the center arbor and a calendar dial below. It is finely signed in neat cursive above and below the arbor "WARRANTED FOR JOHN COLLINS / BY JOHN BAILEY JR NEW BEDFORD MASS"

The brass movement, which has recently been serviced, is in good running order. It runs for an eight-day duration on a full wind. The movement is fitted with an original steel shaft pendulum that supports a brass capped lead bob and a pair of cast iron weights. The movement rests on a wooden "saddle board" and is original to the clock.

The hood transitions into the waist section with a flared throat molding. The waist is flanked with inset full dimension columns. The tops of these are fitted with carved acanthus leaf capitals. The case is highly decorated on all surface with vibrantly figured mahogany veneers. The paneled door has a cross banded edge around a rich crotch grain panel. A flared molding transitions to the square base panel, which again repeats the inlaid motif with a figured mahogany central panel. The base of the clock has a molded edge and rests on beautifully carved paw feet.

This clock stands approximately 9 feet or 108 inches tall. At the upper hood molding this case is 23.75 inches wide and 11.75 inches deep. It was made circa 1835.


About John Bailey III or Jr. of Hanover and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

John Bailey III or Junior was born in Hanover, Massachusetts on August 13, 1787. It is thought that he learned the family trade of clockmaking from his father John II. John III finished his apprenticeship in 1809 at the tail end of the tall case clocks popularity. The wall timepiece, and shelf clock became the clock of choice due to its reduction in cost. In June of 1809, he moved to Portland, Maine and worked mostly as a repairman. In November of 1810, he married Anna Taber, the daughter of a prominent Quaker merchant in Portland. In 1811, they returned to Hanover. It is during this next period of his life that we find him traveling in the South during the winters and setting up temporary repair shops and shipping whole clocks from the North to Southern clients all while maintaining a shop in Hanover. In 1824, he had moved his business from Hanover to the growing city of New Bedford, which is located on the Massachusetts south coast. Here he took the shop formerly occupied by the clockmakers Almy & Wall. In addition to his reputation as a fine businessman, clockmaker and chronometer repairman, Bailey became well known for his Anti-slavery convictions. He traveled extensively, including to the South, to preach his message of abolitionism. This was a stance that eventually cost him is business in New Bedford. In 1848, he moved to Lynn, MA where he operated “The Old Curiosity Shop” a jewelery and repair business on Union Street. He died in there in 1883 on March 2nd. Over his life time, he saw the cost of a clock start at $60 and fall to $2 due to the gearing up of mass production methods. Clocks were no longer for the most affluent of a community.

Over the years, we have owned a fair number of clocks made by him. Some of which included numerous tall case clocks, dwarf clocks and wall timepieces.


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