David Williams of Newport, Rhode Island. A fine and rare federal cross banded mahogany tall case clock.

This very attractive tall case clock is the epitome of the Newport Federal style. It is constructed with the highest quality of mahogany wood and veneers. This fine example shares the excellent form exhibited in the fashionable Roxbury style originating in Boston, yet it retains the distinctive Newport regional qualities. The case retains a warm old color.

The molded hood is mounted with three reeded chimneys, which support the delicately scrolled and pierced fretwork. The chimneys are mounted with large turned wood urn and flame form finials. This fine decoration is original to this clock and exhibits a slightly crusty surface. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice which is visually supported by smoothly turned colonnettes. These incorperate turned wooden capitals and bases. These also flank the mahogany cross-banded and glazed tombstone-form dial door. Each side of the hood has a glazed rectangular window.

The dial door opens to a wonderfully painted dial of Boston manufacture. These dials are known for their high quality, regional style and colorfull presentation. They were employed by clockmakers throughout America. This dial features a classical medallion in the lunette, decorated with a bright red border framed with gilt scrolls and vines that are raised up on applied gesso. The clock face is framed with richly decorated corner spandrels with large vibrant, patriotic shields. Each shield is positioned on a gilt field. Roman numerals demark the hours and Arabic numerals demark the minutes. The dial is fitted with a seconds bit with steel pointer above the center arbor and the calendar window is below. The center arbor is fitted with wonderful original cut steel hands. Winding arbors for each movement train, time and strike, are located at either side of the center arbor. This dial is wonderfully signed on two lines below the center arbor in flowing calligraphy with the maker’s name and location, “David Williams / Newport.” The dial is also marked similarly on the back in white paint. This is a common notation method that the dial painter used to denote how the dial should be signed. This was likely done when the clock maker purchased the dial and requested the inscriptions.

The hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared cove molding. The waist is set with reeded quarter columns that terminate at each end in turned wooden quarter capitals. These flank a molded rectangular pendulum door. The pendulum door has a thin applied molding around a mahogany cross banded border and a vibrantly figured central panel. The door conceals the tin can weights and brass capped pendulum with wood rod.

The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The base panel formatted is similar to that of the pendulum door. It is also fitted with a mahogany cross-banded edge around a vigorously grained central panel. The base terminates with a lobed apron and short flared French feet.

The movement is brass, eight-day duration and of good quality. It is weight driven and features a rack and snail strike system and a recoil escapement. It is designed to run for eight days on a full wind and strikes each hour on a bell.

This case measures approximately 93.5 (7 feet 9.5 inches tall) inches tall to the top of the center finial, 18 inches wide at the base and 9.5 inches deep. and was made circa 1817.

This clock represents and excellent example of a Federal era clock made in Newport and survives in exceptional condition.

About David Williams of Newport and Providence, Rhode Island. Clockmaker, watchmaker, silversmith and jeweler.

David Williams was born in Rochester, Massachusetts on March 29, 1769. His parents were John Williams (b. 1731- ) and Mary (Peckham) Williams of Middletown, RI (b. 1733-). David was a Quaker. It is not clear who trained David as a clockmaker. It is thought that he was at work in Newport by 1800. His shop was located on the corner of Duke and Queen Streets. In 1811, he moved his shop on the north side of Parade. This location was ten doors down above his old stand. This shop was most recently occupied by Zenas Fearing. In 1818, he moved again to 56 Broad Street. All the while, he must have had a retail outlet in the city of Providence. He was one of, if not the most prolific Clockmakers in Rhode Island. We have owned many tall clocks, Massachusetts Shelf clocks and other banjo clocks in the recent past. It is interesting to note that we know who made the banjo clock cases for Williams. A probate court record exists that indicates that John Young performed this service. David Williams died in Newport on June 29,1823 at the age of 54.


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