A Rare Federal Mahogany and Inlaid Tall Case Clock By John Bailey II, Hanover, Massachusetts, Circa 1804. The clock case attributed to Abiel White.

This attractive Federal tall case clock is an early example produced by the Quaker clockmaker John Bailey [1751-1823]. Bailey was a prolific maker in the Southeastern Massachusetts town of Hanover from the last quarter of the 18th Century through the first quarter of the 19th Century. Many of the attractive clock cases, which house Bailey’s movements, are attributed to the Weymouth cabinetmaker Abiel White [1766-1844]. Bailey had a lengthy and successful relationship with White, which commenced at the turn of the 19th Century. Abiel White received his training as an apprentice to the renown Dorchester, Massachusetts cabinetmaker Stephen Badlam. White’s cabinet work reflects the high style forms and techniques he acquired during these years in Boston. His clock cases are in refined Hepplewhite forms with pleasing proportions constructed of richly grained mahogany with vibrant contrasting inlays. This clock is an early example that exhibits both regional distinctions and high style embellishment. Current scholarship, that outlines construction techniques and catalogues other similar examples, can not only strongly attribute this case to Abiel White, but can also establish a specific date of manufacture. This clock is illustrated and discussed in “Harbor & Home, Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850”, plates 85 & 85.1, pages 246-247.

The clock has a pleasing mellow color with a historic surface. The molded hood is mounted with three rectangular chimneys, which frame a wonderful regional scrolled and pierced fretwork. The chimneys are each mounted with brass ball and spire finials. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice, all above a glazed tombstone-form dial door. Colonnettes with brass capitals and bases, flank this door which has a brass lock and keyhole surround. This door opens to a finely painted iron dial of Boston origin.

The dial features a painted moon phase disk in the lunette, decorated with hand painted scenes in wonderful original condition. On one side is a detailed view of a rustic coastal cottage with fisherman opposite a starry sky with a shooting star. At the base of the lunette are two hemispheres, each decorated with terrestrial map transfers. The clock face, which has Roman numerals to demark the hour and an outer ring of Arabic numerals to demark the minutes, is framed with classical gilt scroll-form spandrels.

The dial is fitted with a seconds bit above the center arbor that is fitted with original steel hands, the hour and minute hands are wonderfully scrolled. The dial is signed below the center arbor with the maker’s name and locale in bold block lettering, “John Bailey / Hanover”. The brass, weight driven, time and strike, eight-day movement rests on a pine saddle board and is original to the case. The movement retains an original pair of tin can weights and a pendulum with a steel rod and a brass capped lead bob. The movement has been recently serviced and is in excellent running condition. The hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared molding. The waist is set with fluted quarter columns with brass capitals and bases flanking a molded rectangular pendulum door. The pendulum door has a cross-banded rosewood border with geometric stringing and corner quarter fans framing a choice panel of richly grained mahogany. This hinged door has a brass lock with a shaped keyhole escutcheon.

The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The base has a similar wide cross-banded border around a geometric inlay and a vibrant mahogany panel. A distinctive radial fan inlay is found at the center of this panel. This motif is often associated with the work of Stephen Badlam and is a technique that Abiel White brought to his cabinetmaking. The base of the panel has a stepped molding that joins bracket feet with shaped returns.

Dimensions: Height: 85”, with center finial, Width at base: 20 ½” Depth: 10”.

About John Bailey II of Hanover, Massachusetts. A quaker clockmaker. An exceptional mechanic and an inventor.

John Bailey II was born in Hanover, Massachusetts, the son of Colonel John (A shipbuilder) and Ruth Randall Bailey on May 6, 1751. He died there 72 years later, on January 23, 1823. It is thought that he learned clockmaking at a very young age and may have been self-taught. John is responsible for training numerous apprentices. Many of which include his younger brothers Calvin and Lebbeus, his son John III, Joseph Gooding, Ezra Kelley, and Hingham’s Joshua Wilder. Many of these trained apprentices moved to other southeastern Massachusetts towns and became well known to their local communities. John was the most prolific maker of the six Baileys involved in the clock business. In addition, he was a Quaker preacher, an ingenious mechanic, and an instrument maker. Other examples of his work include a surveyor’s compass that is now in the Hanover Historical Society’s collection. He was also an inventor and received a patent for a steam-operated roasting jack. This device was designed to turn the meat over a fire to cook it more evenly.

John’s clocks are loosely broken down into two categories. The first is a home-developed style. These examples often have sheet brass dials engraved and treated with a silver wash. Several examples are known to us with movements that are constructed in wood. Others are constructed in brass, and the plates are fully skeletonized. Some of these later clocks incorporate wooden winding drums. It is interesting to note that he made both types of strike trains. We have seen examples that he signed that feature a count wheel set up and the more popular rack and snail. Very few clockmakers used both setups. The cases are typically constructed in indigenous woods that include maple and cherry. These examples have pleasing country proportions and lack the sophistication of the Roxbury school. Sometime around 1790, the Roxbury / Boston influence must have played a significant role in John’s production. The movements on these examples are more apt to incorporate fully plated movements. In addition, the cases resemble those being turned out by the Willard School to the North. These feature mahogany cases that are often decorated with inlays. This second generation of output is much more formal in appearance.

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 the Massachusetts shelf clock form.


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