Attributed to Daniel Porter of Williamstown, Massachusetts. A wonderfully inlaid cherry case tall clock featuring a rocking ship dial.

This is a boldly proportioned and wonderfully inlaid cherry case tall clock. We have a good number of tall clocks that were made in the north west corner of Massachusetts. Many of which shared this case form an distinctive inlay execution. A fair percentage of these were signed by the Williamstown clockmaker Daniel Porter. This example is one of the more masculine forms. The inlay work is exceptional.

This case stands on four nicely formed applied bracket feet. The base section features an inlaid oval patera that is centered in the front panel. Two concentric circular inlay patterns frame the central detail. Please note the use of light and dark woods in the string or line patter. The perimeter of the base is framed by a thin line inlaid frame that incorporates distinctively formed quarter fans in each of the four corners. Broad compressed moldings transition the base to the waist section. This section is long and is fitted with a tombstone shaped waist door that is trimmed with a molded edge. This door is also decoratively inlaid with four additional quarter fans that are connected by a line inlay. A full vertically positioned patera is centered in the door panel. In the arch is an inlay in the form of an eye. The frame that supports the waist door is fitted with long fluted quarter columns. These terminate in complex turned wooden quarter capitals. Additional inlays in the herringbone pattern and tilted ladder are positioned above and below each column. The bonnet features a swan's neck pediment top of a distinctive form. A nicely shaped molding follows the contour of this design. The horns terminate in inlaid pin wheels. Additional inlay patterns are displayed under each finial. Two fully turned and fluted bonnet columns flank the arched glazed door which opens to allow one access to the colorfully painted iron dial.

This iron dial is very colorfully painted. This painted dial was manufactured in America. It is not an import. The automated feature of a rocking ship is located in the arch of this dial. The painted ship is depicted flying a large American flag. This ship actually moves or rocks gently from side to side with the motion of the pendulum. The painted scene behind the sailing ship features an additional ship headed out to sea on the right. On the left is a seawall that protects the port. This nautical theme is painted on a convex piece of metal which adds to the visual depth to the scene. This is nicely executed. The four spandrel areas are decorated with colorful geometric fans. The time ring is formatted with Roman style hour numerals, Arabic five minute markers and dotted minutes. A subsidiary seconds dial and calendar dial are located in their traditional positions with in the time ring. The time is displayed or indicated by the original steel hands and seconds bit.

The time and strike movement is of good quality and is designed to run eight days on a full wind and to strike each hour on a cast iron bell mounted above the plates. It is weight driven or weight powered. One can see the influence of Porter’s master, Daniel Burnap in the shaping of the posts. Please note the shape of the four movement posts and the manner in which the seat board hooks are secure the movement to the wooden platform. Also note that the winding barrels are not grooved.

This clock was made circa 1805. It stands approximately 96.25 or 8 feet .25 inches tall to the top of the central finial.


About Daniel Porter of Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Daniel Porter was born on July 20, 1775 in East Hartford, Connecticut. His parents were James Porter Jr., and Sarah (Porter) Porter. His father died when he was just two years old. It appears that Ezekiel Loomis was appointed to be his Guardian. Loomis bound young Daniel to apprentice with the Windsor, Connecticut Clockmaker Daniel Burnap. Burnap was known to have great skill as a clockmaker and as an engraver. It is thought that he engraved numerous dials for other clockmakers in the region. Burnap is said to have also trained at least ten others who made clocks. The most famous of which was Eli Terry. Daniel Porter arrived at Burnap’s shop on July 20th, 1792 when he was 17 years old and stayed there until he was 21. His indenture survives which was signed in 1793. It states that he Porter agreed, in return for the training in the art of clockmaking, silversmithing and watch repairing that he would not to commit fornication, marry, haunt taverns, play cards, play the horses, etc. Burnap would also provide him with “meat, drink washing, lodging and mending of clothes…” The fact that an indenture was drawn up suggests that Loomis must have been in debt to Burnap and offered the young man in order to make some level of restitution.

Once a freeman, Daniel first moves from Windsor, Connecticut to Topsfield, Massachusetts. Here he is recorded as working as a silversmith. He then moves to Stockbridge and is listed there as a silversmith and as a clockmaker. On February 14, 1799, Daniel purchased a house and a lot on Main Street in Williamstown. This was located 10 rods or approximately 160 feet west of a well with a pump in it, and a few rods west of Williams College. In 1801, Daniel married Polly Badger of Salem, Conn. Together, they had two children. The most famous of which was his son Royal Loomis Porter. Royal was born February 24, 1801 and died in Charleston, SC on June 13, 1844. He was a graduate of Williams College in 1823 and worked as an editor and proprietor of “The American Traveller.” He also served in the Massachusetts Legislature. Daniel died at the young age of 35 on November 6, 1809. His nephew Eli married his widow and took charge of the family. Eli continued to work in the clock trades for several years.

We have sold a fair number of tall case clocks made by this Maker. Many of which exhibited wonderfully made and inlaid cherry cases. You can find examples of his work in the collections of the following institutions. Historic Deerfield has an a typical cherry cased example. Their clock case lacks inlay and features a hood with fretwork. The Bennington Museum in Bennington, VT has a very nice formal example. It features an inlaid case that is somewhat reserved as compared to other examples known. A tall clock with a musical movement is also known as well as a surveyors compass made by him.


For more information about this clock click  here .