Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Connecticut Musical tall clock. Case attributed to Elipalet Chapin or Simeon Loomis.

This is a very important Chippendale cherry case tall clock. The engraved sheet brass dial is signed by the clockmaker Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Connecticut. It features a musical movement that plays one of six tunes. American made musical tall clocks are considered rare. Currently less than eighty examples are known. They are prized by collectors and institutions.

This fine cherry case retains a pleasing old dry finish. It stands on four dramatically flared ogee bracket feet that are applied to the lower base molding. This molding is a double step form and is attach to the base. The base transitions to the waist with a large cove waist molding. The waist section is proportionally long. It is fitted with a shaped door that is trimmed with a molded edge. A lock keeps this door secure and a brass escutcheon frames the key hole. Open this door and one will gain access to the pendulum which is comprised of an original steel rod and brass faced bob. Three cast iron drive weights are also accessible in the waist of the case. The transition to the pagoda style hood is through the use of a large cove molding. Fluted columns that terminate in turned wooden capitals visually support the molded arch molding of the bonnet. These are also carved in a twisted pattern. Above this arch molding rests the pagoda top that is decorated with a pierced an open fret work pattern, three tall reeded finial plinths and turned wooden urn-and-spire finials. The bonnet door is an arched form and fitted with glass. It opens to access the engraved brass dial.

This clock is nearly identical to the example in the collection of Historic Deerfield. That case is attributed to the shop of Eliphalet Chapin. Burnap and Chapin were neighbors for over a decade and Burnap’s bookkeeping indicates that he made payments to Chapin and Chapin’s apprentices, Simeon Loomis and Jonathan Birge. See “Connecticut Valley Furniture”; Kugelman and Lionnetti, page 172-175.

Burnap’s dials are of unusually fine workmanship. He was a skillful engraver and this is a fine representation of his work. The time ring is formatted with Roman numeral hour markers and Arabic style five minute markers. A subsidiary seconds dial is inset and positioned below the hour numeral XII. The date of the month aperture is large and of the traditional form. This is positioned above the hour numeral VI. The lunette is engraved with a fan motif with floral decorations. Above this fan detail are the titles of the six tunes played by the clock. The tune names are framed with a scrolling foliate vine. The base of the fan is set with a cut and scrolled brass selector hand which points to the selected tune. The tunes, which have neatly engraved titles, are;
Elliot’s Minuit / Hobb or Nobb / Rakes of Rodney / Fr. Kings Minuit / Ovr ye Water to Charley / Maid of ye Mill The dial is framed with floral and vine-work spandrels at each corner. This dial is signed by the Maker in the arch. It reads in flowing calligraphy, “ Daniel Burnap / E. Windsor.” The dial appears to retain traces of red colored wax (or shellac) in the engraving of the signature, a detail found on some of Burnap’s finest clocks.

The three-train musical brass movement bears all the characteristics of Daniel Burnap’s work, including the unusual use of a count-wheel strike system and dead-beat escapement. By the time this clock was produced, in the late 18th century, most clockmakers had given up this old-school count-wheel system of striking in favor of the rack and snail system. The Count wheel strike and dead-beat escapement are found on all of Burnap’s musical movements and some of Thomas Harland’s. The bulbous, cigar shaped pillars that hold the movement plates together are distinctively Harland-Burnap School, as are the sculpted edges of the plates that curve out around the pin barrel. The three movement plates are cast in rose-color brass [or bell metal], which is a distinctive feature. The movement is weight powered and of eight-day duration. It rings the hours on a single bell. It plays six tunes on eleven bells, struck by eleven hammers. The pin barrel extends through the rear plate with an auxiliary half-plate to support the back of the bell rack, pin barrel and fan. This is a hallmark of Thomas Harland’s movements and those of his apprentices. The tunes are changed manually by means of a selector hand in the dial arch. It plays the selected song three times through every third hour. The music plays after the hour is struck on the large bell. It is excellent quality.

This clock was made circa 1785 and stands 95 inches (7 feet 11 inches) tall to the top of the center finial. It is 19.75 inches wide and 11 inches deep measured at the hood molding.

About Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Connecticut.

Daniel Burnap was the son of Captain Abraham and Susan (Wright) Burnap. He was born in Coventry, Connecticut on November 1, 1759. In 1774, he is listed as an apprentice of Thomas Harland’s. Harland was a very talented English born clockmaker who settled in Norwich in 1773. It is thought that here, he learned not only the skill of clockmaking but also engraving, silversmithing, watch repairing and other related skills. As a journeyman, Burnap settled in the town of East Windsor sometime before 1779. By 1805, he built the homestead which he continued to occupy during the remainder of his life. It is in this town that he was most active making clocks and training apprentices of his own. This includes one of Connecticut’s most famous clockmakers, Eli Terry. Other apprentices that are thought to have trained under Burnap include Daniel Kellogg, Harvey Sadd, Abel Bliss, Lewis Curtis, Nathaniel Olmsted, Levi Pitkin, Flavel Bingham, Ela Burnap and Thomas Lyman. Daniel was an active and respected citizen. He was for many years a Justice of the Peace and held court in a spacious room on the first floor of this house. In his latter years, probably before 1815, he gave up his shop and fitted up a room in the attic of the house where he could keep busy at the less arduous kinds of work such as engraving and repairing watches. He died in 1838 at the age of seventy-eight, a prosperous and respected citizen.


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