Elmer Stennes. Reproduction Wall Timepiece, Girandole. This example was made in 1968. 218074

This is an outstanding reproduction of a Girandole Wall Timepiece originally created by Lemuel Curtis of Concord, Massachusetts. This successful recreation was made by Elmer Stennes of East Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Lemuel Curtis was a very talented apprentice of the Willard family. His apprenticeship started in 1802. In 1811, it is recorded that he moved to Concord and set up shop there as a Clockmaker. Here he specialized in the production of finely made timepieces. Over the years he made several improvements in Simon Willard’s original timepiece design. An example of one such improvement is the single screw movement mounting system. The Curtis design used a screw to mount the movement to the case from the back of the backboard. This screw held the movement securely in place and put the thread pressure on the backplate. Willard’s design used two screws that were diagonally positioned on the movement and screwed into the wood of the backboard from the front of the movement. The threading of the wood in the backboard has a tendency to fail over time because the thread pressure is in the wood and not on metal. As a result, the vast majority of the clocks mounted this way have had the original screws are replaced. Lemuel’s ultimate achievement would have to be the design of the Girandole form which is often called America’s most beautiful clock. However, this model was not a financial success. As a result, a small number were originally produced. Most of which are in the collections of our countries best museums. Two fine examples are currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Many reproductions of this original form have been made. The Waltham Clock Company made approximately 25 examples in the 1920’s. Since the 1960’s, individuals like Elmer Stennes, Ted Burleigh and Foster Campos all produced a limited number of faithful copies. The clock described below is a very good example of one of the clocks.

This mahogany constructed case is in excellent original condition. The dark wood contrasts with the gilded frames and is striking. The case measures approximately 45 inches in length. The lower presentation bracket is wonderfully carved from wood and is a traditional form. The lower door frame is nicely constructed. A large cove molding is central to the design. In the center of this are 28 turned wooden decorative balls. This theme is again repeated at the top of this molding with a beaded ring. The throat frame is decorated with a rope carving that runs the vertical length of this frame on all four sides. These applied moldings terminate in corner blocks. One may notice that this fame is bowed in the middle. This is constructed in this manner to compliment the circular lower and upper door as well as the shaping of the glass. The bezel is brass. Positioned here are an additional 25 smaller brass decorative balls. This bezel is also fitted with glass that is designed to protect the dial. The forward facing eagle finial is carved from wood and is wonderfully executed. It’s wings are outstretched and the bird is standing on a traditionally shaped plinth. The reverse serpentine sidearms are well formed and made of brass. (The sidearms are the decorations that are fitted to the sides of the case.) The shape of these are a traditional girandole form and are very attractive.

The two gilt decorated frames are fitted with reverse painted tablets. The egloimse’ convex panels are done in very good colors over a blue / green background or field. The throat panel features an intricate theme that is traditionally formed. It is also signed “PATENT” in the banner located in the lower section of this glass. The lower circular tablet depicts the scene of “AURORA” and is so titled. She is depicted standing in her chariot that is being pulled across the sky by her two winged houses. This represents the passing of the sun across the sky. A small section of the center of this scene is left open in order to view the motion of the pendulum. It will flash the reflected light as it passes across the opening. It is worth noting that not all Stennes painted glasses share the same level of artistic skill. These tablets are done to a higher level of skill and features more brilliant colors than most.

The brass bezel opens to access the painted dial. It features the traditional fancy Concord format. Some of the decorative features included a scolloped border around the perimeter of the dial, Closed minute ring, a gold ring inside the time track, and a daisy petal design radiating from the center and winding holes. The center of the dial is signed with the Maker’s signature and his working location in script. It reads, “Elmer O. Stennes / WEYMOUTH, MASS.” Below the 6:12 position on the closed time ring, one will notice a small bee painted on this dial. The hands are a traditional Curtis form having concentric circles and barbed pointers. Who doesn’t like fancy hands.

The movement weight powered. It is a time only design and is constructed in brass. It is designed to run eight days on a full wind. The front plate is die stamped “E. O. STENNES / WEYMOUTH /MASS.” The two brass plates that frame the movement are supported with four posts. The escapement is a recoil format. Overall it is good quality.

This decorative clock has great presence. It is fitting for a formal space.

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About Elmer Stennes of Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Elmer Osbourne Stennes was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1911. After high school, he attended the Wentworth Institute in Boston during the 1933 and 1934 school year. From Wentworth, Stennes had received a certificate that stated he had completed a special course in carpentry and architectural drawing. This document is signed by the Principal, Frederick E. Dobbs. During WW-II, Stennes worked as a cabinetmaker / patternmaker in the Quincy, MA shipyards. After the war, Stennes a skilled woodworker, became interested in making clocks and by the late 1940’s he was at it full time. His business evolved over time. He built the cases for the clocks he sold. They were always of very good quality and nicely finished. Stennes cases were copies of popular clocks made in the early 1800’s by well known clockmakers that included Simon Willard and Lemuel Curtis. Stennes was not a clockmaker. As a result, he sourced many of the movements and components from the whole clocks he purchased. At the time, the more common E. Howard products like the model numbers 5 and 70 were inexpensive. He would buy clocks like these for the components and discard their cases. He also used various spare movements that could be bought through the trade. Stennes signed the dials of the clocks he made with his name and marketed them as his own. Stennes sold a considerable number of clocks through the network he developed in the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors (NAWCC). He was an active member and the numerous meetings and marts were at the time busy places of trade. His reputation grew as his clocks were attractive, available and reasonably priced.

Many of the forms that Stennes copied were of clocks that were difficult to come by and often very expensive when they did turn up in the marketplace. One example of this is his copy of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole clock. Of course his business model evolved over the years. He made a wide variety of forms which included the Willard style time piece or banjo clock which was one of his best sellers. His copies of Lemuel Curtis’s girandole also sold well and are still very popular today. Later on, he expanded his catalog and made several shelf clock forms and several versions of the tall case clock or grandfather clock including the a grandmothers version and an in between size he called the Wessagusset. This model was named after the Native American name for the Weymouth shore. In addition to clocks Stennes made a small amount on furniture. As clock collecting grew in popularity, companies were formed to supply the needs of the hobby. Soon the movement and component manufacturers began to supply the trade. Stennes began to patronize their stores for parts.

By 1959, Stennes had built a barn on his property to set up his workshop. He told people his shop was located at No., 1 Tic Tock Lane. I remember visiting there as a young boy.

Elmer Stennes may be better known today for his actions that took place on December 2, 1968. After an argument wife his second wife Eva, Elmer shot her in head with his pistol in the kitchen of their home. Stennes called the Weymouth police and told them what he had done. He was arrested in his home and later released on $25,000 bond. While free on bond, Stennes continued to makes clocks. He signed the clocks made during this period with the initials “O.O.B.” This was to signify that the clock was made while he was out on bond. During his trial, Stennes entered a plea of not guilty to murder, but admitted guilt to manslaughter. For this crime he was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison. This was to be served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Plymouth (M.C. I. P.) He was incarcerated at M.C.I.P. in October of 1969. Stennes was well connected politically. Soon he was put in charge of the wood working shop at the prison. Foster Compos, Stennes’s full time employee once told me that he would visit him on weekends and pick up the cases that were made at the prison that week. Foster would then assemble them in the Weymouth shop and then sell them. The clocks made during this period were marked M.C. I. P. In less than four years, Stennes was paroled on January 12, 1973. In December of that year he married Phyllis Means on the 15th. Almost two years later, on October 4, 1975, the couple was shot multiple times while they were sleeping in their bedroom. Two men broke into their house. Elmer was shot five times and killed. Phyllis was shot seven times and managed to survive by rolling off the bed and playing dead on the floor. Phyllis later accused her 24-year old step son Elliot of being one of the shooters. She had retold the story to people I knew that she recognized his voice when he said, “this is for my mom.” While in court, Elliot had five witnesses testify that they were together in a bar in Franconia, New Hampshire at the time of the shooting. As a result, the charges against him were dropped. This case has never been solved.

I would like to thank David Howard with helping me get this Stennes bio correct.

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