Rare Elnathan Taber Mahogany Coffin clock. Time and alarm wall clock made in May of 1817.

This is an unusual and interesting variant of Simon Willard’s Patent Wall Timepiece. This may be one of the most difficult variations to find. So few of these have come onto the marketplace in the last 50 years, it is logical to assume that the number of examples originally made was limited. This example is the most developed example currently known to us.

The case is neatly constructed in mahogany and retains an older surface. It features dovetail construction at the top and bottom of the main structure. The applied base molding features a complex design of multiple steps and coves. This molding is mounted to the bottom of the case. As a result, this version can be displayed as a shelf clock as well as the more traditional placement of a wall clock. An additional cornice molding of a simpler design is fitted to the top of the case. The design includes a swan’s neck molding. The front of the case opens like a door. One will notice that the circular openings for the dial and the pendulum bob are trimmed with stylish moldings. These openings are fitted with glass. An additional applied half-round molding forms a rectangular pattern on the forward-facing surface of the case. Unhook the latch on the left side, and the door opens to access the interior of the case. A mahogany mask board is used to frame the dial.

This iron dial is painted. The time ring features Roman-style hour numerals. The minute ring is closed. This dial is also decorated with a thin gilt inner ring. The hour and minute hands are wonderfully hand filed and display the time. I should turn one’s attention to the third or extra hand on this dial. This hand is used for setting the alarm.

This clock features a separate alarm mechanism that is mounted behind the mask board. The alarm, when activated, uses a hammer to strike a bell which is mounted on the left side of the case. The bell is covered or protected with a piece of tin mounted to the side of the case. The tin is skillfully shaped and is designed to let the sound of the bell travel across the room. The alarm movement is wound independently of the time movement. Once set and fully wound, it is designed to operate a full week before it needs to be rewound. It is powered by its’ original lead bob weight that is fitted with a “duck-bill hook.” The weight travels in a channel on the left side of the case.

The time movement is also is weight-driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. Please note that the original time weight descends down a channel in the center of the case directly below the works. This channel is framed in pine. The movement features brass construction. The two brass rectangular plates frame the gearing are secured by four brass pillars. As is the tradition, the front plate bears a number of very interesting engravings. Many of which were done by Elnathan and now serve as a record of the clocks’ service over the years. Elnathan engraved his name on the front plate on at least three occasions and dated it several times. The inscriptions that are legible read, “1822, cleaned by E. Taber 1829, 1/27/1838, E. Taber Nov 3 1843 / cleaned Jan 17 1846…” There are additional dates that are also engraved in another hand, suggesting that another repairman also maintained the clock. These include “1822, 1/27/1838” and a “G. W?? 1856 / nov 13 1865.” The most interesting and important engraved information reads, “Made In May 1817.” This is located below the idler wheel. It is very unusual to have this type of information about a first-period clock. This is a great find. The movement is mounted to the backboard with two screws that are diagonally positioned on the backplate. The pendulum is supported on a T-Bridge suspension post. Overall, the movement is of excellent quality, which is quite typical of this Maker. The pendulum is constructed with a steel rod and a brass-faced lead bob. The brass face is visible through the lower opening in the front door. The motion of this indicates the clock is operating.

In the lower section of the case, a piece of tin is used to separate the bob from the weight. A brass cross piece is used to secure the pendulum for travel. This is fitted with a tie-down that is used to secure the rod in the center. This brass piece is also engraved with an “S” on the left of center and an “F” right of center. This indicates the direction to turn the threaded nut to adjust the time. The tin is painted black. It is in this location that the clock is signed. The Maker signed in script, “Warranted by E. Taber / Union Street Roxbury.”

This attractive clock measures approximately 35 inches long, 8 and 7/8 wide, and 3.5 inches deep. We know that it was made in May 1817.


About Elnathan Taber Roxbury, Massachusetts

Elnathan Taber was born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on February 14, 1768 and may have died there in 1854 at the age of 86. It appears that his grave was moved from Dartmouth to Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain on October 29th, 1870. His parents were Thomas and Elizabeth (Swift) Taber. Elnathan is the older brother of Stephen Taber who’s fortune help found Taber Academy in Marion, MA. Both brothers traveled to Roxbury and were trained as clockmakers by the Willards. Elnathan was just 16. After serving his apprenticeship, Elnathan stayed and worked in Roxbury. His shop was located on Union Street. Union Street was renamed Taber Street in April of 1868 in his memory. Elnathan maintained a close working relationship with his mentor Simon became one of Simon Willard’s most famous apprentices. He was authorized by Simon to make is patent timepieces during the patent period. He was also a prolific repairman. His name can be found engraved on numerous Boston area made clocks as a service record. Elnathan married Catherine Partridge in January of 1797. They had four children between the years of 1797 and 1811. Catherine had three sisters who also married clockmakers. Her sister Elizabeth married Abel Hutchins and Mary (Polly) married Aaron Willard. A third sister married Samuel Curtis. Over the years, we have owned and sold numerous tall case clocks made by this fine clockmaker. In addition, we have also owned a good number of wall timepieces in the form of banjo clocks and coffin clocks as well as several of the Massachusetts shelf clock forms.


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