Philander Noble of Westfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Philander Noble Inventor, Clockmaker, Silversmith, Moneymaker and Counterfeiter.

Philander Noble was born on April 20, 1772 in Westfield, Massachusetts and died there on February 27, 1845 at the age of 72. The small town of Westfield, Massachusetts had the distinction of being the colony’s western most settlement for decades after its founding in the seventeenth century. Philander was one of seven children born to Daniel Noble of Westfield and Anna (Norton) Noble of Suffield, Connecticut. (Anna was born on October 31, 1744.) The Noble family tree is somewhat confusing due to its large size. It is recorded that Philander did not like farming and took to and excelled in the trades. We currently do not know who trained Philander as a clockmaker. A possible suspect is Jacob Morse who was working as a clockmaker in Westfield on the corner of Main Street and Broad Street from about about 1790 through 1800. A tall clock is recorded as being made by Philander in 1796 that is so dated. This would imply that Philander may have made it when he was 24 years old. He is soon listed as working in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as a clockmaker and as a silversmith. Another clock is known that is signed with Pittsfield as the place location. Philander married twice. His first wife was Naomi Wheeler of Lanesboro, Mass. They were married in 1797. Lanesboro is abuts Pittsfield’s norther border. It seems that Naomi may have died shortly after they were married. Philander married a second time 20 years later to Anna Owen on March 28, 1817. It is during these 20 years that Philander traveled a bit and expanded his interesting set of skills.

It is recorded in Ben Tarnoff’s: A Counterfeiter’s Paradise. The Wicked Lives and Surprising Adventures of Three American Moneymakers, that Philander was an artisan, entrepreneur, and an accomplished engraver. His nimble fingers earned him a living as a silversmith, a clockmaker and as an inventor. In 1800 he invented a machine that was used to grind gun barrels. He complained that his is employer at the time had underpaid him and stole the idea and the credit for the invention. With in years, 1803, Philander moved north to the area of the New York, Vermont and the Canadian border. Here he used his skills engraving copperplates to counterfeit currency in the form of bank notes and cash. In 1807, he was in captured in Plymouth, Vermont for counterfeiting. It was recorded that his skill level was very high. Two years latter he was arrested in Canada for the same offense and was convicted. This new venture must have been profitable for him because he continued in the business. In fact, he is credited with training David Lewis in his new trade and together, in 1813, they moved to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. It was not long after his arrival in that town that Philander was arrested and examined on suspicion of being a British spy. (United States vs. Philander N. Noble.) By 1815, Philander returned to Westfield and is listed as a clockmaker. His name is recorded in several federal census records as living in that town. In 1835, he applied for a patent for propelling boats (granted January 20, 1836) with a a coil spring that can be wound with ones fingers. It appears that he applied a fusee cone to the going train in order to level out the power of the spring. The patent office found this to have been previously patented in England in1795. They claimed the plan was too absurd to reason about and too contemptible even for ridicule.

Philander remains in Westfield until his death in 1845. Very few of his clocks have come to market.

Philander Noble of Westfield, Massachusetts. An inlaid cherry case tall clock.

This is a wonderful inlaid cherry case tall clock made by the Westfield, Massachusetts clockmaker, Philander Noble. This case is constructed… read more