Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Willard clockmakers and Southern connections
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RESEARCH NOTES   BY Paul J. Foley and Gary R. Sullivan

John Ware Willard documented a number of special order clocks made by Simon Willard and shipped to various parts of the country. In 1801, Simon made a clock for the United States Senate in Washington, DC and in 1826 he made a tower clock for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, ordered by his friend Thomas Jefferson. In the first and second decade of the nineteenth century both Aaron Willard and his son Aaron Jr. were also shipping their clocks south to be sold through agents in southern states, primarily Virginia and South Carolina.

The Boston, Massachusetts and Petersburg, Virginia partnership of Nash & Munroe (1802-1813) were importing and actively selling Willard clocks in Virginia. This partnership of merchants Paul Nash and William Munroe advertised Willard clocks for sale. In Petersburg they offered a variety of goods including house furniture “imported from Boston.” In June of 1805 they advertised “NASH & MUNROE, Have received from Boston… Two elegant eight-day Clocks, one handsome Time-Piece,…”. Again in October of 1806 they advertised “3 eight day clocks warranted by Aaron Willard….” In May of 1806 they were purchasing looking glasses from John Doggett in Roxbury undoubtedly to be sold in the south.

When the Petersburg, Virginia silversmith and watchmaking partnership of John Bennett and Ebenezer Thomas was dissolved in 1819 one of their listed creditors was clockmaker Aaron Willard Jr. who was owed $500. This significant debt would have been for Willard clocks purchased by them on credit, to be sold in Virginia.. Although dissolved, this business continued as Bennett & Thomas. In December of 1823 they advertised “8-DAY CLOCKS / We have received a few Willard eight day clocks of latest patterns, which are offered low for cash – they will be warranted to perform well.

Willard’s Clocks are well known to need no recommendation, other than the knowledge that they are manufactured by him.”

By this date these imported Willard clocks would probably have been patent timepieces (banjo clocks) or shelf clocks. Both signed and attributed “Roxbury” tall case clocks that were made by the Willards in Boston can be found signed and/or labeled by southern clockmakers like William McCabe and William Mitchell Jr. both of Richmond, Virginia and John McKee of Chester, South Carolina. One Willard tall clock signed by John McKee also has a label inside the case advertising “Common House Clocks, Table / Spring Clocks, and Time pieces of different constructions made by Aaron Willard / Boston.” A William McCabe “Directions” label pasted inside an attributed Aaron Willard tall clock is illustrated below.

Some of the known Willard tall clocks with southern connections are in later-style mahogany cases stamped by cabinetmaker Henry Willard, another son of Aaron.
These Willard clocks with southern connections are being researched to better understand this trade. If any reader has knowledge of a signed or attributed Willard clock with similar southern connections the authors would appreciate the details.