It’s been a while since I have given an update on the progress of my American musical clock book and exhibit. Matt and I have been working nearly full time on the project for the past 6 months. Thus far we have visited and photographed about 70 clocks in private collections and institutions and have been welcomed with enthusiasm at each stop. What initially appeared to be a daunting task is proving to be quit rewarding.
Due to the extraordinary cost of these rare musical clocks, the original purchasers usually chose exceptional cases that represent the very best examples of their period and form. Not only that, they preserve the recorded music of our ancestors just as they heard it 200 years ago. They have been likened to an original iPod.
We have begun to gather the clocks that will appear in an exhibit at the Willard House & Clock Museum in North Grafton, Massachusetts. It will take place this fall from October 6th-November 17th and will include approximately 36 pre-1830 musical clocks. They will all be running and playing their music.
Thanks to the generosity of several donors and the cooperation of a number of lenders, the public will have a chance to hear these masterpieces play once again. This will be a unique opportunity to see and hear approximately one quarter of the early American musical and chiming clocks that are known to survive.
Some of these complicated movements have not functioned in decades. We are proud that, with the help of some very skilled clockmakers, some of these movements will be returned to a fully functional condition. Their music will be heard once again for the first time in generations.
Here’s an example of why this is so rewarding. Matt and I recently picked up a very important Aaron Brokaw clock from the Newark Museum in New Jersey. With the help of my colleague, clock specialist, Steve Petrucelli, we were able to coordinate a visit to the New Jersey Historical Society, just around the corner. Steve had tracked down an important Leslie & Williams musical clock, housed in a magnificent case bearing the label of cabinetmaker, Matthew Egerton Jr. The clock had long been in storage and was documented only by black and white photos from the 1940’s. We arranged to have the clock moved to the main facility for examination and photography. When we assembled the clock for the first time in years we all gazed in awe at what may be the finest New Jersey clock I have ever seen. It is a monumental clock with perfect proportions, fantastic inlay, a signed musical movement and a cabinetmaker’s label. Wow! This is what keeps us searching. Please be sure to join us at the exhibit, so you too can say “Wow” too!