Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Stolen Thomas Claggett tall case clock repatriated after 34 years
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On Friday I hung the weights and started the pendulum in motion on an extremely rare Thomas Claggett tall case (grandfather) clock that has finally returned home. Made in Newport, RI circa 1740-60, and housed in a classic blocked-door Newport case, It was stolen from a family homestead just outside of Newport in April of 1977. My involvement in the recovery started about a year ago when I was asked to render an expert opinion as to whether detailed photos of a Claggett clock owned in Mississippi could be positively identified as the same clock seen in family photos taken in the 1960s and 70s before it was stolen. The brass dial (face) of the clock incorporates a rare rocking ship feature in the arched top. A small painted ship (currently missing) bobs back and forth with the motion of the pendulum. Behind the ship is a wonderful and unique painted scene of Goat Island, off of Newport. The details in the two sets of photos were clear enough to make a positive connection. They were one in the same.

Happy to play a roll in returning the clock to the front room of the family homestead where it had resided since it was originally purchased about 250 years ago, I put my opinion in writing. Three other antique clock/furniture experts did the same. Allegedly purchased for $650. at the Brimfield MA. flea market in 1975 (two years before it was actually stolen) The intrigue, subterfuge, bazaar coincidences and twists and turns that took place over the last year and a half would fill a book. The circuitous rout to recovery began with a failed attempt to sell the clock on Ebay in early 2010, and is said to have included a falsified bill of sale, incompetent police work, a “fascinating” Mississippi legal system, the astuteness of a Massachusetts auctioneer who “smelled a rat” and the pure dumb luck of the theft coming to the attention of a distant family member who happened to have an interest in Claggett clocks.

This is such an interesting business. Not too many other lines of work offer such a varied an interesting menu on a day to day basis.

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