This handsome tall case clock epitomizes the formal “Roxbury” style cases that were so popular in Boston during the late 18th century. These clocks produced around the Boston borough of Roxbury, possess pleasing proportions, high quality construction, brass stop fluting, and choice figured mahogany. This one was produced by the premiere Boston clockmaker Simon Willard, [born: Grafton Massachusetts April 3, 1753, died: Boston, Massachusetts August 30, 1848]. He was a highly prolific and innovative clockmaker for over sixty-five years. A patriot during the revolution, he moved from Grafton to Roxbury with his brother Aaron around 1780.
This high style Chippendale case s a specific form produced in the shop of Stephen Badlam [1751-1815] of Dorchester. Badlam’s clock cases are the source for much of what would become the Roxbury case style. The use of this specific fretwork form, brass stop fluting, cross-banding inlay and rich mahogany veneers define his cases. His use of barber-pole inlay and broad cross-banded borders with ovolo corners and engaged corner fans are a hallmark of his work. His cases feature opulent materials and tend to align more closely with a traditional Chippendale form.
The dial bears the name of the original owner and the date:“Warranted for Mr. Seth Nickerson 1798”. Bespoke examples such as this, were specifically produced for individuals of sufficient means and tend to be the best of form. Additionally the case retains an original label of the clockmaker, printed by Boston printers John and Joseph Russell. This label is marked in ink with the original selling price, which reads, “price of this clock 58 dollars”.
A Simon Willard clock with a fine Roxbury case is considered by sophisticated collectors to be among the most highly prized furniture forms. Considered in conjunction with a list of attributes that include a premium Stephen Badlam case with a dated, bespoke dial and an original label with selling price define this clock as a superlative example.
The molded hood is mounted with three fluted rectangular chimneys, or plinths, each fitted with brass ball and spire finials. The chimneys frames a traditional Roxbury type pierced fretwork. This cresting rests atop a molded arched cornice and a mahogany tombstone-form dial door. The locking glazed door retains a period glass and has a brass keyhole escutcheon. Brass stop-fluted colonnettes with brass capitals and bases flank this door.
The door opens to a painted dial of British manufacture, which features a wonderfully painted scene in the lunette. The scene depicts a seaside view with a figure on a path before a lighthouse and cottage with a town in the distance. The dial is painted with polychrome floral bough at each corner spandrel. The clock face has Roman numerals to demark the hour and an outer ring of Arabic numerals to demark the minutes. The dial is fitted with a seconds bit above the center arbor and a calendar aperture below. The center arbor has wonderful scrolled steel hands and the seconds circle has a steel pointer. The dial is wonderfully signed in neat calligraphy at each side of the center arbor and below with the owners name, date and clockmakers name, “Warranted for Mr. Seth Nickerson 1798 / Simon Willard”.
The brass movement, which has recently been serviced, is in good running order. It is of an eight-day duration and is original to the case. The movement is fitted with a brass capped lead pendulum bob and tin can weights. The movement rests on a wooden “saddle board” which is original to the clock.
The hood transitions into the waist of the case with a broad flared throat molding. The waist has brass stop-fluted quarter columns with brass capitals and bases, flanking a rectangular pendulum door. The pendulum door has an applied molding around inlaid quarter fans at each corner, with string inlay centering a vibrantly figured mahogany panel. The hinged door is fitted with a lock and brass keyhole surround.
The waist transitions to the rectangular base with a similar flared molding. This base panel has a distinctive broad cross-banded border with ovolo corners set with quarter fans around a figure central mahogany panel. The base has a stepped molded bottom above a cut out bracket feet. Both the style of the feet and the specific layouts of banding, with ovolo corners are associated with Stephen Badlam.
Dimensions: Overall height with center finial: 93”; Width 20 ¼” Depth 9 ¾”.