A Fine and Rare Federal Mahogany Tall Case Clock. By Elnathan Taber, Roxbury, Massachusetts, circa 1815. The case attributed to Thomas Seymour
This attractive tall clock case is among the finest produced of Boston. It houses a superlative oversized dial of Boston origin, with a lunette featuring a moon phase disk and patriotic shields at each spandrel. Dials of this type are typically housed in premium clock cases produced by the best cabinetmakers of Boston. The impressive size, refined proportions, superb wood selections along with specific construction details, suggest that the case was produced in the cabinet shops of John & Thomas Seymour. This is further confirmed by the distinctive delicate scrolling fretwork, which is found on several similar cases, including a signed example, found in the White House collection. The wonderful qualities and condition of this case are augmented by the extraordinary dial, which was produced for the prominent Boston clockmaker Elnathan Taber, successfully establishing this as a premier example among Boston clocks.
Elnathan Taber [1768-1854], apprenticed to the renown clockmaker, Simon Willard, who regarded him as his finest apprentice. He was one of the initial handful of clockmakers permitted to produce Willards patent timepiece or banjo clock. His clocks closely follow the form and style of those produced by Simon. Taber purchased Simon’s tools when he retired. Taber was a prolific clockmaker for over sixty-five years who produced patent timepieces, shelf clocks and fine tall case clocks. He made impressive clocks such as this, including a very similar example in the American wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The arched hood is mounted with three reeded chimneys, which frame a delicately scrolled and pierced fretwork. The chimneys are mounted with large ornate finials with reeded balls with Greek key medial bands. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice, all above a mahogany cross-banded, glazed, tombstone-form dial door. Reeded colonnettes with brass capitals and bases flank this door, which has a brass lock and keyhole surround. It opens to a finely painted iron dial of Boston origin. Each side of the hood has a glazed rectangular window.
The dial door opens to a wonderfully painted dial of Boston manufacture. During this period Boston was a center for dial manufacturing. These dials are known for their high quality and regional style they were employed by clockmakers throughout America and this large-size dial is a premium example. It features a painted moon phase disk in the lunette decorated with hand painted scenes. At the base of the lunette are two hemispheres, each decorated with terrestrial map transfers. The clock face is framed with four painted corner spandrels with vibrant large patriotic shields. Roman numerals demark the hour and Arabic numerals demark the minutes. The dial is fitted with a seconds bit with steel pointer above the center arbor and a calendar window below. The center arbor is fitted with wonderful original cut steel hands with heart-form pointers. Two winding arbors for each train, time and strike, are located at either side of the center arbor. The dial is signed on two lines below the center arbor with the maker’s name and location “E. Taber / Roxbury”. The hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared cove molding. The waist is set with reeded quarter columns with brass capitals and bases flanking a molded rectangular pendulum door. The panels surrounding the door have richly grained mahogany veneers. The pendulum door has an applied molding around a mahogany cross-banded border and a vibrantly figured central panel. The door conceals the tin can weights and brass capped pendulum with wood rod. The movement has recently been serviced and is in excellent running order.
The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The base has a panel similar to the pendulum door with a mahogany cross-banded edge around a vigorously grained central panel. The base terminates with a small bead molding and rests on flared French feet joined by a shaped apron.
A variety of case styles were produced within this small community of Boston clockmakers, but certain distinctive attributes are associated only with the Seymour’s shop. The formal case of large size, consistent proportions and exotic wood selections are quickly recognizable attributes of Seymour cases. More specifically the Seymour’s employed three unique fretwork patterns that varied from those found on other Boston clock cases. Cases with original fretwork of these patterns are accredited to the Seymour cabinet shop. The specific fretwork found on this case is a pattern used exclusively by the Seymours and is found on other documented cases made by them. The delicate and intricate fretwork pattern employed on this clock is decidedly the most sophisticated of the group.
John [1738-1818] and his son Thomas [1771-1848] worked successfully together through the first decade of the 19th century but by the early years of the second decade John, now in his seventies, had mostly retired. Thomas continued his cabinetwork, transitioning from the highly adorned, contrasting inlays of the Federal styles, to the more austere treatments associated with the Classical era. This clock exhibits the influence of this later style, emphasizing the beauty of wood grain in the exuberant veneer selections. Based on these clear style cues, Thomas Seymour is subsequently concluded to be the maker of this case. The clock was produced around 1815-20. It is noteworthy that starting in 1820, Thomas Seymour resided in a property on Washington Street in Boston, directly between Aaron Willard Senior and Aaron Junior.
Dimensions: Height with center finial: 100”; Width at base: 19 ⅞”; Depth: 10 ¼”.
Call (781) 828-1650 or E-mail us for questions or pricing on this item. Please reference inventory number 14051.