This attractive Chippendale tall clock was produced for the Johnson family by one of Philadelphia’s leading clock makers, Edward Duffield [1720-1801]. The Johnson family home, which is now a national historic landmark, is one of the few remaining Underground Railroad Stations in Philadelphia open to the public. The Johnson House was home to three generations of this Quaker family who worked with European Americans and African Americans, freed and enslaved, to abolish slavery and improve living conditions for freed African Americans. Philadelphia, especially its Germantown section, was a center of the 19th-century American movement to abolish slavery, and the Johnson House was one of the key sites.
Between 1770 and 1908, the house was the residence of five generations of the Johnson family. The third generation was active in the Underground Railroad during the 1850s. Along with their respective spouses, Rowland, Israel, Ellwood, Sarah, and Elizabeth Johnson were members of abolitionist groups such as the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Germantown Freedman's Aid Association. Through their associations with these groups, the brothers and sisters became involved in the Underground Railroad and used their home, along with the nearby homes of relatives, to harbor fugitive slaves on their journeys to freedom. The Johnson House is a representative station on the Underground Railroad, and the Johnsons were among the leading abolitionists of their generation.
The house, then one of the largest in Germantown, was built between 1765 and 1768 by Jacob Norr for Dirck Jansen, for his son John Johnson, Sr. During the 1777, Battle of Germantown, fighting occurred nearby and the house still bears marks of musket and cannonballs.
The grand scale and straightforward elegance of the walnut case reflect the restrained tastes of the Quaker family for whom the clock was made. The impressive case has impeccable Philadelphia proportions and superbly grained walnut panels.
The movement was produced by one of Philadelphia’s most successful clockmakers, Edward Duffield. A prominent figure in Philadelphia, he was a great friend of Benjamin Franklin. It is uncertain from whom he received his training, but the quality of his work indicates he apprenticed to one of Philadelphia’s leading clockmakers.
The clock has a scrolled pediment finished with volutes framing a raised plinth. This plinth and two rectangular chimneys are decorated with turned walnut urn-form finials. The flat tympanum is above a molded tombstone-shape dial door flanked by turned and block colonnettes.
The door opens to an engraved composite brass dial with applied rococo spandrels and a moon phase disk in the arch. Scrolled engravings decorate the dial around the moon disk, which has starry night sky and moon decorations. The raised chapter ring is engraved with Roman numerals to 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 second’s circle is neatly engraved with the maker’s name and locale: “Edward Duffield / PHILADELPHIA”. 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 hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared molding. The waist is set with fluted quarter columns with turned capitals and bases flanking a molded rectangular pendulum door. The pendulum door, which has a Chippendale type shaped top, is constructed from a sold piece of crotch-grained walnut with vivid grain. The locking door has terrific pierced brass lock escutcheon. 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 matching quarter columns and is set with a shaped walnut panel. The panel is constructed of book-matched crotch grained walnut. The base terminates with a stepped molding and rests on ogee bracket feet.
Dimensions: Height with center finial: 101”; Width at base: 22 ½”; Depth 11 ⅜”