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Tall Case Clock

Origin: America, Maryland, Hagerstown
OH: 100"; OW: 18"; OD: 11 1/4"
Black walnut, yellow pine, tulip poplar, holly, glass, iron, brass, and steel.
Gift of Perry Van Vleck
Acc. No. 1980-200,A&B
Appearance: Tall case clock with broken scroll pediment with veneered rosettes, central plinth outlined in lightwood stringing supports an urn and spire finial; pediment divided from tympanum with molding that continues around sides as cornice molding; arched glazed hood door flanked by columns; columns flank rear of hood as well; wide coved shoulder molding over trunk with chamfered front corners with string inlay and rectangular trunk door outlined with light wood stringing with a central oval inlaid ruffled foliate pattera; ogee and broad cove waist molding over a square base outlined on front with lightwood stringing, delineated from skirt with lightwood stringing on front and sides; scalloped front and side skirts and French feet. White painted dial with Roman hour numerals and Arabic minute numerals at 15, 30, 45, and 60 with asterix in place of numerals for other numbers; "George Woltz" painted in script above hands, arched date aperture below hands with "HAGERSTOWN" printed below, hour, minute, and long second hand on center arbor, corners of dial painted with flowers in triangular reserves; hemispheres and painted moon dial in arch.

Construction: On the hood, the rosettes and cornice are flush-mounted to the pediment that is screwed in place from above. The horizontal cornice molding is flush-mounted, and the scroll board is half-blind dovetailed to the upper side panels. The scroll board is backed by two nailed-on spacer blocks that form the arch over the door. These abut inside the case and extend through the top board with additional glued-on flankers on either side. The top board is open dovetailed onto the top edges of the lower side panels, and all three elements are rabbeted along their rear edges to accept the back board. All of the moldings are glued and nailed in place. The upper side panels are nailed and screwed to the lower side panels. The mortised-and-tenoned outer door is glazed and swings on flat brass hinges. The removable inner door frame is through-tenoned. While the front columns are square-tenoned into the frame, the rear columns are open-tenoned in place. The mortised-and-tenoned runners, which are dadoed to receive the through-tenoned lower side panels, are faced with mitered nailed-on moldings.

On the trunk, the back board has added flankers at the top and bottom. It is glued and minimally nailed into rabbets on the rear of the case and further secured on the inside with chamfered glue blocks. The side panels extend into the hood area and support the seat board. The shoulder molding, which is glued in place, consists of a black walnut facade flush-mounted to a diagonally applied core made up of closely spaced glue blocks. The side panels abutt the stiles of the door frame, which are chamfered on their outer edges to form columns with additional string inlay and are backed by chamfered glue blocks. The scratch-beaded door has a rectangular string inlay around the perimeter and swings on brass butt hinges.

On the base, the waist molding is glued and nailed in place and is backed by an applied core. The molding is surmounted by a small nailed-on astragal. The side panels are flush-mounted to the front panel and secured on the inside with chamfered glue blocks. Along with the front panel and back board, these panels have corner extensions to the floor that form the main support for the clock. The side and front panels are additionally faced with tapered blocks that form the flared feet. Rounded corner blocks further secure the feet.

The clock features an eight-day, weight-riven tall case movement with an anchor-recoil escapement regulated by a seconds-beating pendulum. A rack-and-snail striking system sounds the hours on a bell. The fourteen-inch arched dial is made of painted iron. There are blued-steel hour, minute, and seconds hands, a date aperture below the dial center, and a lunar indication in the arch.

The cast-brass plates have semicircular cutouts at the bottom, and all surfaces have been hammered, filed, scraped, and stoned. Four plain cast-brass pillars are pinned to both the back and front plates. The fronts of the pillars have been extended to form dial feet to which the dial is attached by screws. The seat board is attached with hooks over the bottom pillars. The ungrooved brass tube barrels have applied end plates pinned in place. Tailed steel clicks are threaded into the great wheel; plain brass click springs are riveted in place. The plain brass great wheel collets are held in place with pins through barrel arbors. The cast-brass wheels are of normal thickness with longer than standard epicycloidal teeth and have four-arm crossings. The second and third wheels are mounted on pinions; the rest on D-shaped, stepped brass collets. There are cut pinions and parallel arbors. The escape wheel is positioned at the center of the plates to give sweep seconds for the dial. The pallets are pinned directly to the arbor. The back-cock is of T-form and has two steady pins. The pendulum has a round-sectioned brass rod and a four-and-three-eighths-inch brass-faced lead bob. The striking system has a hammer located against the backplate, and the hammer spring is screwed to the backplate, as is the separate counter spring. There is a four-and-three-eighths-inch polished bell-metal bell. Its standard is screwed to the inside of the backplate. The extended front pivot of the second wheel arbor carries the boat-spring and the first wheel of the crossed motion work (four-arm). This wheel drives the minute wheel, which in turn drives the cannon wheel, all of similar size. The minute wheel is mounted on a start and has a brass pinion that drives the crossed-hour wheel. The escape wheel arbor passes through to the dial of the clock to directly carry the sweep-seconds hand. The bridge is square-ended. There is a twelve-hour date work below the dial center. The modern brass pulleys support thirteen-and-one-half-pound filled tinplate cylindrical weights with steel wire eyes.

Materials: Black walnut pediment, tympanum, moldings, hood sides, hood door frames, columns, runners, trunk side panels, trunk door frame, trunk door, base side panels, base front panel, and foot veneers; yellow pine seat board, top board, back board, and bottom board; tulip poplar glue blocks and molding cores; holly inlays; iron, brass, and steel movement.
Label:The movement in this western Maryland clock was made by John George Adam Woltz (1744-1812). "George Woltz," as he signed most of his works, was born in York, Pennsylvania, to one of the many Swiss and German immigrant families who, fleeing religious and civil persecution in the Rhineland, settled there in the 1730s . Woltz later followed the tide of German and rural British immigrants from Pennsylvania into the new lands of the southern backcountry. He settled at Elizabeth-town, Maryland, founded in 1762 at a point only a few miles south of the Pennsylvania border and the same distance north from Virginia (now West Virginia). Eventually renamed Hagerstown, the community's position on the Great Wagon Road that led from eastern Pennsylvania into the Valley of Virginia made it an important market center at an early date. Woltz remained in Hagerstown for the rest of his life, where he was active in public affairs.

Woltz was identified as a silversmith in 1774. Little else is known of his career. In 1808, near the end of his life, he described himself in the Maryland Herald & Hagerstown Weekly Advertiser as a clock- and watchmaker. Thanking the public for their past patronage, Woltz announced the formation of a partnership with his sons, a venture that was short-lived due to his failing health. Later that year, George Woltz, Jr., commenced business as a brass founder, clockmaker, and silversmith, trades almost certainly learned from his father. The younger Woltz noted that orders could be left with his brother, Samuel, whose clock and watch shop was next door. In 1810, brother John also opened a clock- and watchmaking shop in Hagerstown, although he moved to Shepardstown, Virginia (now West Virginia) within a year. George Woltz, Sr., died, a relatively prosperous man, in 1812. The estate inventory reveals that Woltz and his wife, Charity, lived in a well-furnished house that featured an eight-day clock, a walnut spinet, and two large iron stoves for heating. Among the objects in Woltz's shop were a valuable vise, a bench, and an unfinished clock.

Woltz made movements with both brass and white dials. All unmistakably reveal his Swiss-German heritage. On the CWF movement he omitted the dial feet common to British clocks, instead extending the pillars through the front plate to the back of the dial. The pillars are secured with screws driven through the front of the dial, a detail often seen on German-American clocks of this date from Pennsylvania and western Maryland. The bold designs of the hour and minute hands represent popular German-American designs, as do the shaping of the flat back-cock, the pinning of the pillars on the backplate, and the use of a separate rather than a riveted spring on the fly. The tail-less gathering pallet and especially the striking train with its rack hook on the right side of the front plate are strong indicators of Woltz's German-American craft training.

In contrast with the movement, the black walnut case echoes the British neat-and-plain furniture widely popular in the coastal and Piedmont South. A number of elements were directly inspired by clock cases from the coastal cities that traded with Hagerstown. The broken-scroll pediment, with its horizontal base and central finial, follows a British-inspired form popular in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and the richly colored panel of inlaid foliage on the trunk door was probably imported from Baltimore. The corners of the trunk are chamfered and inlaid like the ones on many Hagerstown clocks. The same unidentified cabinetmaker produced cases for several Hagerstown clockmakers, among them Arthur Johnston.

Woltz's kinsmen in the cabinet trade might have supplied cases for his movements. For instance, Otho Woltz worked as a chair maker in nearby Frederick, and William Woltz advertised his established Hagerstown cabinet business in 1810. The maker of the CWF clock case was a skilled artisan whose work is distinguished by several unusual structural details. Instead of applying separate columns on the leading edges of the trunk, he chamfered the stiles on the door frame, flush-mounted them to the case sides, and secured them with meticulously shaped and chamfered glue blocks. Similar care was paid to the attachment of the back board, which is glued into a rabbet on each side and secured with similar chamfered glue blocks. On the hood, the inner door frame can be removed to reveal the idiosyncratic construction of the pediment. Equally uncommon is the piercing of the back board behind the hood where a large opening covered with linen serves as a sound hole for the hour bell.
Provenance:The clock was a gift to CWF from a Maryland collector in 1980. No earlier history was recorded.
Inscription(s):"Jno. H. McClain" is written in chalk inside the hood. The same inscription and "13th St." appear on the back board. The dial is inscribed "George Woltz / HAGER'S TOWN." An illegible word is scratched on the front plate of the movement. A modern sticker from a Williamsport, Md., moving company is adhered on the top board of the hood and the inside of the back board.