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Tall case clock

ca. 1775 (movement); 1805-1815 (case)
Origin: America, Virginia, Fredericksburg & England
OH: 103 1/2"; OW: 20"; OD: 10 1/2"
Mahogany, mahogany veneer, yellow pine, satinwood, maple and stained maple, glass, iron, steel, and brass
Bequest of Frederica McKenney Rapley
Acc. No. 1987-547
Appearance: Arched hood supporting fretwork, plinths, and three brass ball and spire finials; arched glazed hood door flanked by vertically inlaid engaged three-quarter columns with brass capitals and bases; engaged quarter columns at rear of hood on sides; wide coved shoulder molding; trunk with vertically inlaid quarter columns with brass capitals and bases and inlaid horizontal rectangular panel above trunk door containing rectangle with inset corners; rectangular trunk door with serpentine top; door inlaid with a large vertical lightwood string oval and satinwood crossbanding around perimeter outlined by geometric banding; ogee waist molding over base veneered with large solid mahogany circle surrounded by satinwood; ogee base molding above serpentine skirt and flaring French feet; brass dial with silvered chapter ring with Roman hour numerals and Arabic minute and second numerals, diaper-engraved center with silvered seconds dial above center arbor and silvered asymmetrical engraved cartouche with "Harrison/ LIVERPOOL" and flowers and shell below center arbor, which is flanked by two winding holes, cast brass spandrels with crown surmounted by cross applied in corners of dial; engraved hemispheres and moon dial painted with moons, night sky and lunar date numerals in arch, surrounded by arch engraved "On TIME'S uncertain date, EXTERNAL-hours depend".

Construction: On the hood, the veneered upper side panels are flush-nailed to thin lower side panels that are double through-tenoned into the runners at the bottom. Small sprig nails driven through the rear of the case sides secure the vertical flankers. The cornice, which consists of a mahogany facade backed by a yellow pine filler, is glued and nailed in place. Cross-banding and veneer adorn the tympanum. A thin veneer covers the underside of the arch above the door. The interior door frame is lapped together and nailed to the vertical stiles that support the front columns, which are in turn set into brass terminals that are nailed in place. Small glue blocks further secure the inner door frame. The outer door frame is mortised and tenoned and faced with veneer. Putty, which may cover small glazing nails, holds the glass in place. The runners are mortised and tenoned with mitered front corners, and the moldings are flush-nailed to the runners.

On the trunk and base, the one-piece back board has added flankers behind the base and the hood, the latter made of mahogany instead of yellow pine. The back board is nailed into rabbets on the rear of the case. The half-inch-thick trunk sides extend above the two-piece nailed-on cornice molding into the hood area. Along with the extended vertical stiles from the door frame and the plinth above the columns, the top edges of the case sides support the seat board and movement. The side panels also extend below the two-piece nailed-on waist molding down into the base where they are secured by a series of glue blocks. Screwed to either case side near the top is a thin runner that supports the hood. The leading edges of the trunk sides are faced with a thin nailed-on strip that extends behind the quarter-columns to provide a gluing surface for the small chamfered glue blocks. Near the bottom, either side is additionally secured with a single large glue block approximately eight inches in length. Similar small glue blocks secure the other side of the quarter-columns to the door frame stiles. The inlaid quarter-columns are set into brass terminals nailed onto plinths that abut the sides and door stiles and are faced with figured veneer. The door frame is mortised and tenoned, with the upper rail veneered. Where the stiles extend into the hood area, their front faces are covered with figured veneer, although the reason for this addition is not known. The lower door frame rail extends into the base and is secured with large glue blocks. The door consists of a veneered yellow pine core with tongue-and-groove mahogany battens at the top and bottom. Quarter-inch-wide vertical strips cover the long edges of the core. The veneered facade of the base is flush-nailed into rabbets on the solid sides and backed with large chamfered glue blocks. The bottom board is dovetailed to the sides.

The clock features an eight-day, weight-driven 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 thirteen-inch cast-brass, arched dial has cast-brass corner spandrels. The dial plate was cast with voids behind the chapter ring and roundel to save metal. There are blued-steel date, hour, minute, and seconds hands, and a lunar work appears in the arch.

The plates are cast brass with all surfaces hammered, filed, scraped, and visible surfaces stoned. Four cast and turned brass pillars are riveted to the backplate and pinned at the front plate. The seat board is secured by hooks over the bottom pillars. The cast-brass barrels are grooved. The tailless steel clicks are threaded into the great wheels, and the plain brass click springs are riveted in place. The closed-end brass great wheel collets are pinned in place. The cast-brass wheels are of normal thickness with standard epicycloidal teeth. The center and third wheels are mounted on pinions, and the rest are on plain step collets. The wheels have four-arm crossings. There are cut pinions and parallel arbors. The pallets are mounted on a step collet. The round steel crutch-rod has a closed-end fork and is riveted into the pallet arbor. The back-cock is without steady pins. The pendulum has a tapered flat steel rod and a four-and-one-half-inch brass-faced lead bob. The striking system has a tailless gathering pallet, and the hammer is mounted against the backplate with a combination hammer spring/counter. The standard of the four-and-one-half-inch bell-metal bell is screwed to the inside of the backplate. There is a conventional motion work, the cannon and minute wheels are crossed, and the minute wheel and its brass pinion run on a start screwed into the front plate. The bridge is square-ended. There is a twenty-four-hour date work, and the date is indicated by a hand against numerals engraved on the inside of the chapter ring. There is a lunar work in the arch. The thirteen-and-one-half-pound cast lead weights each have an embedded steel wire eye at the top. There are standard cast-brass pulleys with riveted iron stirrups.

Materials: Mahogany hood sides and flankers, columns, plinths, inner hood door frame, trunk sides, flankers on upper back board, battens and vertical strips on trunk door, door frame stiles and lower rail, base sides, trunk door veneers, upper door frame rail veneer, tympanum veneer, outer hood door veneer, plinth veneers, and circular inlay on base; *yellow pine back board, lower flankers, glue blocks, core of trunk door, core of front base panel, and seat board; satinwood inlay around mahogany circular inlay on base panel, and cross-banding on trunk door; maple and stained maple stringing; iron, steel, and brass movement.
Label:This distinctive clock case belongs to a group of early nineteenth-century examples made in Fredericksburg, Virginia, one of the South's most important clockmaking centers since the 1760s. A hybrid of sorts, this example and another, nearly identical, Fredericksburg case blend decorative details from clocks made in New England, New York, and New Jersey. The sawn fretwork with three finials atop the arched hoods is an obvious reference to clock cases made in the Boston area and exported to the rest of the country. The lightwood-bordered, oval-inlaid trunk doors and the bases with their prominent circular motifs are direct reflections of designs from New York and New Jersey. This merging of New England and Middle Atlantic fashions is without parallel in American clockmaking and reflects the way in which post-Revolutionary furniture makers in the coastal South increasingly relied on northern designs to keep abreast of the latest styles.

The attribution of the CWF clock case to Fredericksburg is based in part on its history. Although the case has always housed an imported British movement, the clock has a well-documented record of ownership in the Spottswood family of Orange and, later, Culpeper Counties just west of Fredericksburg. A privately owned clock with a closely related case from the same shop bears a movement labeled "JOHN M. WEIDEMEYER / FREDERICKSBURG." An Alsatian immigrant, clockmaker Weidemeyer worked in Fredericksburg from 1804-1822. Clock cases inspired by various northern prototypes were not uncommon in early national Fredericksburg. Six other tall clocks with movements by Weidemeyer are known. Several have attenuated broken-scroll pediments that closely emulate those from New York and New Jersey. Most have histories in the Fredericksburg area.

The movement in the CWF clock is engraved "Harrison / LIVERPOOL." Thomas Harrison's (w. 1772-ca. 1800) ornate brass and silvered dial, characterized by its diapered center design and rococo nameplate, is remarkably similar to those made by several other artisans in Liverpool and surrounding Lancashire during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Extensive trade between eastern Virginia and Liverpool probably accounts for the presence of this movement in the Commonwealth. Perhaps twenty years older than the neoclassical case, Harrison's rococo movement was clearly recycled from an earlier clock case, a practice seen elsewhere in the South. Physical evidence demonstrates that this mechanism is the only one ever used in the present case.
Provenance:In 1892 the clock was owned by Alexander Dandridge Spottswood of "Orange Grove," Orange County (Wilderness), Virginia. Letters from A. D. Spottswood dated 1892 and 1893 and from the donor document the clock and its history. {See transcripts in the object file}. According to family history provided by A. D. Spotswood in 1892, the clock was probably first owned by John Spottswood (b. 1774). It descended to his son John Rowzie Spottswood of Culpeper County, Virginia in 1836, then to the latter's son Alexander Dandridge Spottswood in 1888. The latter sold it to G. D. Coons on March 14, 1892; Coons was acting as agent for Mr. and Mrs. James McKenney. The clock then descended from James McKenney to his son Frederic D. Mckenney in 1913, then to the latter's daughter, Frederica McKenney Rapley, in 1949. The clock came to Colonial Williamsburg from Mrs. Rapley's estate in 1987. (John Spotswood is listed in 1782 and the 1785 census lists for Orange County, Va. "Orange Grove" ws in Orange County. See VIRGINIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY v. 13, p. 224.)

The clock was first owned by John Spotswood III (b. 1774) of Orange Co., Va. It descended to his son, John Rowzie Spotswood (1799-1860); to his son, Alexander Dandridge Spotswood of Orange Grove plantation, Culpeper Co., Va. (1836-1924). The latter recorded the clock's history of ownership in letters dated 1892-1893 when he sold it to G. G. Coons, who was acting as agent for James H. McKenney (d. 1913).7 It descended to McKenney's son, Frederic [sic] D. McKenney (d. 1949); to his daughter, Frederica McKenney Rapley, who bequeathed it to CWF in 1987.
Inscription(s):The dial face is engraved "Harrison / LIVERPOOL." A "2" engraved onto the reverse of the front plate and the lunar disk suggests that this was the second of a larger batch of movements under production at the same time. Inscribed in pencil on the inside of the trunk door are "Cleaned Oc. 2th 1825 / J. G. Mann" and "P. B. Giddings March 19th 1853."