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Tall Case Clock, Case

Origin: America, Kentucky, Lexington
OH: 95 1/8"; OW: 21 5/8"; OD 11 1/8".
Black walnut, chestnut, yellow pine, and glass
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1951-578,A
Case: tall case clock with a broken scroll pediment terminating in eight-petaled carved rosettes; molding of scrolls continues around sides as cornice molding; three urn and flame finials sit in plinths on top of the hood; glazed arched top door with a brass knob surmounted by an arched molding that continues around sides and flanked by fluted columns at the front and rear of the hood; wide cavetto molding separates hood from turnk; trunk has a thumbnail molded arched door with applied brass keyhole escutcheon, fluted quarter columns, and a complex ogee waist molding; base has fluted quarter columns, base molding, and spurred ogee bracket feet.

One piece brass arched 12”W x 17”H dial. Moon phase in arch with two semi-circular projections along the bottom of the opening engraved as globes with lines of longitude and latitude. Behind the opening is the moon dial one-half of which has the days of the lunar month engraved on the periphery, and the center having an engraved moon "face" against a blue-painted sky with white clouds and gold stars. These features are repeated on the other half because the disc makes one revolution in two lunar months, the mechanism being accurate to 29.500 days (somewhat short of the true lunar month). A small steel indicator is fastened at the center of the arch. The dial is fitted with an applied silvered chapter ring having a minute band with large Arabic numerals for minutes along the perimeter and Roman numerals for hours along the interior. The maker's name (Thomas Walker) and town (FREDS/BURG) are engraved on the lower part of the chapter ring spanning VI. Applied spandrels have cast flower and scroll ornaments in gilt brass. The matted dial center has a silvered seconds dial with Arabic numerals in ten second increments below XII and touching the silvered hour/minute chapter ring. Below the center arbor is a rectangular aperture for the silvered calendar which registers the days of the month (non-compensating for the short months). The three dial hands are filed steel, the hour and minute hands are pierced. The seconds hand is secured via a screw, not a pin.

Eight-day brass time, strike, and calendar weight-driven movement measuring 6.6” H x 5.3” W. Plate thickness is 0.121” and clearance between front and back plates is 2.42”. Clock has an anchor-recoil escapement regulated by a seconds beat pendulum. A rack-and-snail strike sounds the hours.
Four brass pillars are riveted into the back plate and pinned at the front plate. The time side top pillar is lower and further inside the plates than the strike side top pillar. The movement is fastened to the seat board by steel seat board screws threaded into the bottom pillars. The brass time and strike barrels are covered with a wrapped brass sheet which is grooved for the weight cords. All time and strike train wheels have four-arm crossings. The conventional motion work is uncrossed, except for the hour wheel which has three arm crossings. The round steel crutch-rod is serpentine in shape and has a closed-end fork. The pendulum bridge base is rectangular with rounded bases and circular cutouts at the lower right and upper left. It is fastened to the back plate with two screws and two locator pins below the screws. The bell stand and bell are missing.

There are no pulleys or weight cords present. The overall length of the pendulum is 43.5”. The pendulum rod is steel. The bob is an iron shell back filled with lead. It is 4.2” diameter and 1.0” thick at its center. The weights are cylindrical cast lead with rounded bases, semi-conical tops, and cast in metal hooks. One is 2 ¼” diameter, 7” long, and weighs 12 lbs. The other is 2 3/8” diameter, 8” long, and weighs 13 lbs.

Hood: Tall inner sides are nailed from inside to the overlapping upper outer sides; the outer sides are half blind dovetailed to the arched backboard; the inner sides, which are thumbnail molded on the front edges and rabbeted on the rear edges to receive the case backboard, are nailed from the bottom into grooves in the top of the base frame; the base frame sides are tenoned into the base frame front; molding is nailed along the side and front edges of the base frame; the upper outer sides are set in rabbets at the ends of the tympanum and glued (no other method of attachment is visible), they extend 1 3/4" above the top of the inner sides; the lower portion of the tympanum is backed with a board that is shaped to follow the arch of the lower edge of the tympanum and extends to the level of the top of the outer sides; the top board with chamfered ends is notched around the shaped block behind the central plinth and nailed to the top edges of the back, sides, and tympanum backboard.

The top of the face frame is nailed from the back to the tympanum backing board; the face frame elements, which are rounded on their inner edges, have no structural joinery; the bottom of the face frame rests at the rear edge of the base frame front; long glue blocks extending from about 2" below the top edge of the face frame top to the bottom are glued to the back of the face frame at the sides and nailed from the front to the top and bottom of the face frame and from the inner side of the glue block into the hood side near the bottom.

All cornice and sub-cornice moldings, which are one piece moldings, are nailed to the tympanum and sides; the rosettes are screwed to the tympanum scrolls from the back, each with a single screw; side finial plinths are set onto the top of the tympanum and glued and possible nailed to it; central plinth has a shaped block behind it; tops of plinths are glued in placed; finials (possibly replaced) are round tenoned into the plinths.

On all but the proper left rear column (which is replaced), the square blocks at the top and bottom of the capitals and bases are separate from the turned capitals and bases, which in turn are separate from the fluted columns; the columns are round tenoned through the capitals and bases and square blocks into the base frame and into the underside of the tympanum (front) and the underside of the side (rear); the replaced proper left rear column has integral turned capital and base with the square block and has replaced round tenons.

The door stiles are through tenoned into the bottom rail and into the horizontal sections of the top rail; the arched top rail and the horizontal sections of the top rail at the tops of the stiles are lapped on the rear faces and glued to side arched sections (these are repairs and not original construction); all inner edges of the door frame are thumbnail molded; the glass rests in a rabbet behind the molding; the door is hinged to the bottom frame and underside of the tympanum.

Trunk: front is formed by top and bottom rails tenoned into stiles; solid door with thumbnail molded edges and rabbet around back of door is hinged to the proper left front stile with butt hinges (replaced); blocks above and below quarter columns are glued to the sides of the stiles and front edges of the case sides; separate turned column capitals and bases and fluted quarter columns are glued and nailed into the recess created by the sides of the stiles and front edges of the case sides; solid cavetto molding is glued and nailed to the front assembly and the case sides below the hood; case sides extend above the cavetto molding to support the seat board; thin pieces of horizontal lathe are nailed to the outer sides of the case sides about 1" above the top of the molding to orient the hood and prevent it from tipping when sliding it on or off; proper right lathe has top thumbnail molded edge; both lathe pieces look original; proper left case side has shims nailed to the top edge (not original).

Base: Front board, quarter columns and blocks above and below quarter columns, and sides are joined in the same manner as on the trunk; shims have been added at the sides of the front board due to shrinkage; bottom board is set in a rabbet in the bottom edge of the front board and half blind dovetailed to the sides; base molding is nailed to the front and sides; mitered ogee bracket feet are nailed and screwed (modern screws) to the underside of the base molding with vertical and horizontal glue blocks supporting them; proper left rear bracket foot is replaced; rear foot brackets are set in dados in the back of the rear side bracket feet; proper right rear side bracket foot has a 1/4-1/2" replaced section at the base of the foot and the outside edge of the dado has broken and been lost so the dado is construction is no longer visible.

An internal horizontal frame comprised of side rails possibly tenoned into the front rail rests in rabbets in the top edges of the front and sides; the base front and sides are nailed from the outside to the frame edges; originally, the trunk sides would have extended into the base and been nailed from inside to the inner edges of the frame side rails; in-use alterations to shorten and then re-extend the trunk obscure this construction; the mitered waist molding is nailed to the top of the internal base frame and to the sides and front of the trunk.

The full height backboard is nailed to the rear edge of the bottom of the case; the trunk sides are nailed into the side edges of the backboard; the additional pieced sections at the sides of the hood area are nailed from the edge into the side edges of the backboard and tops of the sides around which they are notched; the additional pieced side backboard sections at the base are nailed into rabbets in the case sides, to the rear edge of the case bottom board, and into rabbets in the underside of the base inner frame.

Case materials: all wood is primary wood except backboard, foot glue blocks, and seat board. Primary: black walnut; Secondary: chestnut-backboard, southern yellow pine--seatboard for works.
Label:Recent research on Kentucky clocks and new Infra-red photography of the cleaning inscriptions located inside the trunk door of this tall case clock suggest that the case was made in central Kentucky, possibly Lexington, at the end of the 18th century.

The mechanisms of tall case clocks were the most expensive and durable parts of an 8-day clock. With the westward migration of Virginians to Kentucky at the end of the 18th century, it is likely that an older clock movement labeled by Thomas Walker of Fredericksburg and probably dating to 1775-1785 was brought west by one of the many Virginians looking for new land.

Due to Rhode Island construction features on this clock and Rhode Island stylistic details on a related Kentucky clock (in a private collection), both clocks have been attributed to Daniel Spencer, a Rhode Island trained cabinetmaker who worked in Lexington from at least 1793 until his death in 1796. Spencer worked in both Newport and Providence, Rhode Island until at least 1785 and may have trained with his uncle, Newport cabinetmaker John Goddard. Spencer's financial difficulties in Providence, which culminated in his incarceration in 1785, may have provided the impetus for his westward move.
Provenance:Ginsburg & Levy acquired the clock from New York City antique dealer Abe Keyman in 1947. 1951, when they sold it to Colonial Williamsburg, was the second time they had handled the clock.

Based on the cleaning inscriptions inside the case, the clock and case were owned in or near Lexington, Kentucky from the mid-19th century until at least 1901.
Mark(s):Dial engraved "Thomas Walker/ Fredsburg"
Inscription(s):"F J Heintz/ 2 16 1901/ cleaned" in pencil inside blackboard of case. Frederick J. Heintz was a jeweler in Lexington, KY from c.1887 until c.1940.

"FM Shirey/ cleaned/ Jan 1954" in pencil inside backboard. Shirey was contracted by CWF to clean the clock.

"24012" chalked at top and bottom of backboard. This is a Ginsburg & Levy inventory number.

A number of entries penciled inside door:
"Dec 21 - 82
Do Aug 17 1867
A M Perham feb 5 1852
Owenton Owen County KY
Nov. 10 1863
George Easly
June 2 1865
Do Aug 21/69
Apr 27- 1875 Jan 8/ 1881"

Alfred M. Perham was a clock repairer in Paris, Lexington, and Owenton, KY during the 1850s-1880s. His April 5, 1851 advertisement in the Lexington Observer & Reporter mentioned that he visited Georgetown, Paris, Versailles, Midway, Danville, Harrodsburg, and Athens once every six months.