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  1. #1
    Registered User George Nelson's Avatar
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    Question Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions

    Hi, All,

    I am seriously considering the purchase of my first patent timepiece clock, and due to my complete inexperience with these usually expensive clocks, I have a few questions about one that I might be able to buy at a pretty attractive price. Here are my questions:

    - Without a name on the dial or a label, is it actually possible to determine a maker? I know that many of these clocks were made with parts obtained from various cottage industry makers, so that most complete clocks cannot usually be attributed to a specific maker, only a specific area. Is this assumption correct?

    - From my pictures, can anyone tell me what the missing pendulum tie down should look like?

    - Can anyone offer an opinion as to whether or not the hands might be original, period hands?

    Sorry, but I don't have any more good pictures at this time. I'll post more later, as they become available. The seller is taking his time providing them to me. The one picture of the overall case is far too poor to post!

    Thanks to all for any help that can be provided!

    Warmest regards,

    George

  2. #2

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    Hello George,

    It is almost impossible to identify unsigned timepieces. The movement production quickly became standardized so there are few differences.

    The big differences is how movements are mounted can indicate where the movement was made; there are some cases characteristics that indicate where it was made, but not whom.

    I would not purchase it without actually seeing it; clocks have been altered over the years. Photographs really don't always highlight issues unless taken by known individuals and seller is not going providing damaging photographs.

    Pass on it, if there are any issues - so many clocks have altered (my comment above).

    You can private email me any questions.

    Andy Dervan

  3. #3
    Registered User George Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions

    Hello, Andy and All,

    Good Grief! I just realized that I quite stupidly forgot to attach the intended photos to my first posting! Old age is really getting to me, I fear!

    Andy, your 'protective' comments are most appreciated, and I was hoping that you might join in with the discussion. Your experience and expertise with patent timepieces is quite welcome and appreciated, as is everyone else's!

    I will not enter into a purchase blindly, as I well know at least some of the pitfalls of a patent timepiece acquisition, and why I'm posting here. I have been provided with many more photos, all of which I attach. The following is what I am SURE of about this clock:

    Lower tablet is an old replacement, on period glass
    Throat tablet possibly original, but with in-painting and restoration of the white background and border. Paintings are of an acceptable-to-me quality
    Gold has been not so well touched up
    Timepiece is commonly referred to as a 'presentation' banjo or patent timepiece
    Replaced convex upper bezel glass
    Single, center bolt movement mounting
    Finial is an appropriate(? opinions solicited) replacement with a crack in the shell, but of questionable vintage
    The circular cutout in the keystone most likely means a "Concord" attribution, but not really sure what that means
    The movement has what is called a "butterfly" suspension bridge
    The clock exhibits what is possibly referred to as a "telephone" tiedown, which is incomplete
    Weight is most likely period, with a "duck bill" type of hook, but cannot be determined to be original to the clock

    Now, for what I don't know:

    Are the hands original or at least period?
    Is circa 1820 a good guess as to birth time frame?
    Is the tie down original, and, if so, what does the missing piece look like?
    Am I correct in assuming that the case, including throat, base or bottom, doors and head piece all started life out together?
    Is a convex glass an appropriate replacement? If so, is there a source for one made of 'period' glass? What should it look like? Should it be wavy or imperfect as are the glasses in my 1830s vintage clocks with flat glass?
    I have no pictures of how the glass is installed. Should it have putty or a different method of being secured within the bezel?
    From the pictures, can anyone tell me if the bezel seems original? Should it be seamless?

    So many questions! Sorry to be overwhelming, but as I said, this might well be my first foray into the world of patent timepieces. I have read many of the posts within the forums about these types of clocks. There are many, many pitfalls and traps in acquiring one. However, my attitude toward this is that the timepiece is attractive to me, and seems fairly complete when compared to others in my price range. Acquisition will not be a major expense, as I have little money lately for clock acquisition. I can afford this one, and I like it.

    So, my friends, let the comments, opinions, criticisms and facts begin! I am very grateful to all my friends on these boards. Through you, I have learned so very much! I hope to begin my patent timepiece education with your comments!

    Warmest regards,

    George
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    Hello George,

    Your clock was made originally in Concord, MA; dating it is difficult as the clock is unsigned so I would rather state 1820s than a year. It has four key Concord features: thick head cutout, butterfly bridge, cutout on lower right keystone, and downturned ends for pendulum tiedown.

    The case, movement, and dial are probably original. The hands are possibly original; I would have expected with higher end dial gilt ring inside chapter a fancier style hands. Brass sidearms are consistent with Concord timepieces.

    I doubt the finial is original, but it is probably appropriate replacement. Most original clocks have gilded acorn finials.

    Both tablets are nice, but I believe that they are later replacements. They are not consistent with original Concord tablets, and Aurora was typically found on later timepieces.

    Overall, it is nice looking timepiece.

    Andy Dervan

  5. #5
    Registered User George Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: Andy Dervan)

    Andy,

    Thanks so very much for your near-instant response! Your expert opinion is especially valuable to me!

    Can you spare the time to give me an example or description of what appropriate tablet art should be? Also, should I consider replacing the top finial with a more proper one should I acquire the clock? Lastly, your thoughts about the bezel glass?

    Thanks so much, Andy. You have already managed to answer most of my questions. Perhaps a bit of an unfair request here, but is this clock worth acquiring in your opinion?

    Gratefully,

    George

  6. #6

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    Hello George,

    See my private message.

    Andy

  7. #7
    Registered User George Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: Andy Dervan)

    My personal thanks go out to Andy for his very valuable help with my decision and his PM. I'll post here if I actually manage to acquire the timepiece!

    Best to all,

    George

  8. #8
    Registered User George Nelson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    Hi, All,

    I have been remiss on posting details about this clock. I did indeed purchase it, and my posting delay has been for two reasons: first, because I wanted to get all of my facts straight before posting, and the second is that the clock was a long time in coming. It survived shipping rather well, and am just now beginning to examine it. So far, so good!

    I have LOTS of questions, but will start with my first and most important discovery, one which is VERY exciting to me!

    Please reference the pictures at the beginning of this thread and the ones attached to this update.

    Within the body of this clock, I found a small, clear glass capsule rattling around inside. It is a true wonder that it survived shipping intact, as it was completely loose- not secured or wrapped in any way by the seller. The clock was otherwise very, very well packed and survived shipping quite well. I have surmised that the capsule was probably wedged within the case somewhere, possibly behind the weight shield, unbeknownst to the seller, and became dislodged during shipping. It does not look like the metal shield has ever been removed. It is nailed in place and appears completely undisturbed.

    Within the tightly corked container was an age-darkened piece of paper, folded so it would fit snugly inside. And snug it was, as it took me two very careful hours trying to coax it out! The paper is so very fragile, and I did not want to harm it in any way. The paper had relaxed a bit in its little preservation chamber, and the neck and opening of the bottle was smaller than was the interior. However, out it came, millimeter by millimeter. Whew! I spent another hour carefully unfolding it with my rubber-tipped tweezers, shaking all of the time.

    What I found was an old repair ticket dated May(?) 22, 1879, and an apparently original instruction sheet for the clock, identifying it as an L Curtis, and I have guessed that it might be most likely Lemuel! Of course, I was totally thrilled, but, being who I am, was also a bit suspicious as well. Positive ID of an unmarked banjo is near impossible, as we all know, and, if true, this would be an incredible stroke of luck!

    So, I once again took advantage of my friendship with several professionals at the University of Tennessee here in Knoxville to answer some of my questions. In rather aggressively imposing upon their weekends in my enthusiasm, I learned that the glass capsule was likely a mid-to-late 1800s pill bottle, probably containing liver pills or something similar. The cork displayed evidence of the same period, including manufacturing marks, (steam pressed and shaved to shape, not molded, I have been informed) and the paper the instructions were printed on was definitely early 1800s in origin, but with no watermark to give it any hope of a positive ID with regard to a more specific time frame.

    I was admonished for not letting my friends perform the opening and removal ceremonies, as they reported that I took a BIG chance doing so myself. They were unable to determine how long the little bottle had been sealed, as I removed any chance of the air within it being tested when I went out on my own. However, it could not possibly have been sealed any sooner than 1879, due to the inclusion of the repair ticket. It was discolored, and showed signs of being exposed for a while. So did the instruction label/sheet, as it was much darker on one side than the other, evidence of the printed side being exposed for a time. So, we came to the conclusion that everything had been accomplished around 1900 or so. It seems that the instructions and the repair ticket were important to one of the clock’s previous owners, as they had taken the time to “preserve” both.

    I’ve transcribed the entire label due to the fact that my good camera committed suicide in a fall from my workbench, resulting in about 361 pieces of the $600 camera being scattered all over the garage floor… Sorry about the quality of these images.

    “DIRECTIONS FOR PUTTING UP THE TIMEPIECE”

    “Drive a brad in the wall where it is to be placed and suspend the Timepiece upon it. Open the lower door which is un-fastened by turning a button a little forward with the Key. Loosen the pendulum by which the Timepiece may be plumbed, observing that it hangs free of the case and in a line with the point where it was confined; then screw it to the wall with two screws through the back. Put the pendulum in motion. The weight is already wound up. Set it with the minute hand which may be turned backwards or forwards. To make the Timepiece go faster raise the pendulum ball by the screw at the bottom, to make it go slower, lower the ball with the same screw.
    The Timepieces are an improvement upon all others, as they go by a Weight instead of a Spring and the pendulum being of a longer calculation than in any other small pieces, renders it more accurate and has proved to keep better time. The President of the United States having granted a Patent for them, they are made by license from the Patentee by L. Curtis, Concord Massachusetts.”

    All of the capitalization and punctuation is as was printed on the sheet.

    In conclusion, my clock collecting friends, I’ve checked out what I can about my discovery, and everything seems OK so far. I do know that it is impossible to determine if the “preserved” label is truly original to this clock, as it was loose and not glued anywhere on the clock itself. Now, I need some opinions from you!

    Anything you think might be wrong here? Is this an actual Lemuel Curtis patent timepiece? Most of the physical characteristics tell me yes, and the label discovery is another tick (pun intended) in its favor. Is there possibly another L. Curtis that made banjos? Here is a list of the features that lead me to believe it is a true Lemuel Curtis product:

    1.) Movement mounted by 1 screw through back of case (Boston or Concord feature)
    2.) Minimal cutout of head (meaning very thick headpiece walls)
    3.) Lower right corner of keystone is cutout.*
    4.) Butterfly shaped pendulum suspension bridge
    5.) Round steel crutch wire
    6.) Upside down appearance of pendulum tie down (missing retaining plate)
    7.) Broad, sweeping radius of side arms

    * In my short time of research, I have learned that Curtis pioneered the notch idea to avoid the suspension tab from hopping over the bridge. With this design, if the suspension spring is proper and just long enough to clear the cannon pinion (where hands attach) when operating, it is impossible for the suspension to hop out of the bridge when being transported or laid down unless you remove the dial and push the pendulum over to the notch and then push up.

    Has anyone ever heard of a label attached to or loose within a patent timepiece like this? Have I surmised all of my facts correctly? Let me hear from you experts and anyone else, OK?

    I am quite excited about this clock, my first patent timepiece or "Banjo"!

    Warmest regards,

    George Nelson, feeling very lucky so far…
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    Time is a great story teller... Irish Proverb

  9. #9

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    Great story, congratulations on your time capsule.

    One of my clocks has a pasted label inside giving some history to date, added about 1900, but your find is in a completely different league.
    Nick, lots to learn, late starter.

  10. #10
    Registered user. ballistarius's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: George Nelson)

    You've been really fortunate, George!
    Congratulations and many thanks for sharing your interesting find!

    Aitor
    It's all an accident, an accident of hands. Mine, others, all without mind, from one extreme to another, but neither works nor will ever. Steiner

  11. #11
    Registered User Jim DuBois's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: ballistarius)

    Well George, it looks like you have done it again. To your many questions it looks like most have been responded to already. But let me toss in my 2 cents worth. The hands look proper and period. I tend to associate them with the slightly later date period of the clock, ie as Andy suggests 1820 ish.....that all goes along with the center bolt mounting of the movement, the style of the dial, and so forth. But the real find is the paper label / instructions. May I suggest you have that label conserved by a specialist? I would think they might well be able to make it one piece again, remove or deal with the acid remaining in the paper, and preserve it properly. Since I am privy to the financials on this let me state I have paid more for clock labels than you have in the clock.....that is a highly unusual and rare piece of paper you have. I have seen one or two similar bills of sale, or warranty statements, for banjos......that is it. A really nice find!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim DuBois View Post
    Well George, it looks like you have done it again. To your many questions it looks like most have been responded to already. But let me toss in my 2 cents worth. The hands look proper and period. I tend to associate them with the slightly later date period of the clock, ie as Andy suggests 1820 ish.....that all goes along with the center bolt mounting of the movement, the style of the dial, and so forth. But the real find is the paper label / instructions. May I suggest you have that label conserved by a specialist? I would think they might well be able to make it one piece again, remove or deal with the acid remaining in the paper, and preserve it properly. Since I am privy to the financials on this let me state I have paid more for clock labels than you have in the clock.....that is a highly unusual and rare piece of paper you have. I have seen one or two similar bills of sale, or warranty statements, for banjos......that is it. A really nice find!
    I have no new facts to add at this point, but some thoughts. I apologize if some of this is repetition.

    Screams "Concord, MA".

    If you have a copy of Paul Foley's excellent book, "Willard's Patent Timepieces", he has a very nice section on the Concord, MA makers including L. Curtis. See pages 75-82, especially pages 77 to 78.

    You will see the many similarities between your clock and the examples therein. Most of the salient points have already been mentioned by others. Just to throw out/emphasize a few more. Note how the "head" of your banjo is constructed and cut out for the movement, the glue blocks in the head and "box", the finial plinth, etc, etc. Interesting little tidbit that ties into another feature of your clock. According to Foley, "Curtis is credited with being the first to incorporate mounting his movements with a machine thread screw from the rear through the backboard into the rear movement plate" (page 110).

    RE: the hands. Based upon nothing more than the pix, I do think there is a very good probability that they are "right". In the above cited reference, there are clocks by 2 other Concord, MA makers, Joseph Dyar and Samuel Whiting, with what appear to be virtually identical sets of hands. If not original to the clock, that type was used/available at that time and used by that "school" of clock making.

    RE: the glasses. I would love to see pix of the backs of the glasses before making a judgement. You indicate that the lower is a replacement. Just to play devil's advocate. There are banjos extant with "Aurora" glasses from the 18-teens to 1820's. Neoclassicism was popular and elements were used in that time period in architecture, furniture design, fashions, etc, etc. Furthermore, his brother Benjamin was an ornamental painter who supplied some flashy glasses. Just a thought.

    RE: the weight. Again, in Foley, there are LC clocks pictured with "duck bill" hook weights. My recollection is that the Willards used those, too? He was a Willard apprentice. Though he made a number of changes seen as improvements to the design and construction of the Patent Timepiece, he may have continued doing other things as he learned during his apprenticeship.

    Finding a label like that. WOW. If I look closely at the pix, I think I see almost like striations in the paper?? Laid paper, a type of paper used in that period, would have similar striations when held up to the light. Those striations resulted from the manufacturing process. Another type of paper, woven, was also used and would not have those striations.

    One question I have is were those labels typically glued or tacked some place into the clock? If so, where and is there evidence of such?

    Yes, congratulations upon acquiring a wonderful piece of Americana and thanks for sharing.

    Ah yes, there is a glimmer of hope.

    RM
    Last edited by rmarkowitz1_cee4a1; 05-09-2017 at 08:20 AM.

  13. #13
    Registered User Jim DuBois's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions (By: rmarkowitz1_cee4a1)

    RM, I think the lack of space to post warranty statements or bill of sales inside a banjo case is one of the issues. This led to the early demise of many such pieces of paper, or at least the separation of clock and paperwork over the years. I do recall seeing one glued on the lower door backside of a wood front banjo at one time or another. I think there is a photo of the same in one of the various clock books but I have not yet found it today.... the several labels I have owned at one time or another were all found loose in stacks of paper from someone's estate papers. And all those labels were for wood works, not banjos (timepieces), several of these can be seen in Phillip Morris' book on American Wood Works Tall Clocks.

    From time to time we do find such paperwork glued into cases, particularly tall clocks as they have the real estate to do so. So, to repeat myself, to find one for a banjo in decent shape, save the divisions of the paper itself, is very much a good thing. Quite rare and highly desirable IMO and worthy of conservation. A signed bill of sale by Curtis would be even better but what George has now is very rare...I don't recall ever seeing anything similar for a banjo...I suspect Paul Foley would like some photos of the label.....here is what can happen to old labels, this clock has had 2 such labels, one over pasting the other, as well as a record of it's sale and interest and the like paid out.....these have nothing to do with George's timepiece but are suggestive as to why his finding the preserved piece of paper in overall great shape is very special.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim DuBois View Post
    RM, I think the lack of space to post warranty statements or bill of sales inside a banjo case is one of the issues. This led to the early demise of many such pieces of paper, or at least the separation of clock and paperwork over the years. I do recall seeing one glued on the lower door backside of a wood front banjo at one time or another. I think there is a photo of the same in one of the various clock books but I have not yet found it today.... the several labels I have owned at one time or another were all found loose in stacks of paper from someone's estate papers. And all those labels were for wood works, not banjos (timepieces), several of these can be seen in Phillip Morris' book on American Wood Works Tall Clocks.

    From time to time we do find such paperwork glued into cases, particularly tall clocks as they have the real estate to do so. So, to repeat myself, to find one for a banjo in decent shape, save the divisions of the paper itself, is very much a good thing. Quite rare and highly desirable IMO and worthy of conservation. A signed bill of sale by Curtis would be even better but what George has now is very rare...I don't recall ever seeing anything similar for a banjo...I suspect Paul Foley would like some photos of the label.....here is what can happen to old labels, this clock has had 2 such labels, one over pasting the other, as well as a record of it's sale and interest and the like paid out.....these have nothing to do with George's timepiece but are suggestive as to why his finding the preserved piece of paper in overall great shape is very special.
    Points well taken and I agree as to why this paperwork pertaining to banjos are probably so infrequently found.

    I too have some vague memory of a picture in a book of the back of a banjo box tablet to which the original receipt was pasted. Can't place it and not able to go digging around just now.

    Not really the same thing, but here's a repair label on the back of what I believe to be the original glass in a roughly contemporaneous Boston area presentation banjo clock:



    This clock made it to Maine and it was at least 30 years old when that label was placed there. The subject clock of this thread made it to VT based upon the pictured repair label. These things were prized possessions and they moved with the family and obviously gave long service! A tribute to their makers.

    I will add that Howard banjos and some of their other wall regulators may have labels pasted in them. Here's an original but very faded one on the bottom board of a Howard #4:



    Here's the same one but more legible label attached to the baffle in a Howard # 70:



    Of course, these are much later clocks and all of what I'm posting here is a bit like comparing apples to cumquats.

    RM

    PS: I WANT TO SHOW THE PIX IN LINE BUT NOT GIANT SIZED. CAN ONE OF THE MODERATORS HELP TO ACHIEVE THAT? THANKS.
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  15. #15
    Registered User Jim DuBois's Avatar
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    Default Re: Patent Timepiece/Banjo Questions

    here is one loose receipt for payment of a repair of Currier banjo as well as some other items
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