Genuine Aaron Willard Banjo Clock?

tommykat1

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I'm receiving this clock as a gift, and was initially excited about coveting what I expected to be a genuine Aaron Willard banjo clock. However, after reading the detailed information on this great forum, I'm now questioning the clock's validity. As I understand, Aaron Willard didn't make many banjos, nor did he sign his movements, nor does the signature appear to be genuine, from Wikipedia research. Thus, this may be an 1800s "copy clock" to which someone added a signature sometime in its history to hoodwink a future buyer. Yikes! Unfortunately, I can't get inside the case to inspect the movement, as I have not yet received the clock.

Thoughts about value and validity?


AWillard 1.jpg


AWillard 2.jpg
 
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bruce linde

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again, there's no way to assess originality without more detailed photos from all sides, outside and in....
 

Chris.K

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again, there's no way to assess originality without more detailed photos from all sides, outside and in....
I 100% agree with you as more info is needed. I posted the link for general reference for signatures among other nuances.
 

tommykat1

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I finally got this beautiful clock home after a month a half, cleared my schedule of other activities and got her apart. Lots of extended family history on this one, which I'll go into later.

during this two month wait, I obtained a copy of Paul Foley's incredible book on Willard Patent timepieces, and have been boning up on my banjo clock history.

I have my own thoughts and conclusions on the heredity of this clock, but will wait till the experts weigh in before I offer an opinion.

I can post any additional photos you like. Here are the ones I think important.

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tommykat1

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I finally got this beautiful clock home after a month a half, cleared my schedule of other activities and got her apart. Lots of extended family history on this one, which I'll go into later.

during this two month wait, I obtained a copy of Paul Foley's incredible book on Willard Patent timepieces, and have been boning up on my banjo clock history.

I have my own thoughts and conclusions on the heredity of this clock, but will wait till the experts weigh in before I offer an opinion.

I can post any additional photos you like. Here are the ones I think important.

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Bernhard J.

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It seems as if the signature was applied after the cracking of the dial surface occured, but I may be wrong. It looks as if at least some cracks are filled with black paint.

If you do not like it, I will be happy to take it, authentic or not :);) It is beautiful!

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Andy Dervan

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Unfortunately, it is very unlikely there is any connection between this clock and Aaron Willard.

The movement was manufactured in N. Attleboro, MA earliest 1840s and Aaron Willard was in semi-retirement by then and timepiece production in Boston was factory production by E. Howard, John Sawin, etc.

Case styles by 1840s were much simpler and gilt frame case style was long gone.

Look a Paul Foley's book for N. Attleboro clock production vs. clocks produced in Roxbury ca 1810 and Boston 1820s.

There are very few signed Aaron Willard clocks that people believe signature is real. This signature was added many years later.

It is an interesting old timepiece, but not close to early period when Aaron was active clockmaker. He manufactured tall clocks and shelf clocks and left timepiece manufacturing to his older brother, Simon.

There was effort in late 19th and early 20th century to create presentation timepieces and this is a perfect example, Zea and Cheney documented this in the book on Willards published in early 1990s.

Andy Dervan
 
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tommykat1

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Unfortunately, it is very unlikely there is any connection between this clock and Aaron Willard.

The movement was manufactured in N. Attleboro, MA earliest 1840s and Aaron Willard was in semi-retirement by then and timepiece production in Boston was factory production by E. Howard, John Sawin, etc.

Case styles by 1840s were much simpler and gilt frame case style was long gone.

Look a Paul Foley's book for N. Attleboro clock production vs. clocks produced in Roxbury ca 1810 and Boston 1820s.

There are very few signed Aaron Willard clocks that people believe signature is real. This signature was added many years later.

It is an interesting old timepiece, but not close to early period when Aaron was active clockmaker. He manufactured tall clocks and shelf clocks and left timepiece manufacturing to his older brother, Simon.

There was effort in late 19th and early 20th century to create presentation timepieces and this is a perfect example, Zea and Cheney documented this in the book on Willards published in early 1990s.

Andy Dervan
Andy, I have studied the Foley/Willard book diligently. Some of what you say I believe to be true. Granted the clock is not likely a Willard. Note that Aaron Willard, Jr. signed his clocks "Aaron Willard" (dropping the "Jr.") after his father, the senior Willard, retired. That said, I acknowledge it's unlikely a Willard Jr. clock either, as there are some distinctly contradictory attributes.

I have a different theory. Note the closest match to my clock case is on P. 99, Figure 229, Curtis & Dunning from Burlington Vermont. However, the movement appears closest to Horace Tift, P. 169, Figure 401. No other attributes of my clock, however, resemble Tift's works. There are too many details that don't match. Tifts had a two piece pine backboard, J hook latches, sidearms with straight bar dividers, stamped cast iron weight, different pendulum tie-down, less elaborate tablets (or none at all), different dial mounting, and dial signed by Tift. My clock case is easily distinguished from a Tift, as it shows earlier attributes from different makers, again, closest to Curtis & Dunning.

If you closely examine the movement photo I posted that shows the mounting fasteners, the bolts appear to be newer than the other fasteners on the clock case. Thus, I surmise that the clock could be a marriage of Curtis & Dunning with a later Tift replacement movement.

Other tell-tale signs of a replacement: the case appears to be for a 4" movement (or larger), and mine is 3-3/4". There is a rectangular "shim" nailed into place that supports the movement. It does not rest on the case struts, as most (but not all) do. I can find no examples of a rectangular "shim" fastened in place to support a shorter movement. Thus, I surmise the shim was installed with the replacement.

Also, to add further confusion, I've bookmarked several other NAWCC threads where Willard clocks have been verified as authentic that have similar movements to mine, i.e., without the diagonal mounting holes in the upper plate, among other details. Now that I have the Foley book--which I have spent the last month reviewing--I find it's fairly easy to spot what's authentic and not. Perhaps the other threads contain incorrect conclusions...or maybe mine is genuine after all! I'm leaning toward the former.
 

tommykat1

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Note that the clock's lineage is known from 1900 on. It was purchased by my cousins' great-grandfather on her mother's side, George F. Rodiek, as an antique in New York City, 1900, shortly before his marriage engagement. Thus the assumption that it could be a "new presentation timepiece" from the late 1800s or later is false.

George Rodiek had a colorful history, being the consul to Germany before WWI, and a wealthy German expat and naturalized American citizen who made his fortune in Hawaii, and later settled in San Francisco. But he was surrounded by espionage allegations in WWI that cost him his reputation and title: George Rodiek - Wikipedia

The clock was passed from Rodiek to my cousins' maternal grandparents, who resided in Ross, CA from 1942 to the mid 1990s, then it went to my cousins' parents' home in Oakland, CA until last month. The attached business card shows an appraisal at the time of its gifting in the 90s.

Note that this fabulous gem (regardless of whether it's a genuine Willard or not) was gifted to me for my interest in horology. My cousins felt it was fitting that it go to a loving caretaker, rather than be auctioned off to someone who doesn't care. I know how fortunate I am to have this priceless piece of history, and I don't plan on ever letting it go!
 
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bruce linde

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welcome to the world of banjo clocks. it could be any kind of mashup of parts... banjo clocks are typically either obviously/mostly original with maybe one or two replacement parts, or what you have... a "who knows?" different elements resembling certain makers is no guarantee of anything... and there were a lot of makers out there in addition to what foley covers in his book.

the signature seems bogus to me, even if the dial appears to be origami to the case (based on no extra holes in the head where it's secured.

nawcc threads where clocks are 'deemed authentic' is not the same as andy demeter, steve petrucelli, john delaney or paul foley saying the same. in fact, why don't you try to reach out to one of the experts?

still.. a lovely clock and a heck of a gift.
 
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tommykat1

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welcome to the world of banjo clocks. it could be any kind of mashup of parts... banjo clocks are typically either obviously/mostly original with maybe one or two replacement parts, or what you have... a "who knows?" different elements resembling certain makers is no guarantee of anything... and there were a lot of makers out there in addition to what foley covers in his book.

the signature seems bogus to me, even if the dial appears to be origami to the case (based on no extra holes in the head where it's secured.

nawcc threads where clocks are 'deemed authentic' is not the same as andy demeter, steve petrucelli, john delaney or paul foley saying the same. in fact, why don't you try to reach out to one of the experts?

still.. a lovely clock and a heck of a gift.
Thanks, Bruce. I plan to contact one of the experts, per your suggestion.

As a start, I went to Steve Petrocelli's site, Adam's Brown, to check things out. Lo and behold, I found a clock that's a dead ringer for mine, with extremely similar attributes. This clock is advertised as a "Willard School Gold Front Presentation Banjo Clock C. 1820 Outstanding Original Glasses & Gilding!...for the princely asking price of $7,800.

And here's a screen shot of the movement, showing no diagonal mounting holes, and the small holes to either side of the bridge, like mine:

Screenshot_20220922-235023_Chrome.jpg

I think if you look closely, this clock has more in common with mine than what we see in the Foley book. Similar gilding, elaborate early tablets, movement, sidearm shapes, interior frame construction, small diameter pulley, finial and bottom ornamentation.

The only things I spot different are the hands (mine are moon style vs. umbrella style), three dial glass mounting screws and pendulum strap fastener.

I'll be interested in what Steve has to say.
 
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rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Yes. Welcome to the world of banjo clocks.

They have been collected for > 100 years leading to much hanky panky that now has age and continues to confound.

The Willard family has been revered & hailed as America’s first family of clock making. As a result, much sacred mythology & misconception has been passed down as gospel truth. No clock, in the minds of many, has more prestige & value than a Willard.

It also means that the Willards made more clocks after they were dead than when alive. Many clocks acquired a Willard name on the dial. In 1900, the connoisseurship of clocks, and many American antiques, for that matter, wasn’t very good.

Assigning a maker to a banjo is often difficult. Considered are characteristics of the movement, how it mounts, case construction, sidearms used, how they are attached, yah-dah, yah-dah, yah-dah. And still most remain unattributable. Because of the plethora of spurious dial signatures, it is probably the least reliable indicator.

I feel that the signature on your dial is a clumsy addition.

Wouldn’t bet the family farm on the tablet. If it’s original, type used somewhat later on.

To my eyes, the movement is small, suggesting a late movement.

Regardless, it’s a very decorative clock & family heirloom. Enjoy it for that.

RM
 
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Jim DuBois

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RM is right on the money that you have a clock to enjoy. And Andy is correct in suggesting it is of a later period versus an earlier timepiece. And I suspect we have collectively beat the signature to death already. All that said, several things say "not Willard school" very quickly. Little things like the crutch is of brass, both a later "feature" and not generally a Willard school detail. Then we had brass screws holding the bridge on the movement. Not a Willard school trait. The pendulum tie-down is also not WS. The dial itself is not well executed, just a bit rough and not well-rounded as a blank.

Here is an arguably Aaron Willard Jr. movement. There are folks who think the stamp is a later work, I am not in agreement. And the dials pictured (sorry about a couple of them being alarm dials) demonstrate a certain precision appearance most often seen in Willard school clocks. I would guess the numbers have been strengthened on a couple of these examples.

The wooden strip under your movement is generally what we consider a "weight stop. It keeps overzealous owners from winding the weight and pulley all the way up into the movement and stopping the clock. Often a nail or screw will serve the same purpose in other clocks.

All that said, I would be happy to own your clock; none of what is suggested above is intended to disparage your clock, just to educate a bit.

259095903_10224000843347554_5380401559493837235_n.jpg 260190728_10224000843627561_3719850602533976851_n.jpg 175961495_10222138746870441_8541015329047955463_n.jpg Screenshot_2020-03-10 Aaron Willard Jr Alarm Banjo Clock.png 0629claron_det5_sm.jpg ydoBNGFHaxsmsDBHA-0WaQxx.jpg 1144402_view 03_03.jpg 1005268_view 05_05.jpg
 

tommykat1

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Yes. Welcome to the world of banjo clocks.

They have been collected for > 100 years leading to much hanky panky that now has age and continues to confound.

The Willard family has been revered & hailed as America’s first family of clock making. As a result, much sacred mythology & misconception has been passed down as gospel truth. No clock, in the minds of many, has more prestige & value than a Willard.

It also means that the Willards made more clocks after they were dead than when alive. Many clocks acquired a Willard name on the dial. In 1900, the connoisseurship of clocks, and many American antiques, for that matter, wasn’t very good.

Assigning a maker to a banjo is often difficult. Considered are characteristics of the movement, how it mounts, case construction, sidearms used, how they are attached, yah-dah, yah-dah, yah-dah. And still most remain unattributable. Because of the plethora of spurious dial signatures, it is probably the least reliable indicator.

I feel that the signature on your dial is a clumsy addition.

Wouldn’t bet the family farm on the tablet. If it’s original, type used somewhat later on.

To my eyes, the movement is small, suggesting a late movement.

Regardless, it’s a very decorative clock & family heirloom. Enjoy it for that.

RM
Thank you, RM, for weighing in. Banjo clocks have such a wonderful history, and are such lovely timepieces..
 

tommykat1

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RM is right on the money that you have a clock to enjoy. And Andy is correct in suggesting it is of a later period versus an earlier timepiece. And I suspect we have collectively beat the signature to death already. All that said, several things say "not Willard school" very quickly. Little things like the crutch is of brass, both a later "feature" and not generally a Willard school detail. Then we had brass screws holding the bridge on the movement. Not a Willard school trait. The pendulum tie-down is also not WS. The dial itself is not well executed, just a bit rough and not well-rounded as a blank.

Here is an arguably Aaron Willard Jr. movement. There are folks who think the stamp is a later work, I am not in agreement. And the dials pictured (sorry about a couple of them being alarm dials) demonstrate a certain precision appearance most often seen in Willard school clocks. I would guess the numbers have been strengthened on a couple of these examples.

The wooden strip under your movement is generally what we consider a "weight stop. It keeps overzealous owners from winding the weight and pulley all the way up into the movement and stopping the clock. Often a nail or screw will serve the same purpose in other clocks.

All that said, I would be happy to own your clock; none of what is suggested above is intended to disparage your clock, just to educate a bit.

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Thank you, Jim, for your detailed analysis. Some of your observations go beyond the Foley/Willard book, especially your description of crutch and bridge screws.

Note that after receiving the clock last month, dismantling it in the last few days, and reading the Foley book from cover to cover, I also believe this to be an inauthentic Willard banjo, but a nearly 200 year old heirloom I will certainly enjoy due to its incredible functional beauty and family history.
 
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Bruce Barnes

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I agree with RM....we have students with a thirst for knowledge and willing to endeavor in research,rather than the inert individual that just stands and has momentary interest.
If this patented timepiece wasn't in storage I would pull the works and commence my study.
Bruce

all wood banjo.jpg
 

tommykat1

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I wish to complement the OP for his quest for knowledge acquired through his own reading & study and seeking input from participants of the Forum.

I am also most impressed by his response to that input. Some could learn from his example.

RM
Thank you, RM, you're very kind. I come to this forum in reverence, and have learned a lot in my time here. I believe that the experts should be respected for the knowledge gained through many years within the horology guild.

I posted my coveted family banjo with hopeful expectations of a Willard connection, but also with the foreknowledge that it likely wasn't so. And now I know so much more.

BTW, one of my cousins lives in England, and she is enjoying every word of this thread. She says, "You have turned the clock into a source of curiosity and appreciation, removing the burden of legacy...I love that there are experts, passionate collectors and wonderful cousins who make these heirlooms part of the family." Words as beautiful as the clock.

The only problem I have now is similar to what the owner of a 1960s AC Cobra replica faces on every drive: what do you say to an admirer who asks, "Is it the real thing?" Saying it's an "antique replica" just doesn't sound right!
 

Teach

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The only problem I have now is similar to what the owner of a 1960s AC Cobra replica faces on every drive: what do you say to an admirer who asks, "Is it the real thing?" Saying it's an "antique replica" just doesn't sound right!
I have a number of classic vehicles and have seriously considered purchasing the right Porsche Speedster replica, but know instinctively that I would quickly tire of hearing that question.
 

Jim DuBois

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had a few, and mostly the question didn't bother me all that much. If you have the "want" do it and damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. The 550 Spyder was the most fun. But, HP is your friend. My first Speerster had about 60 hp, the second 160, the third 225. But, you can hurt yourself with these little toys...and the Spyder had the 225 hp engine for a bit.

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tommykat1

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I have a number of classic vehicles and have seriously considered purchasing the right Porsche Speedster replica, but know instinctively that I would quickly tire of hearing that question.
I'm fortunate to be the caretaker of a Jaguar E-Type for 51 years--the real thing. I know how lucky I am.

I can handle the banjo clock questions, but a replica car would be tough! :)

Flying A Station.jpg
 

tommykat1

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had a few, and mostly the question didn't bother me all that much. If you have the "want" do it and damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. The 550 Spyder was the most fun. But, HP is your friend. My first Speerster had about 60 hp, the second 160, the third 225. But, you can hurt yourself with these little toys...and the Spyder had the 225 hp engine for a bit.

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Beautiful cars, all!
 

tommykat1

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Are the gas pumps & globes yours, too?
This is an old gas station in Oregon City, OR that is now a custom sign shop. The owner has all kinds of cool memorabilia in and around it, mostly relating to Flying A Gasoline. Inside, there's a vintage soda fountain and Oregon license plates of every year since the beginning, around the ceiling. Also, a cool 1950s cigarette machine that he said he overpaid for until he opened it up and found over 50 silver dollars inside, plus old half-dollars and quarters.
 
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Jim DuBois

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Right you are. This is an early 1967, about 200 cars before they removed the covered headlights.
Could not live with the headlights and the USA standard 5 mph impact bumpers. A friend had one and basically converted it back to a 1967 appearance. And getting rid of the crash box in 64 left just a few highly desirable cars before 68
 

Bernhard J.

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Right you are. This is an early 1967, about 200 cars before they removed the covered headlights.
I need to object zanken.gif . I owned a Series III V12 coupe, with 3.54 diff, for about 15 years. On mountain roads this combination was good for showing modern Porsches (modern in the 90s) what a real sportscar is. I gave the car (in really good fettle) to a charity auction (100% for a "Tafel", a German organisation providing food products for persons in need), becaused I moved to cars from the north of Italy rotwerd.gif .
 
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