• The NAWCC Museum and Library & Research Center are currently open. Please check the Visiting Schedule for Days and Hours at the bottom of the Visit Page.

Gesso front ogee by H. Welton & Co.

Peter A. Nunes

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Mar 3, 2006
1,657
20
38
Rhode Island
www.cogcounters.org
Country
Region
I swore off ogees around 1971, when I decided that I would become a "serious" clock collector. During the intervening decades, I have somewhat succeeded in avoiding them, but once in a while one comes along that has something about it that appeals to me- they are not all just run-of-the-mill ogees. The one at hand, which recently came my way, is in that category. I didn't think much of it at first, since it is an ogee, first of all, and also because I assumed it to have a radiator paint gold finish on the decorative ogee molding. A friend recently pointed out that he thought these were "rare", for ogees, anyway, and he had only seen two in his 40 year collecting career. I agreed that I hadn't seen many either- just this one and one on our favorite auction website. So, I looked at it again, and liked what I saw. The case is in remarkably good shape, and the gold, on close inspection, appears to be original. By 1841 or 2, when this was probably made, cheap alternatives to gold leaf had been developed, and the clock industry, ever eager to produce cheaper clocks at a greater margin, responded enthusiastically. When moldings on clocks are re-painted, there is always some evidence of it in the form of over-runs, splotches, drips, etc., and this clock displays none of that. I think it is some sort of original gold or bronze powder paint.

I've also long had a soft spot for Hiram and Heman Welton and their companies. Hiram was an employee of Eli Terry Junior; this story has been told elsewhere, and doesn't need to be repeated here. Suffice it to say theirs were interesting firms, with ogee movements a bit different that the rest. The "H" in H. Welton & Co. was Heman, not Hiram, who remained a partner and movement maker. Heman had some capitol, apparently, so was the more "important" partner.

The mirror on this clock is clearly original- the putty is all original, as is the cardboard backer in the door, which is decorated with several notations of repairers, the first dated December 15th, 1852- the latest notation is from October, 1934. Just great provenance!

There is at least one other gesso front ogee posted here on the message board- I would be interested in knowing if many others are lurking out there- post them if you can.

An interesting note- I've looked at 4 of these on the interweb, and one in Horology Americana, by Dworetsky & Dickstein. All the examples seem to have identical decoration, likely made with the same molds. If this is true, it points out once again the cross-pollination and cooperation that was going on in the early 1840s among manufacturers.

weltongesso.jpg weltongessolabel.jpg weltongessomovement.jpg weltongessotabletback.jpg
 
Last edited:

llanclox

Registered User
Oct 31, 2009
206
0
16
67
Llangollen, North Wales, UK
Country
Region
Terrific looking clock. I've never seen one like it. Thanks for sharing. Have to admit I have an ongoing weakness for OG's. Serious punch marks at the winding arbors. I especially like the nail pinning the plates together.
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Nov 26, 2009
5,580
1,032
113
Country
I swore off ogees around 1971, when I decided that I would become a "serious" clock collector. During the intervening decades, I have somewhat succeeded in avoiding them, but once in a while one comes along that has something about it that appeals to me- they are not all just run-of-the-mill ogees. The one at hand, which recently came my way, is in that category. I didn't think much of it at first, since it is an ogee, first of all, and also because I assumed it to have a radiator paint gold finish on the decorative ogee molding. A friend recently pointed out that he thought these were "rare", for ogees, anyway, and he had only seen two in his 40 year collecting career. I agreed that I hadn't seen many either- just this one and one on our favorite auction website. So, I looked at it again, and liked what I saw. The case is in remarkably good shape, and the gold, on close inspection, appears to be original. By 1841 or 2, when this was probably made, cheap alternatives to gold leaf had been developed, and the clock industry, ever eager to produce cheaper clocks at a greater margin, responded enthusiastically. When moldings on clocks are re-painted, there is always some evidence of it in the form of over-runs, splotches, drips, etc., and this clock displays none of that. I think it is some sort of original gold or bronze powder paint.

I've also long had a soft spot for Hiram and Heman Welton and their companies. Hiram was an employee of Eli Terry Junior; this story has been told elsewhere, and doesn't need to be repeated here. Suffice it to say theirs were interesting firms, with ogee movements a bit different that the rest. The "H" in H. Welton & Co. was Heman, not Hiram, who remained a partner and movement maker. Heman had some capitol, apparently, so was the more "important" partner.

The mirror on this clock is clearly original- the putty is all original, as is the cardboard backer in the door, which is decorated with several notations of repairers, the first dated December 15th, 1852- the latest notation is from October, 1934. Just great provenance!

There is at least one other gesso front ogee posted here on the message board- I would be interested in knowing if many others are lurking out there- post them if you can.

An interesting note- I've looked at 4 of these on the interweb, and one in Horology Americana, by Dworetsky & Dickstein. All the examples seem to have identical decoration, likely made with the same molds. If this is true, it points out once again the cross-pollination and cooperation that was going on in the early 1840s among manufacturers.
Sweet.

If you ever get tired of it and I can relieve you of the burden, let me know.

My experience has been a bit different. I have seen a number of these "gesso fronts" over the years so they are scarce but not quite as vanishingly rare as implied. In fact, I believe Schmitt had one by a different maker in one of his not to distant auctions. I can't lay my hands on it now.

The techniques to make various forms of moulded gesso ornamentation (rather than gesso over carving) was frequently employed by CT and NY clock case makers of the period of this one. Think of all the gilt gesso splats and columns, decorative panels used in triple deckers and those rare Ives wall clocks, moulded gilt gesso gallery clocks (which can be quite ornate), etc.

This type of decoration is actually not that uncommonly found in gilt gesso mirrors and frames of the period as well. A very small leap for a shop that makes mirror and picture frames as well as types of mouldings to make this. Basically add a box to the back. So I'm not so sure it's an example of cross pollination as it is a reflection of popular taste and possibly common supply sources for these cases.

Of note, this type of moulded gesso decoration is not always gilded. Chris Brown had an ogee (yes, wooden works) with similar or same decoration which was then grained to resemble rosewood. See here . In the same vein, I have a Sperry upside down movement cottage with raised gesso decoration which is also grained to resemble rosewood (posted some time ago on MB). So a "cheap" way of emulating carved rosewood. Carved rosewood was a very popular thing in the early Victorian period.

What I would love to find but have only seen in pictures, is a gilt gessoed beehive clock.

Enjoy your clock!

RM
 

Walt Wallgren

Registered User
NAWCC Member
Aug 16, 2012
1,205
28
48
Bay Area, California
Country
Region
Is that a great looking clock?

I Guess So! (pun intended) It really is nice. Makes me want to find one. Thanks for showing it to us.
 

Jerome collector

Registered User
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Sep 4, 2005
872
86
28
Omaha, NE
Country
Region
I swore off ogees around 1971, when I decided that I would become a "serious" clock collector. During the intervening decades, I have somewhat succeeded in avoiding them, but once in a while one comes along that has something about it that appeals to me- they are not all just run-of-the-mill ogees. The one at hand, which recently came my way, is in that category. I didn't think much of it at first, since it is an ogee, first of all, and also because I assumed it to have a radiator paint gold finish on the decorative ogee molding. A friend recently pointed out that he thought these were "rare", for ogees, anyway, and he had only seen two in his 40 year collecting career. I agreed that I hadn't seen many either- just this one and one on our favorite auction website. So, I looked at it again, and liked what I saw. The case is in remarkably good shape, and the gold, on close inspection, appears to be original. By 1841 or 2, when this was probably made, cheap alternatives to gold leaf had been developed, and the clock industry, ever eager to produce cheaper clocks at a greater margin, responded enthusiastically. When moldings on clocks are re-painted, there is always some evidence of it in the form of over-runs, splotches, drips, etc., and this clock displays none of that. I think it is some sort of original gold or bronze powder paint.
Peter,

First, I'll offer my congratulations on finding a relatively uncommon clock. And what an exquisite label! Is there a printer's line on it?

No offense intended, but application of a gesso front has always struck me as out of character for an OG. An OG is almost defined by the simplicity of its lines. Although I accept that similar treatments were common on picture frames (as RM noted), a frame surrounding a painting serves an entirely different function. It's there to complement what it surrounds. On an OG, it just seems overwhelming. IMHO.

Mike
 

Peter A. Nunes

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Mar 3, 2006
1,657
20
38
Rhode Island
www.cogcounters.org
Country
Region
Peter,

First, I'll offer my congratulations on finding a relatively uncommon clock. And what an exquisite label! Is there a printer's line on it?

No offense intended, but application of a gesso front has always struck me as out of character for an OG. An OG is almost defined by the simplicity of its lines. Although I accept that similar treatments were common on picture frames (as RM noted), a frame surrounding a painting serves an entirely different function. It's there to complement what it surrounds. On an OG, it just seems overwhelming. IMHO.

Mike
Hi Mike, There is no printer noted on the label, interestingly. Regarding the pomposity of the case, I agree somewhat, although I think it is important not to apply our taste to something that was made 170 plus years ago. There is a great book entitled American Fancy, by Sumpter Priddy, published by the Chipstone Foundation, which I can't recommend highly enough. It discusses decorating trends of the early 19th century, especially painted finishes on furniture. It touches on the origins of taste and decoration among an emerging American middle class.

I particularly like clocks in a good state of preservation, as this one is, regardless of their ornamentation or lack thereof.
 

ClocksCollector

Registered User
Aug 14, 2005
285
0
0
Hi Peter,

You have a great H. Welton clock with its brass movement and "Improved Brass Clocks" lable. I have a flat front walnut H. Welton with the same label but with a wood plate movement. It probably was made during Welton's transition from wood movement to brass movement clocks. Thanks for your post. Is there anyway you could email the photo of the movement and lable to me?
 

Attachments

Peter A. Nunes

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Mar 3, 2006
1,657
20
38
Rhode Island
www.cogcounters.org
Country
Region
Hi Peter,

You have a great H. Welton clock with its brass movement and "Improved Brass Clocks" lable. I have a flat front walnut H. Welton with the same label but with a wood plate movement. It probably was made during Welton's transition from wood movement to brass movement clocks. Thanks for your post. Is there anyway you could email the photo of the movement and lable to me?
Hi, you should be able to enlarge the pictures by clicking on them, then right click and save them to your hard drive. Let me know if it doesn't work.