Help with learning more about recent Banjo purchase (by a newbie)

philliplederer

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Aug 16, 2008
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I write to ask several questions about the banjo clock I recently bought at Schmitt-Horan pictured in Fig 1. The house described the clock as follows: Unknown, possibly New Hampshire, hanging banjo or patent timepiece, mahogany case, painted metal dial, barbed hands, 8 day, weight driven brass movement.CONDITION

Mahogany case in an old finish in good condition. A piece of wood was inserted into the head to repair some damage (is this the spacer mentioned below??). The brass bezels possibly a replacement as the hinge is smaller than the carved out area. The painted dial looks to have been restored and now has clear coating on the surface. Mismatched period hands. The tablets were painted by Lee Davis, of York, Pennsylvania. When the lead weight was cast, someone used a couple of coins that left an impression in casting. One of the impressions was coin that was dated 1812. ACCESSORIES: Pendulum, Winding Key, Weight

Comment-the assertion about the coin imprint is incorrect. The impression is of two USA coins dated 1918: the then newly issued Lincoln cent and the 5cent piece. Both faces of both coins are present. I am not sure of my rights in this situation, but this seems particularly misleading.

I have bought Foley's book and carefully scanned all photos and appropriate texts. In the following I cite some figures that seems relevant.

Of course the tablets are inappropriate—too much like the "cliched" factory made Walthan centennial clocks. I wish the designs were more appropriate

I would appreciate any thoughts about these two questions:
  • Is this clock a marriage?
  • Can I comfortably claim this is a clock by Ivory Hall?
  • Do you think that this clock could predate 1840 given the info about the label as described below?

I would describe the movement as: recoil escapement, not T-mount, step train, heavy iron dial, mounts: center screw plus 2 diagonal screws-there appears to be a thin wood spacer under the movement like Foley:Figure 160/pg 34 for an signed 1835-40 movement. See my Fig 2 which shows the side of the movement with one of the diagonal holes and pencil marks setting the position of the movement. Note these screws do not extend out the back. Fig 3 shows the entire movement.

Case description: One piece white pine back with number 970B scratched. Large dug out hole for center bolt. Head and rest of case Mahogany. Door and throat construction is via lap/rabbet joints, pendulum box is mitered with nails. Box has rounded glue blocks identical to Ivory Hall clock (circa 1825) in Foley: Figure 212/page 92. See my Fig 4 below. Also like that clock, case sides do not extend to the head like Hall's where scrap wood is inserted for support.See Foley:Figure 213/page 93 (Foley Fig 160 cited above has the same characteristic). Hall was in business from 1816-1864. Thin spacer inserted to supports for the sheet tin plate. Also to be noted pendulum hold down also like Foley: Fig161/page70.


Technical question: in the absence of the case sides supporting the movement, is this why there are two diagonal holes to fix the orientation?

Basel as described by auction house attached with 4 tabs. Standard side clip to fix basel door.

Side arms have poorly filed arches(??) that to some extent retain a diamond shape, see my Fig 1. Is this an example of what a maker in New Hampshire would do to distinguish its clocks as suggested by Foley? Isn't this very sloppy work?

The finial eagle seems identical design to Foley:Figure 140/page 63 of a William Grant .circa 1830


A close look at Figure 4 shows a partial label (reading "Palmer") just left of the tin plate—internet sleuthing indicates it is that of Davis and Palmer, Boston which was a partnership lasting from 1838-1846. They advertised as watchmakers, retailers of imported clocks, shelf clocks, lamps, silver, clock/watch parts, etc.

Is that going to be the best guess of the age of this clock? Could it be older?


Fig 1-Purchased clock.jpg Fig 2-movement right side, spacer, diagonal hole, pencil marks.jpeg Fig 3-movement.jpeg



Fig 1-Purchased clock.jpg Fig 2-movement right side, spacer, diagonal hole, pencil marks.jpeg Fig 3-movement.jpeg Fig4-glue blocks like Hall's.jpeg
 
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rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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I write to ask several questions about the banjo clock I recently bought at Schmitt-Horan pictured in Fig 1. The house described the clock as follows: Unknown, possibly New Hampshire, hanging banjo or patent timepiece, mahogany case, painted metal dial, barbed hands, 8 day, weight driven brass movement.CONDITION

Mahogany case in an old finish in good condition. A piece of wood was inserted into the head to repair some damage (is this the spacer mentioned below??). The brass bezels possibly a replacement as the hinge is smaller than the carved out area. The painted dial looks to have been restored and now has clear coating on the surface. Mismatched period hands. The tablets were painted by Lee Davis, of York, Pennsylvania. When the lead weight was cast, someone used a couple of coins that left an impression in casting. One of the impressions was coin that was dated 1812. ACCESSORIES: Pendulum, Winding Key, Weight

Comment-the assertion about the coin imprint is incorrect. The impression is of two USA coins dated 1918: the then newly issued Lincoln cent and the 5cent piece. Both faces of both coins are present. I am not sure of my rights in this situation, but this seems particularly misleading.

I have bought Foley's book and carefully scanned all photos and appropriate texts. In the following I cite some figures that seems relevant.

Of course the tablets are inappropriate—too much like the "cliched" factory made Walthan centennial clocks. I wish the designs were more appropriate

I would appreciate any thoughts about these two questions:
  • Is this clock a marriage?
  • Can I comfortably claim this is a clock by Ivory Hall?
  • Do you think that this clock could predate 1840 given the info about the label as described below?

I would describe the movement as: recoil escapement, not T-mount, step train, heavy iron dial, mounts: center screw plus 2 diagonal screws-there appears to be a thin wood spacer under the movement like Foley:Figure 160/pg 34 for an signed 1835-40 movement. See my Fig 2 which shows the side of the movement with one of the diagonal holes and pencil marks setting the position of the movement. Note these screws do not extend out the back. Fig 3 shows the entire movement.

Case description: One piece white pine back with number 970B scratched. Large dug out hole for center bolt. Head and rest of case Mahogany. Door and throat construction is via lap/rabbet joints, pendulum box is mitered with nails. Box has rounded glue blocks identical to Ivory Hall clock (circa 1825) in Foley: Figure 212/page 92. See my Fig 4 below. Also like that clock, case sides do not extend to the head like Hall's where scrap wood is inserted for support.See Foley:Figure 213/page 93 (Foley Fig 160 cited above has the same characteristic). Hall was in business from 1816-1864. Thin spacer inserted to supports for the sheet tin plate. Also to be noted pendulum hold down also like Foley: Fig161/page70.


Technical question: in the absence of the case sides supporting the movement, is this why there are two diagonal holes to fix the orientation?

Basel as described by auction house attached with 4 tabs. Standard side clip to fix basel door.

Side arms have poorly filed arches(??) that to some extent retain a diamond shape, see my Fig 1. Is this an example of what a maker in New Hampshire would do to distinguish its clocks as suggested by Foley? Isn't this very sloppy work?

The finial eagle seems identical design to Foley:Figure 140/page 63 of a William Grant .circa 1830


A close look at Figure 4 shows a partial label (reading "Palmer") just left of the tin plate—internet sleuthing indicates it is that of Davis and Palmer, Boston which was a partnership lasting from 1838-1846. They advertised as watchmakers, retailers of imported clocks, shelf clocks, lamps, silver, clock/watch parts, etc.

Is that going to be the best guess of the age of this clock? Could it be older?


View attachment 671503 View attachment 671504 View attachment 671505



View attachment 671503 View attachment 671504 View attachment 671505 View attachment 671506
Foley's book is a good place to start. However, many especially later banjos like this are anonymous and may defy attempts at identifying a specific maker.

This clock sold through Schmitt and Horan's July, 2021 on line auction. My assessment, FWIW, is that this is a rather significantly altered/reworked clock that is more decorative than anything else. Is it worth what you paid? Probably the hammer price was almost as much as the cost of the Lee Davis glasses?

RM
 

bruce linde

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i'm with RR and RM... if you have issues with it you should talk to Schmitt-Horan. and, it is by no means an untouched 1840 or earlier banjo clock. the movement looks tifft to me. the dial has been re-done. the hands don't match (but look old/appropriate). i actually like the weight and wonder if someone left it stored on top of coins for a period of time, which seems far likelier than an oblivious casting. all of that said, i have three or four banjo clocks with similar attributes that make me happy. i have two all original older banjo clocks (timepieces), but they cost significantly more.
 

bruce linde

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i'm not sure this banjo clock merits being called a 'bad thing'.... everything we do here is about horological education. when i started about 11 years ago i only knew about seth thomas regulator 2s... and even then it took a few years before i really understood them, was able to work on them, etc. my point is that the more we do, the more we learn, the more our tastes grow (and/or change), etc.

if you like the clock, you like it. if you are uncomfortable with what you perceive as issues and are going to see those instead of the clock every time you look at it, reach out to Schmitt-Horan to discuss your options.

keep us posted...
 
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Andy Dervan

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The only distinctive feature is that it contains N. Attleboro produced movement held in place two screws - upper right and left lower left corner of the movement, so the movement dates after 1840. It possible this movement was installed in an empty case or replaced a damaged movement.

I have unsigned Boston case with a N. Attleboro movement, but there were hole in backboard for the original Boston movement that was either lost or damaged.

Thousands of unsigned timepieces like this were manufactured by many makers over the years around New England. Many have been modified replacing simple geometric glasses with decorative reverse painted glasses or a variety of other upgrades.

Dan Horan generally has someone knowledgeable inspect each clock quickly assess it and attempt to provide reasonable evaluation.and description of it. I looked at auction listing and I think that they attempted to provide reasonable assessment of the clock

It is visually attractive timepiece and if it runs ok that is good. Bruce noted a properly painted set of reversed painted glasses from a skilled person like Lee Davis probably cost $ 300. If you tried to acquire a complete 19th century timepiece movement, pendulum rod,, and lead weight it would cost more than $ 200.

A few years ago that clock would have brought significantly more money at auction. You got a reasonably visually good looking timepiece for $ 425.

Andy Dervan
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Also consider what you paid for this vs. what you might have paid for a repop weight driven banjo by Waltham, Chelsea, Campos, Stennis, Burleigh, Kline, and so on. Probably would have paid a lot more (frankly, I would want one of those rather than yours). Point is, you bought a look.

Most auctions are as is unless a glaring error or misrepresentation. Don’t see that here. The pix of the clock on their website speak volumes. Buyers remorse is not a valid reason to return the clock.

Live & learn.

RM
 
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Jim DuBois

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It is pretty easy to make a mistake in online auctions. Many of us have made a mistake or two as such. I sold off 3 mistakes made over the last 20 years, only last month. All bought via online auctions. $2100 spent, I got about $500 back. But, I learned a lot from those mistakes, and there was no reason to keep them any longer. In the case of this timepiece, the auction description seems accurate. I don't see any need to get upset with the auction house. Any auction house description should not be the final expert in our decisions to bid or not bid. That makes it difficult to bid without a bit of trepidation. I have been surprised, both positively and not so much, when winning an item and finally receiving it.
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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It is pretty easy to make a mistake in online auctions. Many of us have made a mistake or two as such. I sold off 3 mistakes made over the last 20 years, only last month. All bought via online auctions. $2100 spent, I got about $500 back. But, I learned a lot from those mistakes, and there was no reason to keep them any longer. In the case of this timepiece, the auction description seems accurate. I don't see any need to get upset with the auction house. Any auction house description should not be the final expert in our decisions to bid or not bid. That makes it difficult to bid without a bit of trepidation. I have been surprised, both positively and not so much, when winning an item and finally receiving it.
I agree on all points.

Whether buying @ auction or from a dealer or an individual offering clocks for sale, regardless of the description provided (that includes pictures), the ultimate assessment and arbiter is the buyer.

If need be, ask for additional clarification and pictures. Be specific in your requests. If that additional information is not forthcoming or does not provide clarification, then the options include going ahead with bidding or making the purchase, adjusting what you're willing to pay or walking.

RM
 
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philliplederer

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Aug 16, 2008
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Wow! I appreciate all the feedback and comments

First of all, this is my first purchase of a patent timepiece. As Bruce Linde suggests, my own approach to antiques is to buy one for a lowish price and then research the hell out of it to learn about what I actually bought, and to learn about the category. This is what I did and why I bought the Foley book right away. I have already learned a lot!

As far as the misrepresentation of the weight’s imprints, this seems very sloppy. Given a slanting light, it is clearly a Lincoln cent! A closer look reveals two coins dated 1918. This is disappointing and shows the limitations of condition reports. But in all, this is an attractive clock and about as cheap as a non factory made clock will cost at an Internet auction, at least in my review of Live Auctioneers.

I have a question about Andy Dervan’s remark about this being a N. Attleboro sourced clock. I do not understand what that means..Could you elaborate?

About Foley’s remarks about the New Hampshire clock labeled as Ivory Hall: the glue blocks here are identically shaped (rounded) and positioned as mine are. Does this suggest that a) my Case could be by Hall, or possibly, b) Foley’s Hall clock‘s case is a marriage?

Lastly, perhaps someadvice about buying banjos via online auction…..is this going to be a crap shoot.? Can anyone be sure about the clock without personal inspection? As a collectors, will you buy one of these via internet auction?

Again thanks to all for the additional info and assessments.
Phil
 

Jim DuBois

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Not to be obtuse but buying a patent timepiece even in person, by people who know them well, can still be a crapshoot. They have been widely created/replicated/duplicated by highly skilled makers for the last 200 years. Sometimes made intentionally to fool. Other times some are just well done but with the passage of time they have acquired age and wear and the mantle of authenticity. Prices can range from $50 to maybe $125,000 for a really nice documented Willard with provenance and a strong history. Having bought Foley's book is a very good start. Good luck and have fun. There are some absolute bargains and some are really great clocks out and about today.
 

Andy Dervan

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Go to Paul Foley's book on N. Attleboro Timepieces - Chapter 23 see pages 171 and 172. They clearly indicate how the movement is attached to the case. A screw through movement's upper right back plate and lower left back plate into the backboard. This is the method used by all N. Attleboro makers and no one else.

This matches your movement's mounting system and this process started about 1840 by Horace Tifft and continued by George and John Hatch..

Andy Dervan
 

philliplederer

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Aug 16, 2008
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Go to Paul Foley's book on N. Attleboro Timepieces - Chapter 23 see pages 171 and 172. They clearly indicate how the movement is attached to the case. A screw through movement's upper right back plate and lower left back plate into the backboard. This is the method used by all N. Attleboro makers and no one else.

This matches your movement's mounting system and this process started about 1840 by Horace Tifft and continued by George and John Hatch..

Andy Dervan
There is also a center mounting bolt which I think is the main fastener. I’d omitted a picture of that but mentioned it above. Here is a snap showing
the end of the bolt in the center of the backplate.
Consulting Foley on North Attleboro , I see that "Davis" is mentioned as an apprentice of A Willard. Note the name on the partial label in the clock mentioned above- "Davis and Palmer." (circa 1838-1845) The trapezoidal pendulum suspension is quite unlike the other movements, but the half round surface framing is consistent. So you could be correct. (I had guessed the diagonal mounting holes were an alternation to orient the movement given that the movement is not supported from below like most clocks in the book and there is a bottom movement spacer you can see in the photo.) Phil

D88C69FD-AA07-49F6-9E63-326F038234BC.jpeg
 
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philliplederer

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Aug 16, 2008
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......The Davis on the label is Thomas, while the Davis who was a clockmaker was David. Perhaps they are related, perhaps not....next I'll tackle the genealogy...
 

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