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John Fisher York Town 18th century tall clock

Marc Roberts

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May 30, 2020
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I am about to have some conservation done on an ailing tall clock dial marked "John Fisher York Town" before any more of the lettering on the dial is lost. I would like to obtain any images I can of other Fisher signed dials believed to be authenic. Any help would be appreicated.

Marc Roberts
 

aj98

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Sep 28, 2021
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a quick google search for "John Fisher clock" yields a lot if info and pictures.

Born in Germany 1736, moved to York PA, died 1808

couple of dial pics I found:

Tall Case Clock | Yale University Art Gallery (picture #3)


 
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Marc Roberts

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Thanks for this information. I perhaps should note that there seem to be more photos of brass dials on line than of painted dials. Sometimes people photograph a tall clock without taking good clear pictures of the dial. I would particularly like to see the signatures on painted dials for variations. I have seen at least 3 styles of signature on clocks that seem to be authentic.
 
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zedric

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The style of the signature on the dial would depend on the dial painter used by the clockmaker, and the era that the painting was done, so if a maker has a long career, or used several suppliers, then there will be a variety of different styles…

Are you trying to work out the style used on your clock, because it is very faded, or compare it to others to see if it is original?
 

Marc Roberts

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I am not concerned about a lack of originality. There is a discernable lettering, enough to know what it says, but much of the detail has been lost,, not only on the signature, but on everything that was once black on the entire dial. I am just hoping to give the dial restorer a little more to go on.
 

Levi Hutchins

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I am not concerned about a lack of originality. There is a discernable lettering, enough to know what it says, but much of the detail has been lost,, not only on the signature, but on everything that was once black on the entire dial. I am just hoping to give the dial restorer a little more to go on.
Viewing the dial under UV light might be revelatory.
 
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aj98

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hmm. Found a few new tidbits that may help...or send you down a rabbit hole :)

From A Pennsylvania Clock Mystery by user from Antiques & Fine Art magazine

In 1809, the estate account of the York clockmaker John Fisher recorded payments to "J. Klingman" for a "clock face" and "finishing [a] clock."

Book you might try hunting down. supposed to have 35 photos of his painted clock dials:

Find in libraries locally link indicates the "book" is " 1 folder (approximately 35 photoprints)" and some with ownership history. It may be available online on the Winterthur Library web site (Winterthur is in Delaware.) Alas, I cant get to that site from where I am now

The Painted dial pics I've seen so far have what (in modern terms) I would call an Old English or or old Germanic typeface, which is semi logical (or stereotypical) , in that Fisher was from Germany... and per this site :

Lisa Minardi | Sulfer Inlay in Pennsylvania German Furniture: New Discoveries | American Furniture 2015

"More than half of [Yorks] taxpayers in 1779 were artisans, who represented some forty distinct trades. According to German traveler Johann David Schoepf, who visited York in 1783, the inhabitants were "very largely Germans." One of the most talented craftsmen in York was John Fisher (1736–1808), a clockmaker, engraver, sign painter, carver, and musical instrument builder. Born in Germany, Fisher immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1749 and settled in York by 1756."

Semi Logical leap being local customers may have wanted more "traditional" homeland script instead of cursive style/type signatures.
 
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Marc Roberts

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AJ98:

The Winterthur Library site was a great suggestion. My trip down the rabbit hole continues. Though I am focusing primarily on the painted dials, it would appear that among all of the dials, there may be many variations of the John Fisher signature. A few of the brass dials I have been able to view show a simple more or less "modern" lettered name, while others have a graceful cursive script. Many of the painted dials have the Old English/Gemanic look with varying amounts of flourish. It does seem plausible that customer preference and ancestry may indeed have payed a role on what was used on commissioned clocks. Until looking at Winterthur, I had seen the cursive on only one example of a painted dial elsewhere online, but the Winterthur images show more examples of both the cursive and modern lettered names on painted dials. The remnants we have to work with on my dial are cursive, so I now have much more to go on to fill in the gaps.

Thanks!
 
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novicetimekeeper

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Block lettering on brass dials is usually taken to indicate the clockmaker may have signed the dial themselves. Cursive script is a highly skilled job for an engraver. There were a few clockmakers who could engrave, but it is very unusual.
 

oldcat61

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Block lettering on brass dials is usually taken to indicate the clockmaker may have signed the dial themselves. Cursive script is a highly skilled job for an engraver. There were a few clockmakers who could engrave, but it is very unusual.
Interesting comment. The signature on my John Key Scottish brass dial perfectly matches the signature on his master's papers. So I'm guessing he did his own engraving. JohnKeyCartouche4Stephen.jpg
 

novicetimekeeper

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Interesting comment. The signature on my John Key Scottish brass dial perfectly matches the signature on his master's papers. So I'm guessing he did his own engraving. View attachment 679024
I would imagine an engraver would be given something to copy, though I don't know. Specialist engravers would work for a number of clockmakers, I'm sure they did not use the same style for every customer. There is a fashion element in terms of the font used, though I think that may have come in later. Your clock is quite a late brass dial and I see the hatching on the word Dumbarton, this was used in block lettering in the late 18th century for instance.

Another point that may have come later, but students were taught standard letter forms for cursive script in a way that doesn't exist today.
 

oldcat61

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I would imagine an engraver would be given something to copy, though I don't know. Specialist engravers would work for a number of clockmakers, I'm sure they did not use the same style for every customer. There is a fashion element in terms of the font used, though I think that may have come in later. Your clock is quite a late brass dial and I see the hatching on the word Dumbarton, this was used in block lettering in the late 18th century for instance.

Another point that may have come later, but students were taught standard letter forms for cursive script in a way that doesn't exist today.
I have photos of 5 different Key clocks. All the signatures are similar but only mine has the same flourish on the end of the Y as his papers. Probably late 1770s from what I've been able to research. The library in Dumbarton has quite a file; two of his clocks are still in town in their original locations.
 

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