Roxbury Tallcase Clock ID

David D'Apice

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Mar 22, 2012
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This delightful tallcase came from an estate locally, and is said to have been there since its manufacture. Although the dial is unsigned, while blowing the dust off the seatboard, I found this carved name "S. Safford" --- and something below it that may resemble the date 1806. I learned that Samuel Safford was a cabinetmaker in Newburyport (the next town) at that time -- so it is likely his case. The question is, who made the movement -- the plates are impurely cast, loaded with file marks. I'd be interested if anyone out there could identify what would appear to be a localized country clockmaker. There is a repair note in the door from 1843, where Samuel or James Russell repaired "The striking" --- not sure I can find anything on him either so far. Any help would be appreciated. It has been my pleasure to see this thing back to ticking.

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tom427cid

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Mar 23, 2009
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Hi David,
At first blush I would be inclined to investigate clocks made in Litchfield CT,they are characteristicly crude because the plates were cast from recycled brass pieces. Also the design of the pieces in the strike controls may offer clues as yours are quite distinctive.
Hope this helps.
tom
 
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Jim DuBois

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This movement, while crude, is unlike a couple of Litchfield area clocks I have had. The Litchfield clocks tended to have some quite different strike mechanisms than what is seen in your movement. While this movement is more crude than many from the general area where it appears the case originated, it is not really indicative of any maker from what I can see. As Tom points out the strike side of the movement is a bit out of the norm, but so far it has not led me to any specific maker. I do note the front plate has some extra holes suggesting the dial it now has is not its first dial? The 4 holes in the outer corners suggest it once had a brass dial and their placement and diameter suggest it may well have been a "sheet" brass dial. Is the case available for a photo? I am assuming the current dial is a painted dial?

The one very crude cast plate movement shown here is I believe to be a Whitting out of Litchfield. The other 2 while having similar striking control features are too well finished in my thinking to be Litchfield in origin. The one on the seatboard I think to be American, the other loose movement origin is unclear.

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novicetimekeeper

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not the greatest location for a longcase, I hope it is fixed to the wall!
 

David D'Apice

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Mar 22, 2012
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I agree - it was fixed to the wall --- it's no longer in that house. It was removed from there when I bought it.
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Hi there Jim --- here's the dial and case ---- thanks for all your information -- I'm questioning Litchfield as well ---
View attachment 485362 View attachment 485363

View attachment 485360
Interesting question raised re: whether there may be evidence that the movement may have originally had a brass dial. If so, that implies that not just a previous earlier dial but a previous earlier case as well?

This clock came from the home of an ancient Yankee family from W. Newbury, MA. It was sold @ an on-site auction that dispersed the possessions which that family had accumulated over many generations.

I suggest that the movement from an earlier clock was given a “new” dial and case (in this instance, by a Newburyport maker; that city is literally just up the road) in the latest fashion. A “period” alteration, if you will.

I will add that my recollection of the clock was that there did not appear to have ever been any other movement in that case. Also the dial appeared to be American. I will also add the auction was under a tent where it was dark & very crowded which made examining anything carefully next to impossible.

RM
 

Jim DuBois

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The dial is quite similar to an Ivory Hall clock I owned years ago. I think I recall seeing another dial with the shield in the arch, also in a more or less country clock. The movement in your clock is not like the photos we have of the Ivory Hall's so I am not certain just the dial takes us anyplace useful. The case style is a bit later than most sheet brass dials but there was certainly some overlap between Roxbury case style and brass dials and painted dials. And there were limited supplies of and or painters of dials in the general Boston area circa 1780-1820 so a common dial style might tie us to a painter but not to a clockmaker....interesting clock, more detailed photos of the case and the movement etc would be useful...
 

David D'Apice

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Mar 22, 2012
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Sorry my photos aren't better guys --- here's are a few though --- this movement has been in this case since day one. Where it was or if it was before that, I'm not sure. RM and I were both at the auction, and his lineage is correct. The service date on the door (which has its original red wash) was June 1843, when Mr. Russell fixed "The Striking". Here's something else interesting I found --- Elizabeth Cummings Safford born in Newburyport in 1810 married William Plummer, also born in Newburyport. Elizabeth's father was Samuel Safford, the casemaker and this clock came from the Plummer Family. Could it have been a wedding present for them? The case appears as mint as one could ask for.
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Jim DuBois

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Nice clock! Thanks for the additional photos. I suspect you are correct in thinking everything goes together, i.e. movement, dial, case. My misgivings about the 4 holes in the front plate of the movement suggesting an earlier dial was most likely just incorrect.

The dial, the case, and movement all fit so well with no apologies, it does suggest all is well. The turned feet suggest the case to be later in the Roxbury case style years. I really like the old darkened finish on the case.

And as to your family tie in and possible timeline the turned feet suggest the clock could be 1825 - 1830 so it could have been a wedding gift. If that would be the case it would suggest the family was quite affluent.
 
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novicetimekeeper

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Interesting construction around the side window.

If this is all original how are the additional holes in the frontplate of the movement explained?

It is usually a sure sign of movement or dial change.
 

David D'Apice

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Mar 22, 2012
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Hi -- not sure --- I wonder if they didn't play a role during construction? I wondered if it couldn't have had a false plate at some time, but that seems unlikely given the fit of everything.
 

novicetimekeeper

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Hi -- not sure --- I wonder if they didn't play a role during construction? I wondered if it couldn't have had a false plate at some time, but that seems unlikely given the fit of everything.

I don't know about the US, but presumably much of the early technique there came with the immigrants. Here plates have very small holes where they are pinned together for drilling, nothing like that.
 

zedric

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I’m glad you saw this in person, as if I’d seen it online I would have assumed that there was something wrong with the case. The back of the case shows wear marks from the pendulum at different heights, which I would have taken to show that the case had housed another movement at some time, with a different thickness of seat board. And the red wash I have only ever seen on two other cases, both of which were new, with the red hiding the case construction. I guess that’s the problem with only seeing things online - you get to be paranoid and things that may not be wrong at all put you off purchasing...
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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I’m glad you saw this in person, as if I’d seen it online I would have assumed that there was something wrong with the case. The back of the case shows wear marks from the pendulum at different heights, which I would have taken to show that the case had housed another movement at some time, with a different thickness of seat board. And the red wash I have only ever seen on two other cases, both of which were new, with the red hiding the case construction. I guess that’s the problem with only seeing things online - you get to be paranoid and things that may not be wrong at all put you off purchasing...
Actually the use of a thin red sometimes an almost pink wash on the interior of American case pieces in the early 19th century is quite typical.

RM
 

zedric

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Actually the use of a thin red sometimes an almost pink wash on the interior of American case pieces in the early 19th century is quite typical.

RM
That’s good to know. I’ve only looked in detail at English longcase clocks, and remember reading somewhere (maybe in one of Loomes books) that the use of paint ets on the inside was not usual practice (again this would be in reference to English clocks). Do we know why it was done to American clocks?
 

Jim DuBois

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That’s good to know. I’ve only looked in detail at English longcase clocks, and remember reading somewhere (maybe in one of Loomes books) that the use of paint ets on the inside was not usual practice (again this would be in reference to English clocks). Do we know why it was done to American clocks?
Just my thoughts but I would say it was to give a case a bit better "finished look" than raw wood would give. And iron oxide thinned down barn paint was a lot cheaper and more available than the stains and finishes being used on the rest of the case. I have only seen it used on a tall clock a couple of times, but it is more common on mass-produced American clocks commencing about 1825. These case parts show a red wash on the weight divider as well as an even more thin brown wash on some other interior case parts. While photo looks more brown the divider piece is quite red in hand....


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David D'Apice

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Mar 22, 2012
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Wow -- you guys are incredible with all this knowledge --- the case does appear to be fully mahogany -- and the red wash was clearly on there before the pencil service date of 1843 -- I have seen this wash inside lots of period furniture - I have no reason to doubt it was the first coat. I just located a very similar dial on a NH tall case. Check out the technique -- pretty close.

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Jim DuBois

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Wow -- you guys are incredible with all this knowledge --- the case does appear to be fully mahogany -- and the red wash was clearly on there before the pencil service date of 1843 -- I have seen this wash inside lots of period furniture - I have no reason to doubt it was the first coat. I just located a very similar dial on a NH tall case. Check out the technique -- pretty close.

View attachment 485892
ah, I once owned a James Cole with a similar dial, not that it can be seen in this photo. I wondered why the dial on your clock looked so familiar...

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