Sedan clock

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by jboger, Feb 19, 2019.

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  1. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    And now for something (not) completely different from the sorts of things I've posted here on this forum I now leave Hartford, CT, and make my way to Liverpool. I have in my possession a sedan clock, incomplete, but nonetheless fascinating to me. It is signed Smith & Co. / No. 209 / Liverpool. From the shape of the balance cock, I would date the movement to about 1815 or so. It is a verge. I believe it would run had it a hairspring.

    I am suspicious of most of the sedan clocks I've seen for sale on the web. Clearly, some of the cases are original, say George III, but the movements they contain are round, more-or-less modern Swiss or US movements. Those are clearly replacements. But I also think those sedan clocks that possess round verges have been retrofitted with movements that were originally pocket watch movements.

    So let me now be dogmatic and claim that all genuine period English sedan clocks had non-round movements similar in outline (i.e. straght-sided) to the one illustrated below. Further, that even if a genuine Georgian case contains a period but nonetheless round verge movement, that movement would be a replacement. Note the engraving on the one below. It is reminiscent of the English fusee shelf clocks of the same period. In other words, the sedan movement, as a clock, emulated the shape of a clock movement, not a pocket watch.

    The one illustrated is the most complete that I've found. I think the frame is original but not one hundred per cent sure. It originally had a lid; the hook and hinge remain. It bothers me that it's not round.

    Am I too dogmatic?

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  2. Omexa

    Omexa Registered User
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  3. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    #3 jboger, Feb 19, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
    I've been well aware of that sedan clock for some time having seen it on the web for years. Now I know you are the owner. The original post dates back to 2013. Back then you seemed to think that this watch was made in the early US and somehow had hands that were American in style. Do you still think that? Rittenhouse is an important figure in American 18th C. Enllightenment like his contemporary Franklin. He designed and built a very massive tall case clock that is in the Philadelphia Museum (I think--easy to check). I believe that this entire clock--movement, hands, and all--was made in England. Beautiful item.
     
  4. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    And now the remainder of my sedan movements. Lest anyone think that I find these sorts of things all the time, I assure you such is not the case. These things were gathered over a 20 year period, which ended awhile ago.

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  5. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I was being deliberately dogmatic. I certainly don't mind being corrected. Are there completely intact sedan clocks with their original round, pocket-watch-type movements contained therein? I have been wrong before. I will be wrong again. And I could definitely be wrong now.
     
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  6. Omexa

    Omexa Registered User
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    Hi jboger, all the Sedan Clocks that I have seen have been Round, but there always are exceptions; I love your movements. I have a Large Rich Tompion that is too large for a Pocket Watch it must have been in a maybe Sedan Clock? Regards Ray

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  7. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Ray: that's exactly the response I was hoping to have. I think when you wrote that all the sedan clocks you've seen were round, you were referring to the case, which makes me suspicious of mine. I found it that way, and so I will leave it that way.

    I want to repeat that the Rittenhouse sedan clock you have is a great, great item. Sedan clocks aren't that common, and to have one signed by Rittenhouse makes it an historically interesting artifact.

    John
     
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  8. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    There is some discussion in Charles Allix's book on Carriage Clocks regarding sedan clocks. He states that there was some discussion on these in Antiquarian Horology in the 70s, and that from this it appears that most were made up to use old watch movements, so the clock part is quite a bit later than the watch movement that is used. However, there are some, both in round plates, and in shaped plates, that appear to be original, and Allix shows one round movement which he claims to be originally made for the clock.

    These shaped plate movements were also used in cheap carriage clocks, like the one I own shown here - although most clocks of this style have round movements. My one is signed by Benjamin Benjamin, a retailer.

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  9. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    #9 jboger, Mar 15, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
    Zedric: That is a great clock. Recently on a well-known Buy-it-Now (formerly Auction) site, a movement sold still attached to its rectangular dial plate. It was a nice item.

    I am certainly no expert on carriage or sedan clocks, but I'm doubtful that back in the day (18th- early 19th C), clockmakers recycled old movements by putting them in new housings. I think that has been a modern practice done by dealers who see profit in doing so, that is, take a period mahogany case and retrofit a verge movement to it. The few sedan clocks I've seen for which I am reasonably sure held their original movements had both cases and movements contemporary to each other, or so I think. I'll be the first to confess that's more a feeling than anything based on a systematic study of the subject.

    By the way, the movement and dial that sold on eBay mentioned above had a movement very much like yours, that is, not round. Although I'm sure some old pocketwatch movements were recycled back in the day, and I'm sure some sedan clocks held round pocketwatch-like movements, my hypothesis is that was not the general practice, that English makers of carriage and sedan clocks like yours and the one sold on eBay emulated shelf clocks by making a movement more akin to a clock movement (at least in outline) than a pocketwatch.
     
  10. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    There is a discussion on this in Allix’s book on carriage clocks, and that refers to some letters in Antiquarian Horology in the 1970s. The conclusion was that most of these were old, and were recycling older movements. I’ve seen a few with movements from well known makers, and there is a thread on the message board somewhere where that was the case. For pocket watches, case scrapping is nothing new....
     
  11. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Zedric: Thanks for directing me to Allix's book. I've taken a look at that passage. The relevant pages are 27-30. After some discussion of what it means to be a sedan clock, the author identifies four types of these clocks; only the first of which is the one you refer to, that is cheap clocks with recycled verge pocket watch movements in frames that were made long after the movement was made. I do not consider these sedan clocks. Plate I/38 (p. 27) illustrates the type of clock I have in mind. This sort certainly did not hang on the walls of impoverished Welsh miners.

    Of those clocks with rectangular movements, let me now quote Allix:

    When a "sedan" clock is found with such a movement, it is usually manifestly original, looking far less improvised than any of the examples employing watch movements." (p. 27)

    To sum up, "sedan" clocks appear in various forms, but usually only those with "rectangular" plates haves cases, dials and movements which have always been together. (p .28)

    Dealers are an inventive lot. They stretch the definitions of things to include whatever it is they wish to sell. They have been busy for many years, 24/7. If I see a "sedan" clock with a well-made mahogany or ebonized frame that contains a round verge pocket watch movement, my conclusion is that it is almost certainly made up, that neither case nor movement are original to each other. A fine example of a completely original sedan clock is owned by a Forum member. It contains a David Rittenhouse rectangular movement. Rittenhouse, who did not make the movement (it's English), sold to the carriage trade, not the man of limited means. Now that is a sedan clock.

    By the way, not all dealers are bad. Some are actually honest.
     
  12. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I question Allix's judgement with regards to the one sedan clock with a round movement. This is the Buchanan watch. I do not think it is original to the case. The case is a sedan case, indeed, and my guess--no one will ever know--is that it originally held a rectangular movement. I think the movement originally belonged to a verge pocket watch to which someone long ago fitted a larger barrel so that it would run two days rather than one. The barrel bridge is crude and functional, not in keeping with the rest of the movement.
     
  13. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I've thought a bit more about this and believe that Allix misses the punchline. His observations are spot on but he misses the conclusion. As quoted above he notes four types of clocks commonly called sedan clocks, He states that only those with "rectangular" movements appear original to their cases. That's an observation and is fine as far as it goes. I think we can go a little further and state that a systematic production of a certain type of movement by many makers indicates that these rectangular movements were made for a specific purpose, a specific type of clock, of which there are two types: round ones like the Rittenhouse clock and others like the Benjamin clock above. All the others are either modern fabrications with retrofitted movements or cheap clocks with verge movements.

    As others before him, Allix wonders why sedan clocks are called that, as the actual use of the sedan as a mode of transportation predates these clocks. The answer to that question is lost to history, but I speculate these clocks were called that to distinguish them from other types of clocks long after they were no longer in production. In the US, many 19th C silver objects are marked COIN or PURE COIN. This is a product guarantee like WARRANTED or CAST STEEL. Later, people wonder about the origins of such terms and invent a story to explain it: it's called coin silver because it was made from melted coins given the harsh conditions in Colonial America, when in fact it's just a 19th C term to guarantee the object is made of 90% silver.

    I don't see why silver was not as easily imported as Honduran mahogany used to make such fabulous furniture in 18th C. Philadelphia, Charleston, and Boston.

    Permit my favorite story. In the first half of the 19th C small whale oil lamps were made now called sparking lamps. These held a small amount of oil and had a single wick so that they would burn for a long time. The word spark can also me to court. And thus the story was born that under the watchful eye of Mother and Father, these small lamps were lit when their daughter's gentleman caller (must use that phrase when telling this story) came to visit. When the lamp went out, the young man left. Well, the young man surely stayed quite a long time as these lamps burn a long time. A more likely use of this lamp was for any purpose that required a small lamp, a child's room, for example, or a sick room, or to light a dark hallway to guide one's feet at night.

    Anyway, my thoughts.
     
  14. Rich Newman

    Rich Newman Chair
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    Interesting reading on these clocks. I've copied your comment about the Rittenhouse signed clock. At about the time this clock appeared, a fusee watch signed Rittenhouse also made its way around that is widely assumed to be a fake. Does anyone have any information regarding the provenance of this clock?
     
  15. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Rich: I'm not clear which clock/watch you inquire about, the sedan clock or a fusee watch signed by Rittenhouse.

    I re-read what I wrote above, that Rittenhouse did not make the sedan movement. I strongly feel that to be the case, but perhaps an overstatement on my part. Perhaps he did. But why he would expend his efforts on something like this when there were other more grandiose projects to undertake would need to be explained.
     
  16. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I have thought a bit more about the origin of the expression COIN and decided to put my thoughts here rather than over in the other discussion that concerns a Johnson watch. I think the focus of that discussion should be on that fine watch, not a side discussion about the origins of a term. And since I started this thread, I'm not so concerned whither it wanders. Anyway, I asked myself, What it the origin of the term sterling silver?And so I went to Wikipedia, which has informative articles on the subject. Disregarding the origins of the word itself (although interesting), I found this quote:

    However, in 1158, a new coinage was introduced by King Henry II . . . which was struck from 0.925 (92.5%) silver. This became the standard until the 20th century and is today known as sterling silver, named after its association with the currency. (Pound sterling - Wikipedia)

    Then this one in a different article:​

    The first legal definition of sterling silver appeared in 1275, when a statute of Edward I specified that 12 Troy ounces of silver for coinage should contain 11 ounces 2 1⁄4 pennyweights of silver and 17 3⁄4 pennyweights of alloy, with 20 pennyweights to the Troy ounce.[13] This is (not precisely) equivalent to a millesimal fineness of 926.
    (Sterling silver - Wikipedia)

    And in another Wikipedia article on Hallmarks, I found this quote:

    In 1300 King Edward I of England enacted a statute requiring that all silver articles must meet the sterling silver standard (92.5% pure silver) and must be assayed in this regard by 'guardians of the craft' who would then mark the item with a leopard's head. (Hallmark - Wikipedia)

    So it would seem that a purity standard was first established by royal decree for coins only--not for other objects made of silver--and that somewhat later a second royal decree required objects made of silver to match the royal coinage and be so marked. Now, there was no such royal decree by the US federal government that ordered silver manufacturers to meet the standards set by US Coinage Act of 1792 that US silver coins must be 90% silver. But doesn't it make sense, that as US manufacturing grew in the 19th C and as competition became more intense, that silver manufacturers put quality marks on their silver as a guarantee that it matched US coinage standards as had been analogously done for hundreds of years in England?

    I don't think we will ever know the exact origins of the expression coin silver. If it gives someone pleasure to think his/her early 19th C spoon was made from melted pieces of eight undoubtedly carried in the pocket of a pirate on the Spanish Main--then I say go right ahead.
     
  17. Rich Newman

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    Sorry, I should have been more clear. We're in total agreement that the sedan clock movement wasn't made by Rittenhouse and neither was the case. The term "totally original" was in a prior post which would infer that the David Rittenhouse engraving was also original. An alternative to consider is that the signature was added long after his death. The movement and case seem to me to be later, and retailing imported sedan clocks doesn't seem to fit his business activities. Anyway, that's just my observation and is why I asked if anyone had come across any provenance (ownership, auction records, etc.).
     
  18. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I see it was I who wrote that the Rittenhouse sedan clock was completely original. Without having examine it, I believe the case and movement are original to each other, but you raise some very interesting questions about the signature. So I back off, Still, if not signed by him personally, perhaps the entire movement including the signature was made in England. I am very certain those 1850's Liverpool watches that I illustrated in other threads were completely, 100% done in England down to the name on the dial and the signature on the movement. But these date from a later period than this sedan clock. So I don't know.

    I'm now going to wander into dangerous waters. There is a Rittenhouse-Orrey tall case clock in the Drexel museum that some claim was made by Rittenhouse. What does that mean, "made by Rittenhouse"? Let's start with the mahogany case. Was he a cabinet maker? Probably not. Did he cast the dozen or so bells used for the chimes? I don't know. Maybe. I have not had time to investigate this, but I wonder what does "made by Rittenhouse" mean. To the average person, I think "made by Rittenhouse" is taken to mean that he made the entire clock, that he stayed up late at night cutting wheels on his lathe. Then during the day he was matching the grain of the mahogany and mortising things together. Perhaps he designed the movement and left it for others, craft people, to make and assemble it under his watchful eye.

    I need to think about this. I'm sure someone knows more about this than I.
     
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  19. Rich Newman

    Rich Newman Chair
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    We can write thousands of pages on the essence of your last post #18. For certain, the circumstances of a "maker" and what he did changed drastically over the last 300 years and country-by-country, region-by-region. As just one example, thousands of watches are signed by the most renowned English maker, Tompion. Yet it is obviously certain that his hands touched relatively few of them. He ran the business, hired and likely trained his fleet of workers, guaranteed the work and had his name engraved on the work. Of course Tompion did personally make many clocks and watches too. Few 18th or 19th century watchmakers made the watch case. Few 18th or 19th century clock makers made the clock case. Foremost, they were businessmen working as economically and smartly as possible to produce or source the things they sold. There are tens of thousands of listed clock and watchmakers in reference books and the vast majority were retailers. However, Rittenhouse (Benjamin and David) without question stand as giants - - they designed and made (complicated) instruments and clocks, and perhaps also designed the cases they reside in (but did not fabricate it).
     
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