Sperry & Shaw Tablet Question

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by George Nelson, Feb 6, 2017.

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  1. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, All

    My Sperry and Shaw clock has been discussed before, but I have a new question. While working on the restoration, I came to realize that the bottom wood panel was actually a very old replacement for what was apparently a glass tablet or mirror. Upon removal, I saw evidence of an earlier glass insert, including tiny pieces of glass. I cannot tell if there was originally a reverse painted tablet or a mirror. A diligent search has not turned up an image of a similar clock. Does anyone know what type of bottom insert should be there- painting or mirror? I would sincerely appreciate input- either images or opinions- both would be most welcome! Looking forward to hearing from you experts out there! -George


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  2. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    That case style had a wood panel in more than one I have seen, and one I have owned. In the one I owned it had absolute no traces of ever having had anything else there. It had an FC Andrews label. I would suspect the glass shards in yours might be from a previously broken center or upper glass.
     

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  3. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Thanks, Jim. The wood panel in my clock is definitely not original, as it really looks as if someone used a steak knife to cut it to size. It's not at all square, and is a poor fit. In making a proper panel, what wood do you recommend? Should it be a solid piece or veneer? Thanks so much! George
     
  4. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Thanks for sharing you nice clock. I posted this before seeing your reply.

    I must agree whole heartedly with Jim that a panel would have originally been there..

    I believe the wood panel is original and the glass shards you found probably resulted from a mishap from above. I'm not sure its crudity would rule that out?

    I would also add that the panel in your clock looks old (down to the shrinkage crack from age) and the color looks good in comparison to the rest of the case.

    Some pix of the back of the panel showing how it's held in place might help. However, they may be difficult to obtain given it's fixed and it may be difficult to get to the back to take a pic.

    I have also attached a similar 8 day weight driven example...with the lower panel.

    Many of the examples of these 8 day clocks I have seen bear the labels of NYC assemblers/makers and have those nice scrolled plate Forestville 8 day weight driven movements. Glad the typically wood dials they are fitted with have a nice big center opening so you can see it.

    I have seen them in 30 hour versions as well. Most of these also had a fixed panel. Some, like a version made by Jerome that I once owned and of which I have seen other examples, DID have a lower eglomise panel but it was NOT a fixed panel, but in a lower door that opened.

    In the examples I have encounter, the case surface has received a number of different decorative treatments including veneer, grain painting and even a combination thereof. My clock is an example of the last.

    Enjoy you clock as it is.

    I apologize in advance if a giant photo.

    RM

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  5. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I would guess the one I owned had a grain painted surface originally. I didn't like the look of mine and until I started to remove it I thought it must be wrong. As can be seen the one I owned the entire case had been in my opinion over cleaned and would have lost its paint on the panel with certainty. And George, I agree with RM your panel looks decent color wise and it also looks like it is mahogany. Both suggest it may be correct. I recommend your proceeding with caution regarding removing it. As I recall mine was rough cut also and quite thick, like 3/4" thick....
     
  6. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    #6 rmarkowitz1_cee4a1, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
    Ditto.

    My theory is that these cases may have been produced by firms probably in lower Manhattan where the furniture trades were located with what may have been cheek and jowl with the clock assemblers. Besides furniture, these firms made everything from clock cases to frames to architectural moldings and so on. Not much difference between a "tabernacle" mirror and the front of these clocks or an ogee clock and an ogee framed mirror? They were making furniture and other goods for every price point. SO, some of the finest furniture was being made...and then some rather inexpensive. It's not handy right now, but I recall that the case of my clock was not the embodiment of "finesse". To be sure, very workman like. It has lasted largely intact for about 160 years, but not much concern about what might not show from the outside. I've seen some where on the inside, the wood still had bits of bark! Also, a mixture of woods might be used. Sometimes what was typically a secondary wood, like pine or chestnut, would be used in a "primary" role. In order to make them blend, they may be given a uniform dark ("mahoganized") finish or grained. A known practice for many other types of furniture where a mixture of woods might be used, eg, Windsors and other seating furniture. A standard furniture making technique used by people who also made furniture.

    All in all, I agree with being cautious and strongly consider leaving it be.

    RM
     
  7. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Interesting your comment about using anything on hand. I had a mahogany appearing OG, nicely done figured mahogany, but the sides of the case were painted mahogany and I found birdseye maple sides under the paint.....it was a Bristol Conn product....
     
  8. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Interesting.

    I guess now the bird's eye is the "desirable" wood. At one time, people really liked them tropical woods like mahogany. Maple, birch, cherry all nice domestic woods were often seen as second class. Now that's what people crave.

    How many pieces of country period furniture made of tiger and bird's eye maple or of other "lesser" but well figured woods, like flame birch and even cherry, eg, tables, clock cases, chests on chests, were apparently originally grained, painted or had some relatively opaque finish applied only to be stripped by 20th century dealers to appeal to modern collectors?

    For example, I have a tavern table in it's original rather dark opaque "Spanish Brown" paint. There's tiger maple or possibly figured birch under there! The grain is so strong you can feel it with you fingers.

    RM
     
  9. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Yes, very good points. I once found a wonderful highboy that had a really outrageous dark black and red painted finish. The inside drawer fronts showed really heavy tiger maple stripes, and yes it did show through the outside paint in ripples and waves that could be easily seen in a side light approach. I couldn't afford to keep it, limited capital, nothing new about that. I sold it to an Indiana collector I had known for awhile and I considered him to be serious with his collecting of original surfaces. Sure enough, next time I saw it, it was shiny tiger maple...looked great...but the original surface was forever gone. His excuse was "it couldn't have been original paint/original surface, no one would ever paint over that wonderful wood". I am thinkin' the Keno brothers might educate him but that doesn't put the original surface back. Then there was one of the big time clock collectors/dealers, gone some years ago, that skinned ever clock he ever sold, replaced all the glasses with modern repops, and put a piano finish on every clock. And yes, you most likely knew him well and his initials were WM. I passed on one of his refurbs, a nicely signed by the right folks banjo, last year, at about 10-20% of what the buyer had paid for it 35 years ago.....looked like a Stennis or Campos clock more than a Willard.....
     
  10. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Sad...and there are people who still believe that and advocate doing that sort of thing today.

    RM
     
  11. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    #11 George Nelson, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
    Hi, RM, Jim and All,

    RM and Jim, thanks so very much for your wonderful information! I am certainly going to have to eat my words: "The wood panel in my clock is definitely not original, as it really looks as if someone used a steak knife to cut it to size. It's not at all square, and is a poor fit." I should have known better than to use the word "definitely"!

    All of this discussion sent me out to get a dental mirror, in order to inspect the inside of the panel in question. You guys were right- it is installed with square nails and seems to be original from the back side. What apparently has happened is that someone (VERY POORLY) re-veneered the front of the panel without removing it, leading to the rough appearance from the front. I discovered more glass shards that are not consistent with anything that would have been on the clock originally. They were solid powder blue, most likely from a glass lamp shade or vase or whatever. So, thanks to you guys, my question has been answered!

    Along with the glass pieces, I discovered a small round copper object, wedged into a corner. Upon removal, it turned out to be a flying eagle penny from 1858! (See attached picture). It is worn, so most likely found its way into the clock sometime after it was minted, but it was indeed a fascinating find! I'm going to frame it, and hang it on the wall next to my clock.

    In conclusion, I'm probably going to leave the bottom panel as-is, without removal or attempting to re-veneer it. After all, it is part of the clock's history, right?

    Any guesses as to the age of this little girl?
    I can find no printer's name on the label (pic also attached).

    Thanks to all, George

     

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  12. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Sperry & Shaw were in business from about 1844 to 1851
     
  13. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Thanks, Jim. You and RM have provided so much wonderful information! Being able to date my clock so closely makes me very happy! All of the information that has been provided will make me much more careful in trying to decide what is an original finish and what has been "improved". Thankfully, I have not altered the finish on any of my clocks, and the help you and RM have provided prevented me from trying to replace the panel I so incorrectly thought was wrong. A lesson learned, to be sure.


    I remember my early collecting days in the very early 80s when I would write to The Answer Box at our beloved NAWCC with questions. The replies (if I got one) were months in coming, and I'm sure the staff was horribly overworked. Today, I get wonderful answers from people like you and so many others usually within 24 hours, sometimes much sooner. I so appreciate the learning I have received thanks to the people on this board!

    I will treasure my Sperry and Shaw clock even more, now that I have had a glimpse into its history and the New York furniture design aspect.

    Thanks to everyone,

    George Nelson
     
  14. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Here is a 3 weight Sperry and Shaw I currently own. I find the Crane year clock reference as advertising on a 30 hour bottom of the barrel OG clock to be interesting at least.
     

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  15. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    I agree.

    Love that you found that early 1 cent piece!

    Also, and to yes to belabor a point, even a rather humble but genuinely antique American clock can serve as a portal to interesting broader history.

    Enjoy!!

    RM
     
  16. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, Group,

    Jim, your clock with the "Year Clocks" label is similar to one on a miniature OG case I once had. I held on to it for years, in the hopes of finding a proper movement, but finally gave up and sold it to someone who DID have the right movement. In all my years of collecting, I have never come across one of those movements.

    RM, your words "...even a rather humble but genuinely antique American clock can serve as a portal to interesting broader history" are certainly true! I have discovered many interesting things within my clocks, which always send me on a research mission to find out more about them. I have learned so much from these ventures! I well remember finding a Confederate bill hidden behind the original cardboard backing on one of my Chauncey Jerome early round cornered 30 hour weight clocks with an original mirrored tablet. What a story that clock could tell!

    Also, RM, your writing earlier in this thread: "...
    I recall that the case of my clock was not the embodiment of 'finesse'" certainly rings true with the Sperry and Shaw clock that started this discussion. I just discovered when cleaning the top that there is an unusual and very old (possibly original) "repair" to the strike side weight pulley (see attached pics). If not original, the repair is quite old, and done with square nails that seemingly match the ones used in other areas of the clock. I'm tempted to think that it might have been factory done, since the weight pullies would have been originally covered with either tin or wood pieces, as there is evidence of covers, now long gone... In looking at the underside of the cutout, it appears that there was a knot right at the point where the pulley cutout had to be made. If it came loose when the hole was being cut, it must have been repaired at the time. If not it was a later repair, but must have happened early in the clock's history. Whatever the time/reason, we'll probably never know. But my point here is that I totally agree with you in that the case in total of my Sperry and Shaw is rather crudely/hastily made.

    Thanks again for all of your help! -George
     

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  17. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    #17 George Nelson, Feb 7, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
    I genuinely hope that I'm not driving everyone crazy here, but just got a phone call with more info about the history of this clock.

    When I was poking around in it about a week ago, I found a very old address label, with a name and a New York address. The name on the label and the name written in pencil on the backboard matched, so I took to the web and tracked down that previous owner of the clock. It took a bit of doing, but I finally spoke with the wife of the son of the last owner.

    He (the owner) has passed, but it seemed that one of his nephews was the person that I had originally bought the clock from on eBay, several years ago. (At the time, I did not know about the address label.) This lady kindly called me, returning my message on her answering machine. It seems that I had tracked down the wife of the last owner. She was quite elderly, but had a sharp memory and was very well-spoken.

    Anyway, she reported that the clock has been in her same family since it was purchased in 1846. She recalled hearing that a weight fell during winding only a year after purchase, so her ancestor took it back to Sperry and Shaw and it was repaired. This probably explains the pulley modification mentioned above. (Question answered.)

    She also knew that the falling weight shook the mantle piece so hard that a vase sitting next to it fell over and shattered. This explains the glass shards in the clock, as the door was open when the weight fell. I asked if she knew what color the vase was, and she thought it might have been blue, as it was a favorite of the wife, who remained quite angry for many years about its loss. The story about the loss was passed down through the family, and became somewhat of a family joke over the years, which is why my caller knew about the incident. She called the story "Fran's Falling Vase" and said that everyone in the family refers to any unpleasant incident by the same name even to this day. (So far, two questions answered.)

    Our conversation went on:

    Several years after the third family owner had possession of the clock, a huge rainstorm caused heavy leakage around their chimney and mantle, getting the clock wet. (There is evidence of water stains on the back and bottom of the clock.) This storm, which she remembers and said occurred in 1955, is heavily documented as it caused severe flooding in and around Waterbury, Connecticut, where the family was living at the time. I easily verified this occurrence on the Internet, as it is mentioned in several town histories. It caused flooding of the Naugatuck River, which wiped out several towns and the Seth Thomas clock factory in Waterbury.

    The clock was damaged rather badly, and the then current owner attempted to fix the damage done to the bottom panel by re-veneering it. This explains why the panel was so questionable to me, as the "workman" was a lawyer, not a woodworker. It also explains why the clock has two different finishes on it, with the part starting at the base of the columns and up retaining the original finish, while the part of the case below that has a later, inappropriate glossier finish. (Third question answered!)

    I told her about the penny I found in the clock, and she was not surprised. She said that her great grandfather had a habit of hiding money everywhere, and must have missed it when he got the rest of the hidden money out of the house when he retired. In addition to the clock, he hid money in "the Edison music machine", in the ice box and behind the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

    I asked why a family heirloom with such a history as this clock has was sold, and I was presented with the answer that a family member had concluded that it was "bad luck". Along with the two instances of the damage to the clock, its chiming caused a visitor to awaken in the night, and, sleepily falling down the stairs in an effort to discover what the noise was, hurt her back rather severely.

    Most recently, the time side weight fell in the middle of the night, due to a broken weight cord. The owner, I believe she said was her brother, certain that his house was being broken in to, grabbed his bedside shotgun and headed out and down the stairs to defend the family. He, too, fell down the stairs of his house, a different house this time (the clock was still in the family, now back in New York) breaking his leg and shooting a huge hole in the wall. When it was finally discovered what caused the horrible noise that night, the husband directed his wife to sell the $#%@ clock immediately. My caller said that the husband was quite superstitious, and really meant for it to be sold. I timidly asked her if she now wanted it after we had talked, and she laughed and said "absolutely not!" (I was most relieved.)

    So, now all of my questions have been answered! My clock has quite a history, and I will treasure it always. It is rare in our collecting world to discover such a history for one of our clocks, and I'm quite lucky in being able to share in the history of this one. I hope I got all the people/relationships right, as my caller was quite enthusiastic and spoke very fast...

    I so appreciate everyone's time and assistance, both in providing information and putting up with my wordy postings!

    Best to all, George
     
  18. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    We often say "If this clock could talk, what a tale it might tell." Yours has told you it's tale from the past in a most interesting way, George.
     
  19. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Thanks, Harold. I was quite happy to get that phone call. What a wonderful surprise to have nearly the complete history of my clock. Hopefully, it won't bring ME any bad luck! :eek:
     
  20. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Could very well be a "factory fix"! Why junk an otherwise perfectly good case when a small repair would do?

    What an INCREDIBLE story!

    Rarely does a story accompany the antiques we buy, and even more rarely such a colorful one!

    What a true privilege for you to have been able to learn it.

    I would suggest writing it up and along with the penny and address label and keep it in clock so where ever time may take it, it goes with it.

    I would seriously consider writing this all up and submitting it to the Bulletin as an article for publication as well.

    Just wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    Oh, and yes, good luck! Make sure you have your rabbit's foot and 4 leaf clover handy.

    RM
     
  21. scottmiami

    scottmiami Registered User

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    Agreed, awesome stuff.

    Definitely write it up & document everything. Who knows what it will see in the next century and a half.
     
  22. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, Group!

    I am indeed writing it up, and was planning to keep it with the clock, as I do with all of my clocks. Information, forum discussions like this, and anything else I come across. All of my clocks are as documented as I am able. This one is truly special, due to its story. I will submit an article to the Bulletin, as per everyone's suggestion. I've submitted once before for the "My First Clock" feature, and had a great time with it. I was shamelessly proud when it was published. Thanks to everyone for your very kind words. This investigation has been quite a bit of fun!

    Peace and many clocks to all,

    George
     
  23. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    #23 George Nelson, Feb 11, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017
    Hi, All

    Just a quick note to report that I took RM's suggestion and submitted an article about this clock to the Bulletin. In going over my hastily written notes, I made a few small corrections to the general story posted here (namely using the name "Fran" when the correct name was "Filena"; I have no idea how I got that mixed up-probably so excited to share this story!) According to my re-visited notes, I am sure everything now is correct as told to me by the former owner's relative. I want to thank RM for the suggestion, as the article was accepted and will appear in a future Bulletin, the date yet undetermined. I'm so glad to be able to share this truly wonderful story with a wider audience! Many thanks to everyone for all of your input, suggestions and information. Researching this clock has become the highlight of my year so far!

    Warmest regards to all,

    George Nelson
     
  24. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    And thank you for sharing your clock and its story!

    RM
     
  25. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it and for submitting it to the Bulletin. Hopefully others will read it and pause before assuming something on the clock is incorrect.

    Thanks, too, to Jim and RM for providing historic information on these clocks.

    Pat
     
  26. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    #26 George Nelson, Feb 14, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
    Hi, Clock and Watch Lovers,

    Yes, indeed! Thanks to EVERYBODY who helped with this. I have learned so much!

    You know, I have realized that "originality" has more than one definition, and, once lost, is gone forever. The altered panel on my clock, while not original, is a very important part of its history.

    Who knows what the annoying-to-us changes that were made to our clocks over the years were of great significance to its former owner?

    That butchered bushing repair on a movement, or an inappropriate washer soldered in place, or a spliced pendulum rod, or even -horrors- a re-drilled face, probably represents three or four hours of the work of an owner to get at least another year of function from their once-expensive timepiece, or to keep a treasured family timekeeper ticking away on the mantel.

    I have certainly learned a valuable lesson here, and, as Pat H says, "...pause before assuming..."

    Again, everyone thanks so very much. To me, the information about our clocks is just as important (if not more) than the clocks themselves. Sharing it on this board helps everyone!

    Best to all, George
     
  27. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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  28. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    RM and All,

    RM, thanks for the 'commercial'. It was published under my "official" name, William George Nelson. I had fun writing it, and even more fun seeing the story published for all to see!

    I've noted that several board members have articles in this month's edition of the Bulletin: Pat H, Andy Dervan and Mike Bailey. Great articles all, :clap:and if you are not a NAWCC member, a great reason to join!

    Best to all,

    George
     
  29. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Another Sperry and Shaw 8 day weight drive clock with the apparently JC Brown "acorn" movement. While the glass is a bit plain, it is an interesting style with humming bird and flowers featured. Excellent label, good dial, decent old finish with obviously missing veneer patches...S&S evidently liked this case style a lot... 309387.jpg 309388.jpg 309389.jpg 309390.jpg
     
  30. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Jim and All,

    Thanks, Jim for posting another example of a Sperry and Shaw/J.C. Brown clock so very similar to mine. It's good to see one with a proper bottom panel for reference.

    My clock has brought me a huge amount of enjoyment, but has a rather unattractive glass. The hummingbird glass in your example is far more attractive!

    Thanks for taking the time to share,

    George
     
  31. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I think it is interesting that the rails were also rabbited out for a 30 hr movement also. No sign they ever used the 30 hour cut outs in this clock, no sign of anything else ever being in there. Like some other S&S clocks this one is a bit down scale regarding its structure, and the quality of some of the work. Dial fits properly, no extra holes anyplace.......8 day weights fit the case well and the weight tracks on the case fit the weights......no 30 hr tracks....
     
  32. gilbert

    gilbert Registered User
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    Really kind of amazing you managed to get the history from that long ago. Thanks for sharing
     
  33. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    You are most welcome, Gilbert. Sometimes in my 'investigations', persistence, combined with a bit of good luck can be useful. I call it persistence, my wife calls it obsession...

    Best to all,

    George
     
  34. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    Wonderful well-written article, George! Thank you!!

    Pat
     
  35. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    You are so very kind, Pat! Thank YOU!!!

    George
     
  36. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    There's a SMALL (and I mean infinitesimally small) chance that I've seen ONE of these with two glasses. I have many examples with a wood panel, but I will check.
     
  37. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Sorry, no matches. The examples of SIMILAR clocks with double tablets are by Jerome.
    310080.jpg 310081.jpg 310082.jpg 310083.jpg 310084.jpg 310085.jpg 310086.jpg
     

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  38. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Clocks much closer as far as the case and columns all have a wood bottom panel. Here are two. One by M. W. Platt with Forestville works, and another with Seth Thomas works. I was sure I had other examples of Sperry & Shaw cases like this, as well as F.C. Andrews ones, but I didn't do a very thorough (hours-long) search of my clock files.
    310087.jpg 310088.jpg 310089.jpg 310090.jpg 310091.jpg 310092.jpg
     

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  39. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Sooth,

    Your expansive collection of antique clock images has come to be quite helpful in several cases. Thanks for maintaining it, and thanks, too, for so freely sharing in the information it holds!

    Best to all,

    George
     

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