American Federal Antique Tall Case Clock, Benjamin Morris, Bucks County, Pennsylvania


Movement by Benjamin Morris (Pennsylvania, 1748-1833), Back of case inscribed illegibly and dated 1821 in graphite

Item # 1401BSP18PG

This is an absolutely exceptional Late Federal Tall Case Clock, the movement by the well-listed Hilltown, Pennsylvania clockmaker Benjamin Morris. Working in Reading, Hilltown and New Britton, PA, Morris was a highly productive clock maker who is estimated to have made at least three-hundred tall clocks (Palmer). The hood is raised in a molded swan's neck pediment scrolling into deep floral rosette terminals backed by a toothed-sphere; three finials are raised on square plinths to equally divide the top, these urn forms culminating in a swirling flame top. The glazed arched door is joined with through-tenons, opening for reveal an eight-day painted dial inscribed "Benj. Morris / Bucks County" inside the Roman Numeral chapter ring beneath the complex pierced hands, the whole framed in fruit and foliage decorated spandrels beneath a moon-phase dial and faded globes. The false plate is impressed "WILSON", naturally being an English import, the seatboard inscribed "1-37 / 299 3 / JTM".

Possibly most notable in the clock is the incredibly complex molding work stepping down and stepping up from the shaft; carved in two section, the undulating contrasting of cove and concave forms creates a highly distinctive and almost majestic transition between sections. The long door opens smoothly over original hinges. The back of the case is a single solid plank of poplar running the length; it is inscribed somewhat illegibly in graphite at eye level "Garvin (Gavin) .............. / 1821", possibly the craftsman who executed the case for Morris. The entire case rests over splayed French feet, these bold and fitting for the overall form of the case. Entirely original and carefully preserved, the feet retain their original blocking inside, the triangular rear supports dovetailing directly into the rear foot facings.

For serious collectors of American Federal and Federal Period Pennsylvania furnishings, this is a simply outstanding work of art. Preserved with utmost integrity, retaining originality in every important aspect of the case and works, this is a fine piece you will cherish in your home for a lifetime.

Further Research and Literature:

The Book of American Clocks, Palmer, p. 245

Berks County Tall-Case Clocks 1750-1850, Machmer, p. 93

Pennsylvania Clocks, Eckhardt, p. 218

Pennsylvania Clocks, 1750-1850: A Special Exhibit of the National Watch and Clock Museum, J. Carter Harris, p. 16-17

Pennsylvania Clocks and Watches, James W. Gibbs, p. 106.

Measurements: 96" high

Condition Report: Surface is not original, but is quite early under later shellac. Many abrasions and scratches, as expected, but overall the surface is highly attractive and vibrant. Case has a slight "rightward" cant to it, somewhat typical due to shrinking joints; this is not noteworthy with small pads beneath the right feet. Finials replaced and unbleached, the tiny plinth bases on right and left also replaced. Glass in the hood is replaced. Works are fully original, these untested and the cords jumbled. Dial face appears to be free of any inpainting, the moon-phase with significant chipping/flaking on all four rotations. Lock does not function with the current key. All hardware is original (hinges, lock, knobs, etc.) with the exception of the keyhole escutcheon on the shaft door. Feet are entirely original with some horizontal cracking, but all remain very sturdy and strong - one block is absent, but retained and we can easily have this glued into place upon request.

Item ID: 1401BSP18PG

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Silla Fine Antiques

Silla Fine Antiques, Shippensburg, PA   

Period American Furniture, French Furnishings, Fine Nineteenth Century Art and Sculpture

Ruby Lane Shop Rating
Silver Rating Silver
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