WAYNE, Pa. — A two-part auction featuring approximately 250 lots of vintage clocks and horology-related items will be held on Dec. 29 at the Italian-American Club in Wayne, Pa., beginning at 3:15 p.m. The sale will be conducted by Gordon S. Converse & Co., based in nearby Strafford. It will be the firm’s first auction dedicated to clocks and horology. A preview will be held Dec. 28, from 10-6.
“This sale will feature all kinds of antique clocks,” said Gordon S. Converse. “Most are at least 125 years old and are mechanical, but examples of early electro-mechanical clocks will also be offered, along with electric clocks of the 20th century.” The centerpiece of the sale promises to be the collection of the late James Grundy, who amassed one of the finest American shelf clock collections anywhere.
At least 75 examples of American shelf clocks — most of them from Mr. Grundy’s collection — will cross the block that day. Also offered will be several tall case clocks (two from the American Federal era); some wall clocks (including two Biedermeier-era Austrian wall clocks); mantel clocks from America, England an the Continent; books on horology; and clock makers’ tools and supplies.
“We’re already getting a positive response to the items in this auction, especially the shelf clocks,” Converse said. “We’ve had lots of views on LiveAuctioneers.com, which is facilitating online bidding. This is a unique chance for collectors to bid on a wide selection of fresh-to-the-market clocks that won’t be offered again for a long while. Dedicated collectors need to mark their calendars.”
Just a few of the shelf clocks expected to generate a lot bidder interest include the following:
• A carved case shelf clock by Eli Terry, Jr., featuring carved quarter columns flanking the full-length door, which has a reverse painted glass below the glazed square wood dial and carved paw feet. The crest mounted on top is a finely carved Federal eagle.
• A Jerome & Darrow shelf clock made circa 1824-1826, having a look of reeded pilasters with neatly carved capitals, a scrolled top with hollow brass finials (an affectation from the earlier Eli Terry “Pillar and Scroll” designed clock), and a later reverse painting of Independence Hall.
• An important striking looking-glass shelf clock, signed “Sawin” (John Sawin, Boston, 1810-1863), with a stencil reverse painted decorated glass masking the dished dial above a looking-glass mounted within the base panel. Striking shelf clocks are uncommon, making them desirable to collectors.
• An early 19th century American shelf clock with an original label that identifies C. & C.L. Ives as the manufacturer for David & Barber of Bristol, Conn. The clock has robust carving on the crests and half columns, two reverse paintings of two prominent buildings, and a painted wood dial.
• A faux finish, mahogany, gilt wood, carved and reverse painted triple-deck shelf clock made by the Forestville Mfg. Co. of Bristol, Conn. The reverse painted glasses of architectural landscapes and the carved and gilt crest atop the case are unusual in their form. The clock also boasts ball feet.
New England’s clock makers in the early 1800s had little to work with in terms of technology to create clocks that would be affordable to the masses. But between 1820 and 1860, there was a proliferation of affordable shelf clocks — so-named because they ended up being quite high and so couldn’t fit easily onto mantels; instead, they were displayed on shelves.
The skills of the craftspeople in New England’s cottage industries (such as reverse painting on glass, stenciling, wood carving and gold leaf skills) were all utilized in the making of these popular shelf clocks. Inside each one were clockworks that also showed off the inventive skills of the Yankee clock makers. Many had calendars, wooden gears, alarm devices and brass (not coiled steel) springs.
“This auction will feature shelf clocks in a variety of styles and sizes, by various makers,” Converse said. “Bidders will be treated to variations on seminal designs, real-life examples of original patents and crafts skills of the 19th century — enough to fill a museum. We’ll have clocks by the Terrys of Connecticut and many made in Bristol, Conn., the Yankee clock making capital from 1800-1850.”
While shelf clocks are expected to take center stage at the auction, dozens of other pieces in a wide array of sizes and styles will also come under the gavel. These will include a 39-inch C. & N. Jerome 8-day repeating brass clock with scored dial; an unusual miniature timepiece made by Silas Hoadley; and a circa 1900 11-inch-tall Black Forest painted cast iron and tin “Clock Peddler” clock.
Also offered will be a circa 1870s French industrial lighthouse clock, 22 inches tall, with a model Fresno light atop the structure oscillating on the half-seconds; a fine Federal tall case clock (circa 1790-1810), with a dense and dark solid mahogany case and a dial possibly from the shop of Nolan & Curtis; and a 4-candlestick mahogany cased “wagon spring” steeple clock by Birge & Fuller.
Gordon S. Converse & Co.’s next big auction after this will be a general art and antique sale, slated for early 2010. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. For consignment information, contact them at 610-722-9004 or Gordon@ConverseClocks.com.
Photos courtesy Gordon S. Converse & Co.
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