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Ask A Worthologist Question: A Long Case Clock

by Mike Wilcox (06/29/10).

 

Jennifer picked up this long case clock in Rhode Island. Her thoughts about the age of the clock were correct, but she was off about the origin. It’s not Early American but of Scotch manufacture.

Jennifer picked up this long case clock in Rhode Island. Her thoughts about the age of the clock were correct, but she was off about the origin. It’s not Early American but of Scottish Provincial manufacture.

Jennifer M. is trying to identify a grandfather clock she picked up. So she engaged WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service, and it was forwarded to me. Here is her question:

“This grandfather clock came from an old home in Rhode Island. We got what we feel is a good deal on it; we paid $1,500. We know little about it other than it appears quite old, it has “Arbroath” on the left side of the dial. On the right it looks like something was written there, but it’s hard to read. We can find no American maker with that name. Is it Early American?”

I was able to tell Jennifer where her clock was made and to confirm her suspicion that she paid a bargain price for it:

These stately “grandfather clocks,” as they are often called in North America, were originally known as either “tall case” or “long case” clocks. The “grandfather” label comes from a children’s song “My Grandfather’s Clock,” a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work. The first long case clocks were made in England around 1600 and the earliest-known American example originated in 1680. The long case was necessary to house the long pendulum. The case was often designed and made by a cabinet maker, the brass or wood mechanism made separately by the clockmaker.

Looking at your images, the clock does date to the early years of the U.S.A.’s history, but the design features of your clock and its oak case indicate this is an Scottish Provincial example with an eight day movement (how long it could go before rewinding). Scottish and English clocks like this, with painted dials and quarter columns balusters, tend to date from the turn of 18th century until about 1830. The marking “Arbroath” is the name of a Scottish town. This clock is very similar to examples made by a David McKay. In today’s market, you made a very good deal. Comparable Scottish long case clocks with eight day movements sell in the $3,000-$4,000 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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