Tall clock

about 1800
Simon Willard (American, 1753–1848)

Object Place: Roxbury, Massachusetts, United States

Catalogue Raisonné

Eighteenth-Century American Arts No. 127


Overall height including finial (width and depth are at middle of cabinet): 252.4 x 35.2 x 17.8 cm (99 3/8 x 13 7/8 x 7 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Mahogany, pine

Not On View





In 1776 Benjamin Willard established a clock-making workshop in Grafton, Massachusetts. His brothers Simon, Ephraim, and Aaron joined him, creating a dynasty that trained dozens of young men over three generations. In the early 1780s, Simon Willard began one of America’s earliest clock factories in Roxbury, employing clockmakers to make the movements and dials, cabinetmakers to create the cases, and woodcarvers and painters to embellish the final product. Simon is the best-known Willard brother due to the size of his factory and his inventions in clock works and design. Clocks produced by the factory included tall case (or grandfather) clocks as well as the banjo and lighthouse clocks exhibited in the adjacent gallery.


Original Simon Willard printed paper label glued to inside of door reads:

Clock [shop symbol of pillar with clock dial] Manufactory.

SIMON WILLARD, / AT his Clock Dial, in ROXBURY / Street, manufactures every kind of CLOCK WORK, such as large / Clocks for Steeples, made in the best manner, and warranted, price / with one dial, 500 dollars; with two dials, 600 dollars; with three / dials, 700 dollars; with four dials, 900 dollars. ---Common eight day / Clocks, with very elegant faces and mahogany cases, price from 50 to / 60 dollars. --- Elegant eight day Time pieces, price 30 dollars. ---Time / pieces which run 30 hours, and warranted, price 10 dollars. ---Spring / Clocks of all kinds, price from 50 to 60 dollars. ---Clocks that will run / one year, with once winding up, with very elegant cases price 100 dol- / lars. ---Time pieces for Astronomical purposes, price 70 dollars. ---Time / pieces for meeting houses, to place before the gallery, with neat enam- / eled dials, price 55 dollars. ---Chime Clocks, that will play 6 tunes, / price 120 dollars. ---Perambulators are also made at said place, which / can be affixed to any kind of wheel carriage, and will tell the miles / and rods exact, price 15 dollars.

GENTLEMEN who wish to purchase any kind of CLOCKS, are invited to / call at said WILLARD'S CLOCK MANUFACTORY, where they will receive / satisfactory evidence, that it is much cheaper to purchase new, than old and second / hand CLOCKS: He warrants all his work --- and as he is ambitious to give satis- / faction ---he doubts not of receiving the public approbation and patronage.


First place the clock perpendicular, then fasten it with a screw, pull out the nails which / fasten the pendulum and pulleys, then hang on the weights, the heaviest on the striking part / --- You need not wind up any until the clock is run down. ---You may set the clock to / the right hour, by moving the minute hand forwards or backwards. ---The Month and / Moon wheel is fixed right by moving them with your finger. ---Screw the pendulum ball / up to make the clock go faster, and down to go slower,

PRINTED BY I. THOMAS, Jun. ---Worcester.

Bill of sale once glued to inside of door reads: "Newton Jany 27 1800 / Mr. Herbert Moore / Bot of Simon Willard / One Warranted eight day clock $60 / Recd payment in Full / Simon Willard"

Letter once glued to inside of door reads: "Dec 3 [19]23 / FH Bigelow / 4 Channing St. Cambridge / The tall Simon Willard / clock which I have sold / to you was originally / bought by Reuben Moore / in 1800 as per bill pasted / inside the door. It has / always stood in the same place in his house / 148 Waverly Avenue and / called the old Ricker (James) / Estate: James Ricker married / Reuben Moore's daughter Katharine. / [signed] Arthur Ricker"

The latter two documents removed and conserved in 1981.


Dial signed "Warranted by / Simon Willard [in script] / BOSTON."


Painted dial was manufactured by the Wilson firm in Birmingham, England and is so marked on the "false plate" and the back side of the moon dial.


Owned purchased in 1800 for $60 by Mr. Reuben Moore of Newtown, Massachusetts; by descent to James and Katharine Ricker; presumablt by descent to Arthur Ricker; 1923, purchased by Francis Hill Bigelow; later owned by Hermann F. Clarke; later acquired by Henry purchased from Henry Kaufman, a dealer, for $1,600 for the M. and M. Karolik CollecTion of Eighteenth-Century American Arts (Accession Date 1939)

Credit Line

The M. and M. Karolik Collection of Eighteenth-Century American Arts