James Doull Tallcase

James Doull Tallcase

An important American Hepplewhite tall case clock by James Doull of Charlestown, Massachusetts. This wonderful clock was made circa 1810 and stands approximately 7 feet 11.5 inches tall, 20.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

The colorful painted 13 inch iron dial is of local origin, painted by the Boston artists Spencer Nolen & Samuel Curtis. They painted some of the finest dials of the period. The dial is signed by the Clockmaker, “James Doull” in beautiful script lettering. His working location “CHARLESTOWN” is written in block lettering.

The format of the dial numbers are unique and rare. The Roman style hour numbers are presented in a tumbled format, all of them are upright and vertical. The minute ring is presented in dots except at the five minute positions, where a slash is used. The quarter hours are in Arabic style, also in a tumbled format.

The perimeter of the time display is framed with a gilt ring. A subsidiary seconds dial and the day of the month calendar are located inside the time display. An automated moon dial is displayed in the top arch, tracking the phases of the moon. The lunar calendar month is approximately 29.5 days. The moon dial shows two full moons, a sailboat at sea scene, and a pastoral scene with a cottage and two people.

The four spandrel areas of the dial are decorated with brightly painted American shields, with cornucopias or goat’s horns around the shields. Some of the deign is raised up on gesso that has been applied to the dial.

The hands are nicely formed and filed from steel.

The figured mahogany case is cross-banded with rosewood banding. Several other signed Doull clocks are known with similar style cases, so it is speculated that the cases were made by the Seymour Brothers in their shop in Charlestown.

The base is elevated on long and slender flared French feet. The front panel of the base is framed with a narrow cross-banded border. The panel is veneered with a selection of mahogany that features long sweeping vertical lines. The waist is long and is fitted with a large rectangular shaped waist door that is trimmed with an applied molding. Positioned just inside this molding is an inlaid cross-banded feature. The front corners of the waist are fitted with reeded quarter columns, terminating in brass quarter capitals.

The top bonnet features an interesting and pretty open fretwork design, circles and loops are the primary features. The frets are fitted into three reeded finial plinths. Each of them supports a single brass ball and spire finial. Fully turned and reeded bonnet columns support the upper bonnet molding. Tombstone shaped glass windows are fitted into the sides of the hood. The arched bonnet door is decoratively veneered.

It is worth noting that the case is a touch wider than many of the earlier Boston area cases. This is because of the popularity of the larger 13 inch dial that is fitted into this example.

The movement is constructed in brass and is very good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system. It strikes each hour on the hour. This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement.

Open the door and one will have access to the two tin can weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The bob is suspended on a slender wood rod, with brass fittings attached at both ends. The weights have remnants of old red paint. Both doors have working locks, and a different key for each.

There are two William Guy Langdon’s repair labels on the inside of the door. Mr. Langdon was a long time clock repairman who worked in the Boston Area for more than 70 years. His shop was located at 89 Court Street over the Oriental Tea Store.

It is worth mentioning that this clock is entirely original and free of repairs. The only exception is one small invisible veneer repair (I was told about it but can't find it without a bright light). An outstanding example.

One more interesting piece of trivia. Another Doull signed tall case clock is in the White House collection in Washington, DC. The clock is frequently on display in the Oval Office.

Additional photos below.

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