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Benjamin Willard

The most famous name among clockmakers of Massachusetts was Willard. Benjamin Willard was born in Framingham, Mass., in 1716. He had one of those good old-fashioned families of twelve children. Three of his sons, Benjamin, Jr., Simon, and Aaron, all became famous as expert clockmakers. Their first clocks were made about 1765 or somewhat earlier. In the Boston Evening Post of December, 1771, Benjamin, Jr., advertises his "removal from Lexington to Roxbury and that he will take care of clocks purchased of him or of his workmen at Grafton where clocks are made as well as at Roxbury. He will sell house clocks neatly cased cheaper than imported. He hopes this and other kind of mechanical performances may be encouraged as large sums of money had been sent abroad which might have been retained to the emolument of this country".

In 1774 Benjamin Willard, Jr., also advertised as follows, in the "Massachusetts Spy":

A number of Musical Clocks which play a different Tune each Day in the Week, on Sunday a Psalm Tune. Enquire of
Clock and Watch Maker in Roxhury-street, near Boston. Where all Sorts of Clocks are made in the newest form and warranted to measure Time without Variation, and to go many Years without cleaning. Also Clock-Cases made at the same place in Various Forms, and in the best Manner, and cheaper than can be purchased in London, and conveyed with Clocks to any Part of the Country. N. B. Said Willard likewise informs, that all Branches of this Business are carried on at his Shop at Grafton.

Benjamin Willard, Jr., was born at Grafton, Mass., March 19, 1743. He was the first member of this family to take up clock-making, and his clocks are marked Grafton, Lexington, or Roxbury. He died in Baltimore, Md., 1803.

Of the three brothers Simon was by far the most noted and undoubtedly the best clockmaker. He remained at Roxbury till his death in 1848, and he left a son of the same name still in the business. He advertised very little, but relied on his clock papers.

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 dollars. Time pieces for Astronomical purposes price 70 dollars. Time pieces for meeting houses to place before the gallery, with neat enamelled 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 received 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 satisfaction 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 parts. You need not wind up any till 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 the 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.

Although the name of Willard is generally associated with that form of clock which has come to be known as "banjo" the clock paper just given shows that they made many other kinds. After moving from Grafton, about 1788, Simon Willard gave up the making of any style of clock except turret, gallery, church and hall clocks, and general repair work.

The banjo clocks, which are so much desired to-day were only a small part of their business, which not only included all kinds of house clocks but church and turret clocks as well. It may be well to state here that in the interesting book just published by John W. Willard, called "Simon Willard and His Clocks" the author says that on the top of these "patent timepieces" Simon Willard used a wooden or brass acorn, or a ball, gilded, never the spread eagle.

Aaron Willard, Jr., who made very fine long-case clocks with brass works, did not go into business till 1823, when he entered his father's shop. The distribution of the Willard clocks was wide-spread. You find them, particularly the banjo, in all parts of America, and most of them are still dependable timekeepers.

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