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Boston Clock Makers

There were many clockmakers in Boston and its vicinity, and much good work came from their shops. The earliest record is of William Davis, who came to Boston in 1683, and owing to the size of his family and his lack of funds he was obliged to find some one to go surety for him. David Edwards accepted his pledges and became surety that neither he nor his family would become charges on the town.

James Batterson was another early maker, Boston, 1707-30. Gawen Brown was another well-known Boston maker, and a "Mr. Avery", 1726, made the clock which hangs in the Old North Church of Paul Revere fame. The church itself makes a most picturesque setting for the old clock, and was built in 1723 from a design, so it is said, by Sir Christopher Wren. The bells, among the first sets sent to this country, were cast in 1744 by the famous Abel Rudhall of Gloucester, England, and still preserve their sweet tones. Each of the eight has an inscription; on the third one is this: "We are the first ring of bells cast for ye British Empire in North America. Anno 1744, AD".

The interior of the Old North Church preserves in general its original appearance. The organ was put in position in 1759. The four quaint carved figures in front of the organ were the spoils of the "Queen of Hungary" a privateer under command of Captain Grushea, who took the figures from a French vessel in 1746. They are fine specimens of Spanish art.

The clock itself, much in shape like the "Act of Parliament" clocks, was put in front of the gallery in 1726, and cost £22. It is still a good timekeeper, its tick-tock resounding through the quiet church. Mr. Croswell, once a rector of the church, used to sleep in a room off the gallery, and has left his record of the clock:

To know that in the lofty room
I was the only living guest
The ticking of yon ancient clock,
That marks the solemn tread of time,
Against my heart-strings seems to knock.

The dial of the clock has been repainted. The long body of the case is made necessary by the seconds pendulum. This clock is only one among a score of interesting ones to be found in the city of Boston.

Although the bells of the Old North Church were sent from England, and doubtless those of many other meeting-houses, the following advertisement from the Boston Gazette and Country Journal, for May, 1770 shows that the need of a bell-foundry was appreciated :

Erected by Henry Crane of Stoughton, by the assistance of a Bell-founder from England, but last from Philadelphia, where Peals of Bells are cast of any size for Churches, Bells for Meeting Houses from zoowt. to 6 or 7 Tons, School-House and Ship Bells of all Sizes, Bells for Clocks and Chime bells of any Dimensions. This being a new Branch of Business in this Province, said Crane hopes he may meet with public Encouragement; and he will engage to make them as good as any imported and much cheaper.

Another distinguished Boston clockmaker was Benjamin Bagnall, who had a shop at Cornhill near the Town House in 1770.

The son of Benjamin Bagnall of Charlestown, Mass., was at work from 1712 to 1740, Samuel Bagnall, son of this same Benjamin Bagnall of Charlestown, was also an expert clockmaker, and worked in Boston from 1740 to 1760.

The Pope family, Robert and Joseph, were also men well known in their trade at Boston. In the Massachusetts Centinel for Saturday, April 29, 1786, there is this advertisement:

ROBERT POPE, Clockmaker, Orange street, South-end, Boston, makes Chime and plain clocks, Timepieces, etc. of various constructions, warranted to be equal to any and far superior to many imported from Europe. Table clocks either chime or plain. Clock and Watch springs warranted as above, spiral springs of almost any size, spring saws, spring trusses etc.

In the Columbian Centinel, August 7, 1790:

JOSEPH POPE Respectfully informs his friends and the publick, that he has lately returned from London, and now carries on the Clock and Watch-Makers business in their different branches, at No. 49 Marlborough Street, a few doors north of Seven Star Lane. Has neat silver watches for sale.

D. F. Lanny, watch and clockmaker "late from Paris", had a shop at 21 Marlborough Street in 1789, In 1790 Lanny advertises in the Columbian Centinel as follows: "Wanted, a Lad about 14 years of age as an Apprentice to the Watch-makers Business. Inquire at No. 21 Marlborough St."

Sawin and Dyer, settled in Boston, made very choice wall clocks. They were at work from 1800-20, and of course made other designs as well.

In the Massachusetts Centinel for December 12, 1789, is the advertisement of Richard Cranch, Watch-maker, who before the war carried on the business near the Mill-Bridge in Boston, hereby informs the publick that he now, after an interruption of several years, carries on the same business in Braintree, a few miles south of Boston."

In 1790 Isaac Townsend of 27 Cornhill, Boston, made gold and silver watches, clocks, "elegant watch chains, seals, keys, trinkets and glasses".

John Deverell, "next door to the Treasury" sold watches and clocks and advertises in 1790, "very neat, new, silver watches for 16 dollars. All kinds of gold silver and engraving Work executed in the neatest and best manner".

The Munroe family in Concern, Mass., where we always look for superior merit, were several distinguished clockmakers. The two Munroes, Daniel and Nathaniel, made fine clocks from 1800 to 1808. Nathaniel Munroe, born 1777, died 1861, was in business in Concord by 1800, after serving an apprenticeship with Abel Hutchins of that town. Just where and when Daniel his elder brother served his apprenticeship we have not discovered, but in 1808 Daniel removed to Boston, while Nathaniel remained in Concord till 1817, when he went to Baltimore. The latter part of the time Nathaniel was in Concord he was in partnership with Samuel Whiting, under the firm name of Munroe et Whiting. They did a large business, chiefly in eight-day clocks, and they had seven or eight apprentices and journeymen. Nathaniel also had an extensive brass foundry where he made bells, clock movements, etc.

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