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Simon Willard Eight-Day Clocks: In Search of the Finely-Divided Trade, 1785-1825, by Robert C. Cheney

  • HSNY at the General Society Library 20 West 44th Street New York, NY, 10036 United States (map)

Robert C. Cheney, Executive Director of the Willard House and Clock Museum

September 10, 2019 Robert C. Cheney, Executive Director of the Willard House and Clock Museum

As the most complicated trade in 18th century America, clock making relied heavily on a finely divided shop structure to produce domestic timekeepers. Cabinetmakers, carvers, gilders, dial makers, painters and at least seventeen different metal-working trades all joined forces to capture the fervor of nouveau riche Americans to mimic fine English interiors with locally produced furniture, silver, portraiture and clocks to fill elegant new homes. At the September 10, 2019, meeting of the Horological Society of New York, Robert C. Cheney will discuss the fascinating history of Simon Willard eight-day clocks. Previous scholarship by Cheney has documented a little known, but extensive trade in Liverpool and Birmingham goods to supply Willard and others with most of the materials and components needed to fill the needs of an emerging American market. Cheney's HSNY lecture will widen the importance of Liverpool and Birmingham for American clock production and discuss how Willard began to recreate English methodology in Boston by 1800.

About Robert C. Cheney

Robert C. Cheney of Brimfield, Massachusetts is a third-generation clockmaker and a nationally recognized authority on early American clocks. He has served as a conservator and consultant for nearly fifty museums including Old Sturbridge Village, Worcester Art Museum, The American Antiquarian Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and has served on the Boards of the National Watch and Clock Museum, the American Clock and Watch Museum and the Willard House and Clock Museum.

Cheney is the co-author of Clock Making in New England, 1725-1825, numerous articles, book reviews, and during his tenure as Scholar in Residence at the Concord Museum, he wrote Roxbury Movements and the English Connection, 1785-1825, for the Magazine Antiques. This thesis was horological heresy when first published in April 2000, but now cited throughout both the horological and decorative arts world. Cheney has also lectured extensively on many aspects of horology and scientific instruments in the United States, Canada and the U.K. After a 35-year career of self-employment and a decade as the founder and head of the "Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments" Department at Skinner Inc., Boston, he currently serves as Executive Director and Curator of the Willard House and Clock Museum, in Grafton, Massachusetts. Robert Cheney is a Silver Star Fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.

About The Willard House and Clock Museum

The Willard House and Clock Museum in North Grafton, Massachusetts, is the birthplace and homestead of Simon, Benjamin, Aaron and Ephraim Willard, probably the best-known family of American clockmakers during the 18th and early 19th century. The homestead includes the only 18th century clock workshop still standing on its original foundation in America, together with period tools and equipment needed to produce the most complicated device found in early homes. The Museum galleries include a wide assortment of Willard family furnishings and portraits, the 1802 patent document for the "Patent Timepiece" or "banjo" clock, Thomas Jefferson drawings, and 87 masterpiece-level Willard clocks, timepieces and Goddard watches. The Museum will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2021.