J. R. Bowen Gilded Banjo Wall Clock, ca. 1825
Appraised Value: $2,000 (2009)
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:02)
Clocks & Watches
Delaney's Antique Clocks
GUEST: I brought in this clock that I'd found laying along the road on a trash pile. I was going by, and I thought it was a banjo, because I could only see the side of it. So I turned around and went back to pick it up, and this is what it was.
APPRAISER: A banjo as in a musical instrument?
GUEST: Yes, I was going to pick it up for my father, because I figured he likes to play a lot of musical instruments, and if it just had broken strings, he could fix them and play it.
APPRAISER: And you were pleasantly surprised that it was a...
GUEST: I was very surprised.
APPRAISER: in terms of banjo clocks and wall clocks in general, it's actually a very early clock. This particular clock was made by J.R. Bowen, who worked in Waltham, Massachusetts. And we're just discovering a watch paper that was found where he worked in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Not a lot of information's known about this particular maker right now. He's sort of an obscure guy. But the fact that he worked in Charlestown, we can speculate that he probably worked with the Stowell family, who were prolific makers from that area, and then later moved to Waltham, where we have found an advertisement from him.
APPRAISER: One of the interesting things about him as a clockmaker is that of all the clocks that we know of, there's less than a half a dozen, and all of them are banjo or wall timepieces. What's interesting about this clock is that it has a gilded case. All of the other examples that we've found to date are in what are called mahogany half frames. And they're much more of a commercial-type clock, as opposed to this, which is a real fancy presentation piece.
APPRAISER: Now, we know that J.R. Bowen made this clock because it's signed on the dial. It's difficult to read, but if you've seen a few of his signatures, you know a couple of letters and you can figure it out. You also can read the name "Waltham, Massachusetts." This clock has suffered a little over the years. I know that you have the piece of molding that's missing. Right, yes. But in addition, the glasses have been repainted. The original glasses were probably broken. They pay homage to the person that invented the form, Simon Willard.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: Simon Willard, our most famous American clockmaker, invented this form in 1802. He had 14 years to make this clock exclusively. Nobody else could make the clock. And as a result, he made lots of them. Soon as his patent ran out, all the clockmakers that were making tall clocks of the period started to make this because it was so much less expensive to produce.
GUEST: Oh, okay, uh-huh.
APPRAISER: Originally, this clock, made about 1825, probably sold for about $20, which was still a lot of money, but not nearly as expensive as a tall case clock. Because of the restoration of the clock in terms of the glasses, I think you'd find this clock in a retail outlet or even at auction in the $2,000 price range. If you did a little bit of work to it-- certainly it can be made to work, even though it was found on a trash pile-- service the movement, which is not expensive, little bit of gluing, certainly a clock that you could see in a retail shop in the $3,000 price range.
GUEST: All right, well, thank you.
APPRAISER: What's important are the glasses on the bottom. If those glasses were original, you're probably looking at an $8,000 to $10,000 clock.
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