Published: August 31, 2004
“Clock and Watchmaking in Early Maryland” will open September 10 with a reception from 5 to 7 pm at Homewood House, 3400 North Charles Street, on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Admission to the reception is free. The exhibition will run through November 28.
Featuring tall-case clocks, pocket watches and French mantel clocks on loan from the Homewood House collection as well as private collections and museums across the state, the show explores diverse facets of Maryland clock- and watchmaking in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries.
Topics range from weight-driven clock to the events in the lives of Marylanders that would have been dictated by clocks during this period and the social and economic histories of and relationships between craftsmen and their patrons.
The exhibition includes clocks made in Maryland and imported clocks with a known history of ownership in the state. There will be an extraordinary French mantel or table clock, created between 1790 and 1815, in the form of a sunflower. The timepiece belonged to Governor Charles Ridgely of Hampton (1760-1829) and illustrated the absolute height of fashion during the era. The clock is gilded, patinated and polychromed, the sunflower is “planted” in a detailed planter box, replete with dirt, and its pendulum is cast in the form of a butterfly.
Also in the exhibition is a tall-case clock from the Homewood House collection attributed to Gilbert Bigger, circa 1800, an Irish immigrant who worked in Baltimore from 1784 until his death in 1816. While a majority of tall-case clocks are assigned to the maker who typically painted or engraved his name upon the dial, seldom can the wooden case be attributed to a specific maker. In this instance the clock case can be attributed to Levin S. Tarr (active 1789-1815) on the basis of stylistic and construction similarities to a documented example of his work and other attributed objects.
Other objects in the exhibition include the ornate George Washington mantel clock made in Paris, France, circa 1800; a pocket watch that belonged to Samuel Chase, a signor of the Declaration of Independence; and a tall-case clock made for Maryland’s first elected governor, Thomas Johnson Jr, by John Fessler from Frederick, Md. The Fessler clock was made circa 1800 and is on loan from the Maryland State Archives.
Homewood, a National Historic Landmark, was built as a wedding present from Charles Carroll of Carrollton (one of four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence) for his son Charles Carroll Jr and his bride Harriet Chew Carroll. Museum admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm and Sunday, noon to 4 pm. For information, 410-516-5589 or www.jhu.edu/historichouses/.
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