Minutes from The Clock Club (Boston, MA)

Transcribed by Erica Altschul, March 2009


A meeting was held at the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston on
Saturday, October 27, 1934. The President, Rev. Laurence L. Barber,

Reading of the minutes of the last meeting was waived.

The Treasurer's report was read and accepted.

The Secretary read the minutes of a meeting of the Executive Council
held on October 8, 1934. At that meeting the Council voted to amend
Section 1 of Article V of the By-Laws so as to reduce the number of
regular meetings from eight to five, such a meeting to be held in each
of the months of November, December, February, March and April in each
year, the April meeting to be the annual meeting at which election of
officers for the ensuing year shall be held.

It developed from the debate on the question whether or not the
amendment should be ratified and adopted, that there was no opposition
to the proposed reduction in the number of regular meetings, but it was
suggested by a member that the five months designated by the Executive
Countil were not the most desirable months in which to hold the
meetings, and therafter, upon motion duly made and seconded, it was

VOTED to lay the matter on the table until the next regular meeting and
      to request the Executive Council to further consider the 
      designation of dates for meetings.

The Secretary stated that after conference with the other Collectors'
Clubs, and to avoid conflict of dates, it had been decided to hold
meetings of the Clock Club on the first Saturday in each meeting month,
this arrangement being altered for the present meeting only, in order to
avoid such a conflict. Thereupon, on motion duly made and seconded, it

VOTED to hold the next regular meeting on the first Saturday in

At the recent meeting of the Executive Council, the Secretary urged that
the program for the first meeting be devoted principally to the
consideration of a single early clockmaker and his work, to the end that
the topic so offered might furnish the background for the year's
research. This suggestion was accepted and it was decided to ask the
membership to concentrate upon the work of Benjamin Bagnall. Doubtless
the principal office of an amateur collectors' club is to amuse and
entertain its members. With the majority of us this seems easy of
accomplishment by meeting from time to time and talking about this and
that, injecting, of course, a proper measure of the gentle boasting in
which all collectors are wont to indulge. The obvious defect in this
process is that it lays up little proof for the next generation. It is
believed that the quality of our membership warrants our undertaking, in
addition to current entertainment, a certain amount of serious research
which may eventually lead to a series of worthwhile publications. With
this in view an invitation was extended to Mr. James E. Conlon of Boston
to address the Club on the subject of "Benjamin Bagnall and his Clocks",
an invitation which was graciously accepted. Mr. Conlon has long been
engaged as a clock maker and probably has had a broader experience with
fine clocks than any other person in this section. In addition to his
practical experience, he has in years past devoted a great deal of time
and energy to consideration of the origin and history of New England
clock makers. Time did not permit him any further research on the
subject of Bagnall, and it should be said that the data which Mr. Conlon
had at hand was gleaned by him long before Mr. Wallace Nutting had the
good fortune to secure from Miss Sarah G. Bagnall of Framingham,
Massachusetts, the Bagnall history which he printed at page 487 of
volume III of his "Furniture Treasury".

The following facts have been gleaned from the notes which Mr. Conlon
has loaned to the Secretary, with an addition here and there from the
material which Mr. Nutting published. [Sarah's Note: furnished by me]

Benjamin Bagnall, a Quaker, was born in England in 1689. He came to this
country soon after completing his apprenticeship and settled in Boston.
In earlier lists of American clock makers his residence has been given
as Charlestown, Mass., (1712-40). In his latest list, Mr. Nutting has:
"Benjamin Bagnall, Boston, Mass., (1712-40). Classed with Wm. Claggett
of Newport. They are among the earliest makers in America of fine
clocks, and their clocks are eagerly sought. See Peter Stretch for
another name as early." Undoubtedly the earlier designation of
Charlestown (formerly a suburb of, and now a part of Boston) as his
residence was error. He married Elizabeth Shove, whose parents resided
in Charlestown, and it is recorded in Wyman's History of Charlestown,
quoting from the Treasurer's Book, under date of August 22, 1724, that
Benjamin Bagnall was paid for cleaning the town clock, but there is no
other evidence that he ever plied his trade in Charlestown.

The records of the town of Boston disclose that, at a town meeting held
on May 8, 1716, the subject of a town clock to be placed in the Brick
Meeting-House was introduced and postponed to the next meeting, June 12.
Then it was voted to request the Representatives to move the General
Court for aid in the project. If they made the application it probably
failed. In the next year (May 15, 1717) it was voted that the Selectmen
be directed at the town's charge to procure a public clock and set up
the same in some convenient place in Cornhill for the benefit of the
inhabitants, "Cornhill" being the name then given to that portion of the
present Washington Street lying between School Street and Dock Square.
At a meeting of the Selectmen held on August 13, 1717, a committee was
named and directed to treat with Mr. Benjamin Bagnall about making a
town clock. It is recorded that at a meeting of the Selectmen on
September 9, 1718, Mr. Benjamin Bagnall having an order for his being
paid in full for making the town clock, promised the Selectmen to do
what should be further necessary to complete and finish the same, and,
if desired, he would make the same go as an eight day clock in the place
where it then stood. (This may well be the first recorded case, at least
on this side of the water, of a disappointment resulting from discovery
that a particular clock needed winding each day, a situation by no means
uncommon in the later day experience of amateur collectors).

The Brick Meeting-House, or "Old Brick", as it was later called, was
built to replace a meeting-house destroyed by fire in 1711, and was
first occupied on May 3, 1713. It stood on the site of the office
building now numbered 209 Washington Street. It consisted of three
stories surmounted by a belfry. There is a small cut of this church in
"History and Antiquities of Boston" by Drake, at page 548, another in
"The Memorial History of Boston", Vol. II, at page 219, and there is a
full page reproduction in Stark's "Antique Views of ye Towne of Boston",
at page 297. All of these show a large clock located on the sloping roof
facing Washington Street.

At a meeting of the Selectmen held on April 28, 1735, Mr. Bagnall being
present, it was agreed that he should be paid the sum of ten pounds for
taking care of the town clock at the Old Meeting-House for one year, he
to keep the same in good repair. That Mr. Bagnall built well, and took
excellent care of the clock so long as his term of office lasted, is
evidenced by the Church Records which establish that it was still in
going condition in 1839 when it was sold at auction. [Sarah's Note: 121
years when sold at auction]

Mr. Bagnall evidently became a man of affairs in the town as evidenced
by the number of real estate transactions in which he was involved which
appear of record in the Registry of Deeds. In these instruments he was
sometimes described as "Watchmaker", and sometimes as "Merchant", but
never, so far as known, as "Clockmaker". In January, 1876, the late
William R. Bagnall of Malden, Massachusetts, writing to the New England
Historic and Genealogical Society stated that his ancestor, Benjamin
Bagnall, once owned the property on Washington Street known as the
Journal Building (No. 262), and that he sold the same in 1745.

Seven children were born to Benjamin Bagnall and Elizabeth Shove
Bagnall, his first wife, four sons, Benjamin Jr., Samuel, John and
Thomas, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Martha and Sarah. In a recorded
mortgage given in 1756, no mention is made of his wife. Presumably she
had deceased before that date. Reference in his will to his wife,
Sarah, indicates that he was married a second time. In the Vital
Records of Rhode Island, Vol. XII, page 81, we read: "Mrs. Sarah
Bagnall, widow of Benjamin Bagnall of Boston, daughter of Abraham
Redwood of Newport, died in Cranston, January 7, 1791, aged 88 years."

While history seems to establish that the Quakers were not well received
and never in high favor in Boston, being subjected in early times to
treatment which seems to have amounted to persecution, the Bagnall
family seems to have risen above their sect in this respect and to have
established themselves in general favor, indeed, Mr. Bagnall seems to
have met with almost instant success in Boston, not only in business
matters, but also in the personal friendships which he formed and
maintained. There is evidence that he was on the most friendly terms
with Governor Belcher and other prominent persons in the colony. Perhaps
the standing of the family is best pictured by the following notice
published in the New England Weekly Journal of August 9, 1737:

"Last Thursday in the Afternoon Mr. Benjamin Bagnall, Jun. eldest son of
Mr. Benjamin Bagnall, of this Town, Merchant, married Mistress Anna
Hawden, Daughter of Mr. James Hawden of this Town, Shopkeeper, in the
manner of the Quakers. The marriage was solemnized in the Old Brick
Church, the Quaker Meeting House not being large enough to contain the
vast Concourse of People of all Perswations who came to see the
Solemnity. The parents of the married Couple gratefully acknowledge the
favor of having the marriage solemnized in said Meeting House. His
Excellency, our Governor and several of the Council and of the Justices,
etc. attended the said Marriage, which was carried on with becoming
decency. It being a rainy time, His Excellency favoured the Bridegroom
and his Bride with his Chariot."

Inquiry has been made at the historical societies in Boston, as well as
the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, but no picture of the
Quaker Church of 1737 has been found. It was located on the west side of
Congress Street on the site of the Monks Building (No. 35). A picture of
their later church on Milton Place, off Federal Street, is shown at page
72 of "Boston Almanac" for 1843. There it is stated that the Congress
Street church was erected prior to 1717, and stood until April, 1825,
when the building was sold and demolished. In "Memorial History of
Boston", Vol. II, page 220, it is stated that this church was built in
1709, that it was of brick, and measured about thirty by thirty-five
feet, and that it had in front a high wooden fence, with a large gate,
which was seldom opened except for the small monthly meetings of the

The following notice of the death of Benjamin Bagnall, Sr., appeared in
the Boston News Letter of July 15, 1773: "Last Sunday died after a short
illness Benjamin Bagnall, watchmaker of this Town, aged 84 yrs., one of
the people called Quakers. He came from England to America early in life
and has always resided in the Place. He was a good husband and a good
Parent; honest and upright in his Dealings; sincere and steadfast in his
friendship; liberal to the Poor, and a good citizen; he acquired the
Regard and Esteem of all who had the Pleasure of his Acquaintance."

In his will, probated in Suffolk County, Mr. Bagnall mentioned his sons
Benjamin and Samuel, and also his grandson, Robert Bagnall. No mention
of his clock making business appears in his will. The last line of the
inventory of his estate includes two items, namely: "Scales and weights,
12 shillings" and "a parcell of clock tools, &c., 20 shillings."

Tall clocks made by Benjamin Bagnall have survived but they are not
numerous. One is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Another is in the library of The New England Historic and Genealogical
Society in Boston, one is owned by Mr. John H. Taylor of Wallaston,
Massachusetts, one is owned by Mr. Philip L. Spalding of Milton,
Massachusetts, and Mr. Conlon has another. Mr. G. Winthrop Brown of
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts is the fortunate possessor of a tall clock
by Benjamin Bagnall, Jr. and another by his brother, Samuel. Another by
Samuel is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plate No. 3240 in Vol. 2 of
Wallace Nutting's "Furniture Treasury" pictures a tall clock, burl
veneer on pine, by Benjamin Bagnall of Boston, Mass. This is said to be
owned by John M. Miller of Providence. To date no inquiry as to this
clock has been made.

Photographs of the following clocks were exhibited:

The two in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These are also pictured in
Vol. II of Nutting's "Furniture Treasury", plates 3242 and 3243, and in
"The Clock Book" by Nutting, plates 79 and 90. The one by Benjamin is
also pictured as Fig. 89 in "The Old Clock Book" by Moore, being there
described as the work of Benjamin Bagnall, Jr.

Mr. Philip L. Spalding's clock. This photograph was presented to the
Club by Mr. Spalding.

The clock belonging to The New England Historic and Genealogical
Society, and also a close-up of the dial. The Society had no pictures of
this clock but kindly consented to having pictures made, this matter
being attended to under the direction of Mr. Charles E. Littlefield of
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a member of the Club.

Mr. John H. Taylor's clock, and a close-up of the dial. These were
provided by Mr. Conlon with Mr. Taylor's approval.

The Club was honored by the attendance of Mrs. Francis A. Bagnall of
Framingham, Massachusetts, representing her husband, the President of
the State Teacher's College at Framingham, and his sister, Miss Sarah G.
Bagnall, both of whom were unable to be present. Mr. Bagnall and Miss
Bagnall are great-great-great-grandchildren of Benjamin Bagnall, Sr.,
claiming descent through Benjamin, Jr., and through Robert, his son.

The Club desires to give the fullest publicity to its undertaking to
secure information relative to Bagnall Clocks. To this end the members
are urged to forward to the Secretary any additional information which
they may have concerning the family or particular clocks. The Club will
be grateful to any newspaper or magazine interested in furthering such
research for the publication of the following notice.

"The Clock Club, organized at Boston, Massachusetts, desires to secure
all possible information concerning Benjamin Bagnall, clockmaker, who
died in Boston in 1773, and his sons Benjamin, Jr., and Samuel, both
clockmakers, and especially data on any clocks attributed to either.
Please forward any such information to:
                        Albert L. Partridge, Secretary
                        Room 820, 53 State Street
                        Boston, Massachusetts"

A meeting was held at the Old State House, Boston, on Saturday, December
1, 1934 at 2:00P.M. The President, Rev. Laurence L. Barber, presided.

Reading of the minutes of the last meeting was waived. The Treasurer's
report was read and accepted.

On motion duly made and seconded it was

VOTED to ratify the amendment to the By-Laws heretofore made by the
      Executive Council whereby the number of regular meetings was
      reduced from eight to five, such a meeting to be held in each of
      the months of November, December, February, March and April in 
      each year.

The Secretary reported that at a meeting of the Executive Council
following the last Club meeting, Mr. James E. Conlon of Boston was
elected to Honorary Membership.

The Secretary reminded the Club that its stated purposes are "to
stimulate interest in and appreciation of timepieces of all kinds,
including both clocks and watches", and said that while locally we have
not a large number of members especially interested in watches, there
seems to be a growing desire to recognize this particular field, and he
said also that a very distinguished collector and authority on watches
has given assurance that he will assist, and will address the Club at a
future date whenever it seems desirable to devote a meeting to such

Having in mind that Benjamin Bagnall was entrusted with the construction
of the tower clock for the "Old Brick Church", it is interesting to note
that he was also employed to make some repairs on the clock at Kings
Chapel. The following items have been found in "History of Kings Chapel"
by F. W. P. Greenwood and "Annals of Kings Chapel" by Henry Wilder

History, page 152 -- "December 25, 1691. Mr. Thomas Gold and Mr. William
                     Weaver gave a brass standard for an hour-glass."

Annals, page 135 -- "1702, July. Paid for an hour glass 12d". 
                     "1702, Novbr. 22. Paid Mr. Childe for painting ye
                     hour glass. 3 shillings."

Annals, page 204 -- "1714 (Vestry meeting, August 18th.) Voted, that
                     thanks be given to the Gentn. of the British
                     Society for their Present of A Clock and yt Mr.
                     Jekyll aquaint ym of itt." [Sarah's Note: According
                     to my father's notes, this clock was made by
                     Benjamin Bagnall Sr in 1714 for the Gents of the
                     British Society.]

Annals, page 205 -- Statement found in the text relative to changes made
                     in the course of beautifying the church, "The Clock
                     given by 'the Gentlemen of the British Society'
                     took the place of the great brass mounted hour
                     glass which used to stand by the preacher's hand,
                     to be turned by him when its sands had run out, in
                     admonition to him and his congregation." (This
                     identifies the clock as one designed for interior

Annals, page 265 -- "1718, Mar. 30. By Mr. Bagnall for looking after the
                     watch. 2."

Annals, page 354 -- "1722, Dec. 24. To pd Benja Bagnell for mending the
                     Dyall, 15 shillings."

History, page 175 -- Inventory of Church Furniture as of April 19, 1733.
                     Item, -- "Twelve Leather Buckettes given by the
                     Gentelmen of the British Society."
                     Item, -- "A clock given by the same Gentelmen."
                     [Sarah's Note: This was clock referred to on page
                     32. made by Benj B. Sr]

It has come to the attention of the Secretary that in the press of
reporting the Bagnall material produced in the last meeting and listing
the pictures at hand, he overlooked the most important and interesting
exhibit of all. Mr. Conlon brought to the meeting his Benjamin Bagnall
movement and dial. Needless to say, the privilege of examining the
movement was greatly appreciated by the members in attendance.

It was reported that a letter had been received from Mr. John M. Miller
of Providence, R.I., relative to the Bagnall Clock shown as Plate No.
3240 in Vol. 2 of Nutting's "Furniture Treasury". This clock has always
been in the possession of Mrs. Miller's family, the Coggshells of
Newport, Portsmouth, and Middletown, R.I.

Miss Sarah G. Bagnall sent on the text of some notes written by her
father more than fifty years ago in which he mentioned a clock by
Benjamin Bagnall in the possession of William Durant, Treasurer of the
Boston Transcript Company. As soon as may be an attempt will be made to
ascertain the present whereabouts of this clock.