Minutes from The Clock Club (Boston, MA)
THE CLOCK CLUB A meeting was held at the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston on Saturday, October 27, 1934. 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. 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 was VOTED to hold the next regular meeting on the first Saturday in December. 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 society. 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 purpose. 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 Foote. 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 use.) 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.