Simon Willard & Sons of Roxbury, Mass., made this strange-looking clock—called a “lighthouse clock”—around 1825.
The clock’s inventor, Simon Willard of Grafton, Mass., is arguably the most famous early American clockmaker and is best known for his many clockwork patents. Perhaps the strangest clock in Willard’s repertoire was his “alarm timepiece” or “lighthouse clock,” for which he received a patent in 1819. It wasn’t a success, and scholars speculate that fewer than 200 lighthouse clocks of various forms were made. After receiving the patent, Willard worked constantly to improve both the clockworks and the case design. His constant tweaking explains why no two of his lighthouse clocks are completely identical.
The DAR Museum’s example, purchased in 2006, represents Willard’s third and final model. Though similar to earlier models, this version lacks an alarm mechanism and bell that would have been situated in place of the gilt finial above the face. The mahogany case represents the most refined design and features an octagonal base with brass ball feet supporting a tapered column.
Volume 143, Number 3, May/June 2009, Page 6
Photo by Mark Gulezian/Quicksilver