I have the 30-hour clock bug and my collection of them is steadily growing, but where to put them all? I have not decided where to put this one and for the moment it is on the floor of my work room.
Sperry and Shaw were not thought of as a high end clock company but some models like this 4 column New York style were quite attractive
This is a New York-styled Sperry and Shaw 30 hour time and strike, 4 column shelf hour strike clock, measuring 25 1/2 inches in height by 14 inches in width. The 4 free-standing turned columns first drew my attention as I had never seen anything quite like it. While researching the NAWCC site I discovered that this clock was made in or about 1846-47. The label, of which 98% is intact inside the backboard says 10 Courtlandt (not a misspell, there is a second”t”) Street, the company headquarters during the aforementioned period. Sperry and Shaw were business partners and were regarded as distributors and assemblers rather than clock-makers.
They sourced cases and movements, affixed their own stamp on the movement and placed their labels (sometimes over other makers labels) inside the case, a common practice at the time as clocks for the home and workplace both locally and abroad were in great demand.
Not everyone in the clock business was happy with Sperry and Shaw. Consider this excerpt from Chauncey Jerome’s book, History of the American Clock Business.
“These New York men would say that they were agents for Jerome and that they would have a plenty in a few days, and make a sale to these merchants of Jerome clocks. They would then go to the Printers and have a lot of labels struck off and put into their cheap clocks, and palm them off as mine. This fraud carried on for several years. I finally sued some of these blackleg parties, Samuels & Dunn and Sperry & Shaw, and found out to my satisfaction that they had used more than two hundred thousand of my labels. They had probably sent about one hundred thousand to Europe.”
Chauncey Jerome had a few clock-makers/assemblers on his hit list that included Sperry and Shaw and at least managed to sue some successfully.
Sperry and Shaw were not thought of as a high-end clock company but some models like this 4 column New York style were quite attractive, sold well at the time and are sought after today by collectors.
The movement is Jerome-like (Counterfeit perhaps?) and stamped Sperry and Shaw, New Jersey. I measured the plate thickness and compared it to a Jerome in my collection and the plates in this clock are a little thinner.
The narrow brick-shaped weights (4 3/4 inches X 1 inch) fit neatly into channels on the left and right. When I first communicated with the seller, he was not sure if the weights were in the clock. He later emailed to say that it did indeed have weights. I would have passed on the clock had it not come with the weights because the narrow bricks are the only type that will fit into the channels and they would have been almost impossible to source. The weight cords, clearly not original, are old and frayed and will be replaced with simulated gut. How old, well on the first night I raised the strike weight up about halfway and about 20 minutes later I heard a loud BANG. I knew exactly what happened; the cord had snapped and the weight had dropped. Luckily there was no damage.
The open moon steel hands are original.
The upper glass appears original and has the waviness you would expect from a clock over 172 years old.
The lower tablet has a cropped image of the Bay of Quinte (Ontario, Canada) taped to the inside – not original but old. The original 18X12 cm steel engraving was drawn by W. H. Bartlett and engraved by J. C. Armytage in 1840; the image can be found here. Since the image is from 1840 and appropriate to the period of the clock, I might just leave it there. It also tells me that the clock likely spent most of its life in Ontario, Canada.
The zinc dial is old though not as old as the clock itself since there is a patent stamp on the back of the dial dated Dec 1, 1863.
There is also a clock-makers inscription that says, “cleaned by Felo Bros, March XX 1901”. Obviously this particular dial would not have been on the clock at the time it was made. A wood dial would have been appropriate for the period.
The case looks good…from a distance. The veneer looks like mahogany or walnut, I am really not sure. There are a few small pieces of veneer missing at various places and mostly on the corners, a common issue. It has a two-tone appearance though the case might have been all one colour when made (??). There is a lot of grime on the darker surfaces and I have to decide whether to leave as-is or take it down a little bit to see what’s there. Attending to the veneer issues should be a fairly straightforward process. The break in the right corner of the base is a crude repair and that will have to be redone.
The movement is dirty but should clean up nicely. There is not a lot of pivot wear on the front plate of the movement but I will learn more once it is out of its case.
There are a number of other clocks in the queue but I am eager to tackle this one.
5 thoughts on “Sperry and Shaw 30 hour 4 column New York Style shelf clock circa 1846-47”
Nice find! I rather like some of the Sperry and Shaw clocks, but as you said, the quality of the movements sometimes leaves to be desired. It seems that they sourced the cheapest parts they could get (mix and match anything and everything) and just slapped everything together. The dial in your clock looks like it’s an Ansonia, and likely from an 1860s ogee clock. Ansonia had that rather faint raised (flat) chapter ring embossing. As for the finish, it’s up to you, but a lot of the Sperry clocks tend to be cheap pine stained and glazed/grain painted to look like mahogany or rosewood. Some have mahogany or partial mahogany veneer and then more grain-painting over top, but many seem to be dark. I would give it a light cleaning, fix the veneer, and then use a tinted varnish (extra dark walnut) to darken the few light spots, but leaving some of the natural wear like what’s on the column. It almost looks like someone started to strip a few sections.
Thanks JC. I was wondering how I would approach the case work and your suggestions are exactly what I was looking for. I love the look of the clock but do not want to do anything that would change it in a big way though some work obviously needs to be done.
My wife picked up a clock that looks similar to yours . The face looks replaced, and the paper is a little torn and water stained. The address is torn so all I can see is 10 Couutlandt Street New York. So the street name is spelled differently than yours with 2 “u” and no r.
The cord is broken on the chime side but not the time side. It has no pendulum but will run without it so I think a good cleaning and a pendulum and it would work. The door is one piece of glass with no picture so all you see is the Sperry Shaw label.
It has both weights and some veneer missing.
Is there any value for a clock like this?
Courtland Street has a number of spellings and the way it is spelled helps identify the age of the clock. Your clock sounds like it is fixable but to replace the cord it would have to be taken apart and you might as well clean and address any wear issues while you are at it.
Sperry and Shaw were not known for producing quality clocks but those they made were no better or worse than other manufacturers at the time. Sadly, American clocks of this type have reached the bottom, price-wise and there is no sign that things will improve any time soon. The condition of the case including such things as veneer issues will certainly affect the value.
Thanks for dropping by my blog.
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