Fixing the Time: An 18th Century American Clock Restored

Linda Kimiko August, Curator of Art & Artifacts

Thanks to the generosity of the McLean Contributionship, we are grateful that our tall case clock could be restored back to working order.

The impressive eight-foot tall walnut case clock, made circa 1760, shows the name of its creator “Edwd Duffield, Philadelphia,” engraved in the boss in the arch above the chapter ring.

Edward Duffield (1730-1803), Tall Case Clock (Philadelphia, ca. 1760). Gift of Dr. Richard Alan Mones, 2003.

Clock and watch maker Edward Duffield (1730-1803) had a shop at the northwest corner of Second and Arch Streets. His clock cases were made by some of the finest cabinetmakers, including Library Company shareholder Benjamin Randolph (1721-1791). It is unknown who trained Duffield, but he became very successful. In 1762, he succeeded Thomas Stretch as keeper of the State House clock and held the post until 1775 when he resigned to devote more time to Benfield, his estate in Moreland Township. Duffield dedicated himself to a number of civic, charitable, and religious organizations, including as a member of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the American Philosophical Society. He maintained a close and lifelong friendship with Benjamin Franklin. He sheltered Franklin’s family at Benfield when the British occupied Philadelphia during the Revolution and served as one of the executors of Franklin’s estate.

Clocks are complex objects with moving parts that wear over time. Conservator Lili von Baeyer restored our clock, which needed repairs due to age and corrosion. In a time of such change and hardship from the ongoing pandemic, it is a bright spot to hear the pleasing and calming sound of this magnificent clock methodically ticking and chiming on the hour. We welcome you to visit it in person on display in our Logan Room gallery. We also look forward to Library Company shareholder Bob Frishman’s forthcoming book, which will delve into the life and work of Edward Duffield.

Edward Duffield (1730-1803), Tall Case Clock (Philadelphia, ca. 1760). Gift of Dr. Richard Alan Mones, 2003.  Photograph courtesy of John Wynn.