Gardner Parker was born in Hubbardston, Massachusetts on March 14, 1772. He was apprenticed to one of the Willards, most probably Benjamin, in Grafton, Massachusetts. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Parker set up shop in Westborough, Massachusetts and lived there throughout most of his working career. Known for his tower clocks, tall-case clocks and shelf clocks, Parker also advertised large clocks for steeples and eight-day spring clocks in the local publications of his day (Paul J. Foley, Willard's Patent Time Pieces (Norwell, Massachusetts, 2002), p. 295). Parker was involved in several civil lawsuits throughout his life, including a case in June 1793 when Parker sued Benjamin Willard for withholding payment dues (Foley, pp. 294-295). In January 1815, one year before his death, Parker moved from Westborough to Northborough, Massachusetts. Possibly as a result of his financial difficulties, Parker ended his own life on February 16, 1816 (Brooks Palmer, The Book of American Clocks (New York, 1950), p. 255).
A closely related tall-case clock by Gardner Parker is in the collection of Old Sturbridge Village (fig. 1; Philip Zea and Robert C. Cheney, Clock Making in New England 1725-1825: An Interpretation of the Old Sturbridge Village Collection (Sturbridge, Massachusetts, 1992), p. 88, fig. 18). The two dials share similar rocking ship movements against painted seascapes. Equally notable are their nearly matching case designs. Each has inlaid oval reserves on the case door and base, inlaid stringing with rounded corners, and an inlaid and veneered band above the skirt.