Formerly housed in the prestigious collection of Henry Francis du Pont at the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, this thirty-hour wall clock is an exceptionally rare example of the ingenious design and construction of 18th century Massachusetts clockmakers Simon and Aaron Willard (1753-1848 and 1757-1844, respectively). One of less than three dozen known surviving examples of the form, this clock is frequently referred to as a "Grafton wall clock", a form that has long been traced to the Willard brothers' hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts, thirty-five miles west of Boston. The design, of sufficient height to include a pendulum, allows for a weight-driven movement, which was considerably less expensive than the spring-driven mechanisms required for bracket clocks. While a few were made by other makers, the vast majority of surviving examples are signed by Simon Willard who is credited with the invention of this innovative form. Even rarer are clocks of this design signed by Aaron Willard. This clock is one of only six examples known to bear the younger Willard's signature, four of which reside in the collections of Winterthur Museum, Historic Deerfield, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Old Sturbridge Village.
Aaron Willard most likely trained in the shop established by his eldest brother Benjamin on the family homestead in Grafton in 1766. At the start of the Revolutionary War, both Aaron and Simon enlisted in the Massachusetts militia and, in 1775, the brothers marched to Roxbury where they served during the siege of Boston. While the origins of the "Grafton wall clock" precede the brothers' arrival in Roxbury, recent scholarship suggests that construction of these clocks was not limited to the Grafton years. Both Simon and Aaron Willard continued to make clocks of this design into the 1780s after establishing independent shops in Roxbury (Paul J. Foley, Willard's Patent Time Pieces: A History of the Weight-Driven Banjo Clock, 1800-1900 (Norwell, MA, 2002), p. 2).
For related examples of "Grafton wall clocks" signed by Aaron Willard, see Morrison H. Heckscher, American Furniture: The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles (New York, 1985), pp. 309-310, cat. 200; Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture: The Federal Period (New York, 1966), pp. 202-203, cat. 155; Winterthur Museum, acc. no. 57.920; Dean A. Fales, Jr., The Furniture of Historic Deerfield (New York, 1976), p. 268, no. 522; Herschel B. Burt, Eighteenth Century Thirty-Hour Willard Clocks 1770-1790 (Grafton, MA, 1997), pp. 1, 18-21, pls. 9, 10.