Illustrating the talents of clockmaker Peter Stretch (1670-1746) and cabinetmaker John Head (1699-1754), this tall-case clock is an important survival of early Philadelphia craftsmanship. Born and trained in Staffordshire, England, Stretch immigrated in 1703 to Philadelphia where he became a prominent member of Philadelphia society and its foremost clockmaker working prior to 1750. The square dial and eight-day movement seen on the clock offered here relates closely to several others signed by Stretch from the 1720s. Noticeable features on the dial include a seconds ring, two collared winding holes, elliptical name plate, calendar aperture, fleur-de-lis half-hour markers, lozenge-shaped half-quarter-hour markers and crown and cherub spandrels and on the movement, an anchor recoil escapement, inside countwheel and four knopped pillars joining the front and back plates (for other Peter Stretch clocks with these features, see Donald L. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III, Stretch: America’s First Family of Clockmakers (Winterthur Museum, 2013), pp. 142-143, 148-153, 156-157, cats. 13, 16-18, 20).
As identified by Chris Storb, the case of the clock offered here displays hallmarks of John Head’s cabinetmaking practices and can be firmly attributed to his shop. The molding profiles on the sarcophagus top and column turnings on the hood conform to the standard designs of the Head shop and the back of the sides of the hood are embellished with double-beaded moldings. Furthermore, the back profile of the sarcophagus molding is straight behind the cavetto, but curved behind the quarter-round segment and the uppermost ogee molding is nailed into the cavetto, causing it to sit at an angle. These are among the idiosyncratic details associated with the Head and are seen on several other clock cases with Peter Stretch dials. As recorded in John Head’s surviving account book, Head and Stretch frequently collaborated on clock production. For the most part, Stretch sold the entire clock to the client and subcontracted Head to make the case and from 1724 to 1742, Head’s account book records 42 cases made for the clockmaker. As per the occasional descriptions in the account book, John Head charged £3 for the square-dial walnut model seen on the clock offered here. The front of the front plate bears the engraved inscription, John Willis 1788/IW, possibly referring to Jonathan Willis, a flour merchant of Philadelphia (Fennimore and Hohmann, pp. 105, 110-111, 155; for other Peter Stretch clocks with Head cases see, pp. 158-161, 164-165, cats. 21, 22, 24; Jay Robert Stiefel, “Philadelphia Cabinetmaking and Commerce, 1718-1753: The Account Book of John Head, Joiner,” American Philosophical Society Bulletin, n.s. 1, no. 1 (Winter 2001), n.p.).