Hailed as Boston’s first clockmaker, Benjamin Bagnall (1689-1773) almost certainly trained in England before he arrived in Boston. He arrived sometime prior to 1712 and soon became the city’s leading practitioner of the craft. Evidence of his stature is seen in his commission in 1717 to build the clock for the Old Brick Church, the first public clock made in Boston. He was probably making tall-case clocks around this time, and the earliest documented is an example dated 1722. For the following two decades, he practiced his trade but after about 1740, focused on the perhaps more profitable pursuits of real estate and trading. A Quaker, Bagnall was also a respected citizen. He was appointed town constable, served as an assessor, married secondly a daughter of Newport’s successful merchant, Abraham Redwood (1665-1728) and his death in 1773 was reported in local newspapers. As noted by Charles L. Venable, Bagnall’s prominence is most clearly revealed by the attendance of the Governor of Massachusetts at the clockmaker’s son’s wedding in 1737 (Martha Willoughby, “Biographies,” Timeless: Masterpiece American Brass Dial Clocks, Frank L. Hohmann III, ed. (New York, 2009), p. 319; Charles L. Venable, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection (Austin, 1989), p. 10).
The design of the case and layout of the dial are closely related to those seen on a tall-case clock by Bagnall in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Both clocks feature a sarcophagus top with pierced carving in the hood, arched waisted doors with inner herringbone-veneered borders and similarly proportioned bases. While there are differences in the engraving, the dials feature the same additional features, namely the seconds-sweep dial and a calendar aperture, and the clockmaker’s name engraved in a rondel in the arch (see Venable, pp. 10-13; Timeless, op. cit., pp. 142-143).