Its clockmaker, cabinetmaker, ornamental painter and first owner identified, this superbly crafted tall-case clock stands as an outstanding record of the interrelationships among craftsmen and their patrons in early America. Aaron Willard (1757-1844) hailed from America's most famous clockmaking family and, along with his older brother, Simon (1753-1848), dominated the craft in the Boston area in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Born in Grafton, Massachusetts, Aaron first worked in Roxbury before moving his shop in 1792 to just within the Boston city limits on Washington Street. Here, Aaron's shop became a large manufactory that produced a high volume of clocks and, at the same time, became the center of activities for a number of allied craftsmen (Paul J. Foley, Willard's Patent Time Pieces: A History of the Weight-Driven Banjo Clock, 1800-1900 (Norwell, Massachusetts, 2002), p. 329: Martha H. Willoughby, "Aaron Willard," Timeless: Masterpiece American Brass Dial Clocks, Frank L. Hohmann III, ed. (New York, 2009), pp. 359-360). One of these craftsmen was cabinetmaker William Fisk (1770-1844), who had previously worked in partnership with his brother Samuel (1769-1797) in Roxbury and, in 1792, the same year as Aaron's relocation, the Fisk partnership moved to the lot adjacent to Aaron's new manufactory, where William continued to work alone and in various other partnerships after his brother's death (Foley, p. 251). Besides identifying the maker of the case, this clock's surviving bill of sale points to the important role of bartering in the nation's early economy. The bill notes that Fisk received a partial payment of $22.96 for the clock in the form of lumber or "Merchantable Joist." It is also interesting to note that Fisk, rather than Willard, appears to have had the main contact with the client. In the ledger of Calvin Bailey (1761-1835), a clockmaker working in Hanover, Massachusetts, similar barter payments are noted, but Bailey, rather than the case makers, appear to have dealt directly with the customers (Brock Jobe, Gary R. Sullivan and Jack O'Brien, Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850 (Hanover, New Hampshire, 2009), pp. 255-256).
Another craftsman closely allied with Aaron Willard was ornamental painter Spencer Nolen (1784-1849), who, in all likelihood, was responsible for the painted decoration on the dial of this clock. Displaying remarkably similar spandrels with oval ornament, anthemia and scrollwork all exquisitely delineated in gilt, the painted decoration on the dials of this clock and another with works by Calvin Bailey (fig. 1) was almost certainly executed by the same hand. Furthermore, documented to have been made in 1806 and 1807 respectively, both clocks are presentation pieces and their dials, in identical formats and lettering, detail the name of their first owners. The dial on the Bailey clock has been attributed to the firm of Spencer Nolen and Samuel Curtis, Jr. (1785-1879) by clock scholar Paul J. Foley. In 1804, Nolen worked alongside John Ritto Penniman in Willard's compound and the following year, entered into a partnership with Aaron Willard, Sr. As Foley notes, Willard's role was probably purely financial and, as Nolen married one of Willard's daughters a few years later, the partnership was probably a means for Willard to support a future son-in-law. Nolen and Willard remained partners until November 1806, when Nolen established his business with Curtis. As the bill of sale for this clock is dated 21 May 1806, the dial was painted prior to Curtis' involvement in the firm and when Nolen was in partnership with Willard; thus, it almost certainly represents the sole talents of Nolen. Further supporting the attribution to Nolen, the dial of a shelf clock with works by David Wood of Newburyport, features closely related gilt paintwork and its reverse is artfully signed, "painted by Spencer Nolen, Clock Face, Painter" (fig. 2). As noted in the 1813 Boston Directory, Nolen's shop was within Willard's compound and his residence was next door to that of William Fisk, revealing the close proximity of clockmaker, cabinetmaker and ornamental painter. Nolen and Fisk may also have collaborated on a clock with works by Simon Willard; the case is labelled by Fisk and the dial has related spandrels seemingly in the same hand (Jobe, Sullivan and O'Brien, pp. 257-258, 421-422 (entry 87, fn. 6), pls. 87.2, 87.3; Foley, pp. 180, 292; Christie's, New York, 15-16 January 2004, lot 568).
As prominently displayed on the dial and recorded in the bill of sale, the clock was made for the Honorable Edward Killeran (1751-1828). Born in Boston, Killeran served as a Lieutenant during the War of Independence and was twice taken prisoner by the British forces. He settled in the coastal town of Cushing, Maine where he married Elizabeth Burton (1752-1831) and the couple lived in a house that overlooked the St. Georges River. Killeran was a teacher, surveyor and an active member of the town's civic and political life. In addition to holding many local town positions, he represented Cushing at the General Court of Massachusetts several times between 1789 and 1819, served as a State senator and was a member of Maine's Constitutional Convention. Killeran was also a sea captain and, living in a heavily forested region, he would have been well positioned to pay for furnishings, such as this clock, in supplies of lumber. He is known to have operated a sloop between Cushing and Boston and one of his passengers in 1796 remarked that he was "a very civil, good-natured man." As indicated by an envelope addressed to "Mrs. E.B. Killeran" from "Mrs. Fred Killeran" containing the bill of sale, the clock descended in the male lines to Edward Killeran's grandson, Eugene B. Killeran (1838-1919) and his great grandson, Fred L. Killeran (1875-1951), both of Cushing, Maine, where they are buried in Kelleran's Yard (Frank Burton Miller, Soldiers and Sailors of the Plantation of Lower St. Georges (Rockland, Maine, 1931), pp. 41-43; Cyrus Eaton, History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston, Maine, vol. 1 (Hallowell, Maine, 1865), p. 232; Robert Means Lawrence, The Descendants of Major Samuel Lawrence (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1904), p. 33).