Made for a Revolutionary patriot and surviving in pristine condition, this tall-case clock is a rare and important document of colonial New Jersey. The case's striking tiger-maple grain with two of its original finials is complemented by its elaborate dial, one of the few known examples signed by the clockmaker, Michael Hacker (d. 1796).
As recorded by the first owner's great-grandson in the late nineteenth century, the clock was made for Colonel John Mehelm (1735-1809) and may have been commissioned as a wedding gift upon his marriage to Joanna Beekman (1729-1816) in 1762. Probably born in Pennsylvania, Mehelm resided in the years prior to the revolution in Brownley's Mills, New Jersey in Hunterdon County and in close proximity to New Germantown, the town inscribed on the clock's dial. His patriotic career began in 1775 when he was elected as a member of New Jersey's Committee of Safety; the following year he was a member of the Provincial Congress. A colonel and quartermaster-general during the War, Mehelm also provided flour from his mills and other supplies to the revolutionary forces. Several surviving letters between Mehelm and George Washington detail their combined efforts to send needed provisions, such as shoes to the patriotic army during its encampment at Morristown in 1779 and 1780. After the War, he moved to Pluckemin in nearby Somerset County and at his time of death, was noted to be "of Bedminster." His 1809 inventory, while not specifying individual belongings included household good valued at over L200 and his entire estate amounted to L8248. His house and the clock were inherited by his daughter Martha Mehelm (1763-1837) who married William McEowen in 1782. Letters and newspaper clippings written and preserved by their grandson, James Gaston Brown (b. 1827), which are included in the sale of this clock, provide further information on the clock's history in the late nineteenth century (see also, Snell, comp., History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey (Philadelphia, 1881), I:253; George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence (http://lcweb2.locgove/cgi-bin).
Known to have been working in the late 1750s, Michael Hacker (d. 1796) made tall-case clocks in New Germantown (now Oldwick) and Tewksbury in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. With its highly figured grain, arched door and bracket feet, the clock's case closely resembles that of a tall-case clock with a dial signed by Stephen Tichenor of Newark, New Jersey (Palmer, The Book of American Clocks (New York, 1950), p. 205; Drost, Clocks and Watches of New Jersey (Elizabeth, NJ, 1966), pp. 112, 229).