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Clock, Gallery Wall

Title Clock, Gallery Wall
Artist/Maker Simon Willard ( 1753   -   1848 )  
Date 1837
Medium Mahogany dial, gilded frame, metal, paint
Dimensions h. 51 x w. 37 x d. 5 in. (h. 129.54 x w. 93.98 x d. 12.7 cm)
Credit Line U.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number 54.00002.000

  • Object Description
  • The renowned Massachusetts clockmaker Simon Willard made this gallery wall clock for the United States Supreme Court in 1837. On October 31, 1837, General Alexander Hunter, marshal of the District of Columbia, paid Willard $180 for "One large Clock for Court Room" and for "Putting up and regulating the Same." The clock hung in the room that is now known as the Old Supreme Court Chamber, located on the ground floor of the original north wing of the Capitol Building.

    Willard would have commissioned other artisans to paint the gallery clock's circular mahogany dial and to create the gilded wooden clock case, which is richly decorated with floral and egg-and-dart motifs. The dial and case conceal the clock's brass movement—inscribed with Willard's name and the location and date of manufacture—and a bell.

    The timepiece remained in its original location in the courtroom—placed above the fireplace mantel opposite the justices' bench—from 1837 until 1860, when the Court moved to a new courtroom on the second floor of the Capitol and the clock was installed in the Clerk's Office nearby. It remained in the Capitol until 1935, when it followed the Court across the street to the newly opened Supreme Court Building. The clock was returned to its original location in the Capitol as part of the 1975 restoration of the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

    Rumors have long persisted that Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who served from 1836 to 1864, ordered the clock set five minutes fast in order to improve the punctuality of the Supreme Court justices. However, no convincing evidence has been found to support this claim. Currently, the clock is wound weekly by Office of Senate Curator staff and is set to keep accurate time based on the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
  • Inscription (Brass movement, top center on back of back plate, etched): Made by Simon / Willard in his 85th / year 1837 / Roxbury July / the 4 [?]
    Inscription (Pendulum, centered on bob, engraved): MADE BY / SIMON WILLARD, / in the 85th year of his age, / BOSTON, JULY, 1837.
  • Rights and Reproduction
  • Policies, Permissions, and Copyright
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