Boston Early Clock Industry (Willard Brothers)

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The Boston Early Clock Industry refers to the 19th-century industry of a neighborhood on Roxbury Street, which had not yet been incorporated into Boston.

The whole region serviced the workshops of two celebrated American clockmakers: Simon Willard and Aaron Willard. The different industries consisted of various clockmakers, cabinetmakers, artistic painters, and gilders.


After establishing workshops on Roxbury Street, all four Willard Brothers began producing popularly accessible compact clocks in large quantities. Among other revolutionary manufacturing improvements, their workshops used previously wrought wooden pieces, with which the final clocks were serially built.

The clock workshops relied on approximately 20 factories, which were spread throughout a 400-meter radius. These workshops supplied brass works, artistic painting, and other necessities.

Simon and Aaron Willard[edit]

Commoners were increasingly demanding affordable timepieces during the 19th century. To meet the demand, Aaron Willard mostly manufactured relatively cheap compact clocks in large quantities. His workshop also manufactured longcase clocks.

Simon Willard manufactured compact models, including his own Banjo clock. However, the ambitious Simon was more interested in building clocks for important buildings and attending to special requests. His own brand of tall clocks became legendary.


Internally, the Willard brothers' workshops operated under modern management schemes, including clock design and construction, standardized large scale production, use of external manufacturers, and modern internal management. In this way, the factories built their regular clock models in large quantities. All Willard workshops employed craftsmen seasonally and used the same suppliers. By 1807, Boston's clock industrial region was functioning at its highest level.


Since their early days, the workshops suffered from scarce mineral resources. Insufficient copper was particularly problematic, as it hindered the vital production of brass, of which all clock movements were made. Thus, Boston's clock workshops imported hundreds of complete clock movements from the United Kingdom, including some from Robert Roskell of Liverpool. Willard workshops produced some of their own movements as well. However, due to the scarcity of brass, they had to manufacture makeshift devices which were made of well-seasoned wood.


All clocks produced on Roxbury Street were encased in locally made, mahogany cases. These cases were serially wrought with similar shapes so they could hold standardized mechanisms. Some manufactures numbered their wooden pieces individually. These repetitive wood-cutting jobs required special machinery.

Cabinetmakers who produced clock cases included:

Wood painting:



Adornments such as bases, caps, escutcheons, flexible joints, and finials were featured by the most elaborate models. Most of these accessories were imported from the United Kingdom.

Other main suppliers[edit]

John Doggett[edit]

John Doggett supplied various services to the workshops; he dealt with many providers which supplied gilding, clock cases, glass works, and other adornments. For complete wooden cases, Doggett relied primarily on William Viles.

Some of Doggett's asking prices were:[citation needed]

  • Gilding
    • Clocks' dial's glass edge: $4
    • Clock's cases: $9.50
    • Gallery clocks' cases: $28
    • Finials: from $1.75 up to $9
  • Pedestals: $4
  • Rounded dial's glasses: $0.28

Paul Revere[edit]

Paul Revere offered many services for local clocksmiths such as the Willard brothers. Simon Willard sold many clocks with the help of Revere. Simon also acquired tin and brass through Revere.

External links[edit]