A rare and important Musical Tall Case Clock dated 1817 by Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer, NY

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A rare and important Musical Tall Case Clock dated 1817 by Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer, NY

A rare and important Musical Tall Case Clock featuring a Federal cherry and figured maple tall case containing an eight day brass musical movement that plays seven different songs. Signed on the enamel dial by the maker, Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer, New York and dated 1817. Brass musical movement held in a case featuring Cherry and Figured Maple with Eastern White Pine secondary wood.

Dimensions: height – 98 1/2 ins.

This rare and important Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock is only one of three tall clocks, and the only musical clock, known to have been made by Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer and Auburn, New York. Asa Munger was born October 14, 1777 in Granby, Massachusetts and was married to Polly Chapin of West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1801. Munger’s earliest known tall clock is dated 1799, and was made in Ludlow, Massachusetts. It is illustrated in The Bulletin of The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, April 1971, Volume XIV, No.9, page 1071, “Bill’s Clock, Some Facts About The Munger Family,” by William Sawtell. Munger was also a goldsmith and silversmith, with two of his touchmarks also illustrated in The NAWCC Bulletin, page 1073. The first is a rectangle showing “A.Munger”, with a secondary eagle mark, used while he was working in Herkimer and Auburn, New York between 1810 and 1818. A second touchmark reads “A.Munger & Son” and was used in Auburn, New York circa 1825. The touchmarks are also listed in “Marks of Early American Silversmiths,” by Ernest M. Currier, page 102.

The Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock dated 1817 and described above is also illustrated in The Bulletin of The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, April 1971, Volume XIV, No.9, page 1072. In the article Sawtell refers to a passage in the Munger Family Genalogy, “The Munger Book, Something of the Mungers, 1639 – 1914,” compiled by J.B. Munger and published in 1915. In the Genealogy, J.B. Munger recalls; “I have a hall clock made by my grandfather, Asa Munger, in Herkimer, NY in 1817. It is ingeniously made; shows days of the week and month; phases of the moon; and plays a tune every three hours; a different one each day. On Sunday it plays ‘China.’ It is a genuine grandfather’s clock.” The life and work of Asa Munger is discussed in detail in “Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches,” by Chris Bailey, pages 40 and 41. It is suggested by Bailey that Munger finished his apprenticeship by 1791 and may have studied under a clockmaker in Springfield, Massachusetts. Asa Munger was the youngest of 15 siblings and had two brothers also working in New York State as goldsmiths, silversmiths, and repairmen working on jewelry, watches and clocks. In a deed from Ludlow, dated 1801, Asa is identified as a “goldsmith.” In 1803, he sells the land in Massachusetts and moves to Herkimer, New York. Bailey refers to the Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock described above when he reports; “After moving to Herkimer, Munger continued producing clocks; one made there in 1817 plays seven different tunes.” According to family tradition the Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock described above descended in the family of Asa Munger’s daughter, Harriett Munger (1807-1887). The backboard is inscribed “Mrs. Hyde, Bloomington, Ill”, probably referring to Harriett who married Dr. Charles Hyde in 1836, and whose son, Valentine Mott Hyde, was born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1847.

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