New England Chapter No. 8 NAWCC

Annual Educational Symposium

at the National Heritage Museum
Lexington, Massachusetts

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Highlights by Dick Trepp

The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA, was host to the Chapter 8 Annual Educational Symposium on September 30th. Over 55 members were there for the entire day.

Bob Frishman, Chapter 8 past President, organized the entire program. around  The Willis Michael Clock Collection. The collection is a featured article in the BULLETIN of August 2006. As noted, Willis R. Michael, second national president (1949-1951) of the NAWCC, acquired a huge collection of rare clocks from many countries. He was also a prominent 33rd degree mason. After his death, his wife Ruth and his heirs donated a significant part of this collection  to this Scottish Rite Masons museum in his honor.In addition, his books and papers, which included a rare John Fisher illustrated manuscript were also donated. The museum is a beautiful building on an outstanding site in Lexington opened six years after his death, in 1975.

All the clocks that the speakers talked about are from part of this collection.

Hilary Anderson.  The Director of Exhibitions spoke briefly about the museums's mission and holdings. The holdings, besides numerous clocks, contain choice examples of early glass, furniture and other rare artifacts, in addition to an exensive display of free masonary.

Jonathan Snellenburg, nationally known due to his wide experience with auction, museum displays, and an appraiser for The Antiques Road show, spoke about the early beginnings of mechanical clocks. In particular, he offered  much insight about a dated 1557 Belgium balance wheel clock movement. This was followed by a French 1660 calendar clock with a very interesting face and case. Obviously, these were for the very wealthy.

Gordon Converse, another Antique Road Show  appraiser and an authority on Pennsylvania clocks, focused his talk on 5 tall case clocks, again part of the Michael collection, were displayed in front of the audience. His emphasis, with clocks by  John Fisher, David Rittenhouse, George Jeffery, J.D. Custer, and David Rose, was to explain how these different styles were developed to attract the public, about 1700-1810. Clockmakers then, had many talents and used them to make a living, as clocks and watches would not support a family.

After 1800, came the shelf clocks. These came about to create new sales to the average  family. Tom Grimshaw, well known as a lecturer and Past President of the American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol Ct., related how Chauncy Jerome, Noble Jerome, Joeseph Ives, and Elias Ingraham developed significant movements and cases to attract the public. Finally, Charles  Cook  came along with the rack and snail and brass springs that could be made in the U.S. 

And finally, Willis Michael Nailor, a nephew of Willis, spoke in a humorus, delightful way about his memories of his famous uncle.  His uncle died when young Nailor was only fourteen. So much of what came to light later on about the collection, its disposal, and technical history, was also new to Nailor.  He makes no bones about the fact, that he remembers most of all, the swimming pool his uncle had. The clocks were sort of off limit to a youngster! A cool personal touch to a successful Symposium.

-- Dick Trepp

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Annual Educational Symposium

at the National Heritage Museum
Lexington, Massachusetts

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Willis R. Michael, second national president (1949-1951) of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, amassed one of the premier horological collections of the day in his Pennsylvania home.  Many of his rare American, European, and Asian clocks were donated to the National Heritage Museum after it was built as a bicentennial tribute by the Scottish Rite Masons.  The symposium, hosted by the museum and sponsored by Chapter 8, honors Willis Michael (1894-1969) as a dedicated collector, leader, and Mason.  Hear expert speakers, see important clocks, enjoy a gourmet lunch, and tour the museum exhibits.


8:30 A.M.   Museum opens to attendees for registration and refreshments.

9:00 a.m. Introduction by Bob Frishman, organizer of the symposium

9:15 a.m. Clocks at the National Heritage Museum by Hilary Anderson. The Director of Exhibitions and Collections will offer an overview of the museum’s mission and holdings.

9:45 a.m. Clocks of Europe and Asia by Jonathan Snellenburg.   This dealer and scholar will discuss the rare non-American pieces in the collection.  These include a 1600’s German table clock by Frauenpries, a 1750's Vienna coach watch by Erb, and a complicated French bracket clock by de Martinot, chief clockmaker to Louis XIV.

10:30 a.m. Pennsylvania Tall-Case Clocks by Gordon Converse. A well-known dealer and lecturer, Converse will cover three early periods of Pennsylvania clockmaking represented by such early artisans as David Rittenhouse, Daniel Rose, and Jacob Custer.

11:15 a.m. American Shelf Clocks by Tom Grimshaw. This expert on the history of the American coil-spring clock will cover important makers such as Eli Terry, Birge & Fuller, J.C. Brown, Asa Munger, Simon Willard, and Joseph Ives whose work is found in this collection.

12 noon Lunch.   Buffet by the museum’s in-house gourmet caterer.

1:15 p.m. The Wizard in the Workshop by Michael Nailor.  The nephew of Willis Michael will offer recollections of his uncle's life and "mysterious" clock rooms where, as a boy, he spent many weekends.

2:00 p.m. Conclusion and self-guided tours of the museum.


Bob Frishman, Andover , MA -  Chapter 8 Past President, he repairs and sells antique clocks at his home-based business, Bell-Time Clocks.   His third article for the NAWCC Bulletin, "Willis Michael and the National Heritage Museum ", will appear in August 2006.

Hilary Anderson - The National Heritage Museum Director of Exhibitions and Collections is a former curator of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and a graduate of UC Berkeley and the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. She has written about 19th century architecture, historic quilts, artists’ colonies, Civil War photography and White Mountain paintings.

Jonathan Snellenburg, New York , NY – Dr. Snellenburg (Ph.D. in geochemistry), former head of the Watch & Clock Department at Christie’s, sells antique clocks at Philip Colleck Antiques in Manhattan .

He is a member of the vetting committees for the two most prestigious New York antiques fairs, helped organize "The Art of Time" at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, and lectures on material culture and decorative arts.  He has also been an appraiser on The Antiques Roadshow.

Gordon S. Converse, Malvern, PA  -   In the business of clock restoration and sales since 1979, he regularly publishes a well-respected catalogue of antique clocks and currently serves as an appraiser on The Antiques Roadshow.  He exhibits at antiques shows throughout the country and has aided in writing and editing horological articles and books.

Tom Grimshaw, Cheshire , CT   -  The Past President of The American Clock & Watch Museum ( Bristol , CT ) and NAWCC Chapter 55 has presented more than fifty lectures at chapter, regional and national events. He is the author of articles in the NAWCC Bulletin on the history of American spring-driven clocks.

Willis Michael Nailor, Northumberland , PA   - Willis R. Michael's nephew received a B.A. and M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.L.S. from Syracuse University .   Currently a high-school librarian, Nailor has pursued a 30-year passion for competitive speech and debate by coaching high school students to state championships and national competitions.

33 Marrett Road (intersection of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue )
Lexington , MA   0242

Free parking.   For driving directions, go to  

Cost: $65 each (lunch included)   

Reservations and Questions to:
Bob Frishman, 53 Poor St., Andover MA 01810


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