A Queen Anne carved and figured mahogany tall case clock, Peter Stretch, Philadelphia circa 1740
Joe Kindig, Jr., advertisement, The Magazine Antiques (December 1943): 256.
Drepperd. Carl, American Clocks and Clock Makers, 1947, p. 169.
A Quaker, Stretch was born in Leek, Staffordshire, England and probably trained with his uncle, Samuel Stretch, of Leek before immigrating to Philadelphia in 1702. He worked at a shop at the corner of Front and Chestnut Streets known as “Peter Stretch’s Corner” where he made clocks for many prominent Philadelphia families. He was a member of the Common Council of Philadelphia from 1708 until his death and was commissioned by the Council in 1717 to work on the town clock. His sons Thomas (d. 1765) and William (d. 1748) were also accomplished clockmakers and William received all of his father’s tools, imported clocks and unfinished clockworks upon his death (Brooks Palmer, The Book of American Clocks, New York, 1950, p. 286 and Jack Lindsey, Worldly Goods, Philadelphia, 1999, pp. 136-137).
The wide range of the output of Peter Stretch illustrates his versatility as a craftsman. He made both thirty-hour and eight-day engraved brass movements with plain dials and single hands as well as those with a sweep second hand, a revolving moon dial, and musical works. Of the extant tall case examples, those dating earliest have cases with flat top hoods and square doors, others offer flat tops and arched doors while later clocks are housed in cases with domed tops, arched doors, and straight bracket feet. All reflect the changing tastes of Philadelphia patrons of the second quarter of the eighteenth century.
The exceptional case of the present clock, with its sarcophagus top, baroque fretwork carving with unusual dragon motifs, flame finials, fluted colonnettes with Corinthian capitals, and arched door, represents the most fully developed Philadelphia interpretation of the form in the late Queen Anne style. It conforms in design to a popular local pattern and was probably made late in Stretch’s career. A nearly identical clock now in the collection of Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park was originally advertised by the Tillou Gallery in The Magazine Antiques, October 1970 issue. As advertised, the case housed a movement by John Burges, Gosport, and after careful restorations which appear to have been based on seeing The Magazine Antiques 1943 Kindig advertisement of the subject clock, the movement was switched out with what is believed to have been the original Peter Stretch movement. Other restorations include the upper portion of the bonnet and finials. Another closely related case with a movement by Stretch is in the collection of Bayou Bend and illustrated in David Warren, et al, American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, Houston, 1998, no. F72, pp. 42-43. The Bayou Bend clock is also housed in a case with a sarcophagus top, arched door, colonnettes, and fretwork carving, although it lacks the elaborate details of the flame finials, carved Corinthian capitals and carved moldings found on the present clock. Another with a closely related case similar to the Bayou Bend example from the collection of H. Richard Dietrich, Jr. was included in the Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 10, 1999 to January 2, 2000. The clock is illustrated in the accompanying exhibition catalogue by Jack Lindsey, Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1999, fig. 14, p. 9. Additional related examples include three illustrated in The Magazine Antiques: one with a maple case illustrated in June 1954, p. 440, one with a similar dial pictured in November 1978, p. 841 and the Johnson family clock illustrated in October 1987, p. 652. Another with a plain sarcophagus top case is illustrated in William M. Hornor, Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, 1977, pl. 34, p. 56. A similar case housing a movement by William Stretch is in a private collection (see Lindsey, no. 64, pp. 146-147).
Historically significant Philadelphia tall case clocks of this quality and rarity seldom come on the marketplace. A Rococo style example with a dial signed by Paul Rimbault of London and a case with carving attributed to Bernard and Jugiez was sold in these rooms, Important Americana, January 15, 16, and 18, 2004, sale 7959, lot 666 for $803,200, setting a world record for the form. Another Rococo style example with a movement by Jacob Godshalk and a case labeled by George Pickering was sold in these rooms, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, June 19, 2002, for $532,000. One with a Godshalk movement and a case attributed to the Garvan carver originally owned by John and Elizabeth Bringhurst was sold in these rooms, Highly Important Americana from the Stanley Paul Sax Collection, January 16-17, 1998, sale 7087, lot 519 for $442,500. All reflect the strength in the market for clocks of monumental importance.