Tall Case Clock, between 1775 and 1788

  • Thomas Harland, American, 1735-1807

Mahogany, pine, ivory, glass and brass (alloy)

  • Overall: 87 × 20 3/4 × 11 inches (221 × 52.7 × 27.9 cm)

Gift of Mrs. Alger Shelden, Mrs. Susan Kjellberg, Mrs. Lyman White, Alexander Muir Duffield and Mrs. Oliver Pendar in memory of Helen Pitts Parker


A handwritten note found inside the clock explains that it was originally made for Elias Brown, a wealthy merchant in Preston, Connecticut. As was commonly practiced, the name of the clockmaker is inscribed on the dial. However, a more unusual feature of this clock is the presence of an additional name, Abisha Woodward, on the face. Woodward was a wood­ worker who lived in Preston until 1788 and is thought to be responsible for making the clock’s case. The cabinetmaker achieved a delightful balance between sophisticated and provincial elements in the design and execution of this clock.

Signed, on the face: Thomas Harland and Abishai Woodward

A handwritten note inside the door reads: This clock was made by Thomas Harland of Norwich, Connecticut sometime between 1775 and 1795, was bought by my grandfather, Elias Brown of Preston, Ct. and was left to his youngest son, Billings Brown, my father, who gave it to me in 1865. Signed: H.B. Brown/Washington 1898.

Elias Brown

Billings Brown

Henry Billings Brown

Mrs. Arthur Maxwell Parker (neice of Henry Billings Brown's first wife)

1959-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

“Family Art Game.” DIA Advertising Supplement, Detroit Free Press. June 4, 1978, p. 11 (ill.). Eight Generations of the Pitts Family. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1959, pp. 56-57 (ill.). Chase, Ada R. and H. Bulkeley. "Thomas Harland's clock- whose case?" Antiques ( June 1965): pp. 700-701 (ill.). American Decorative Arts from the Pilgrims to the Revolution. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1967, p. 32 (ill.). Connecticut Furniture Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Exh. cat., Wadsworth Atheneum. Connecticut, 1967, p. 32 (ill.). Distin, W.H. and R. Bishop. The American Clock. New York, 1976, no. 26, p. 23 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 186-187 (ill.). Myers, M., Jr., and E. deN. Mayhew. New London County Furniture. New London, CT, 1974, pp. 57, 130, no. 62. Cooper, Wendy A. In Praise of America; Masterworks of American Decorative Arts, 1660-1830, A Guide to the Exhibition. Washington, D.C., 1980, pp. 22, 29-30, cat. 26.

Thomas Harland, Tall Case Clock, between 1775 and 1788, mahogany, pine, ivory, glass and brass (alloy). Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Mrs. Alger Shelden, Mrs. Susan Kjellberg, Mrs. Lyman White, et al., 59.149.