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Tall clock

Odessa, Delaware

c. 1775


Clock by Duncan Beard (working 1765–97)
Case attributed to John Janvier Sr. (1749–1801)


105 in x 21 3/4 in x 11 7/8 in


Mahogany; tulip poplar (backboards) and hard pine (seat board and glue blocks); silvered-brass dial; brass movement

Credit Line

On loan from Winterthur, gift of Mrs. Earle R. Crowe

Accession Number



“DUNCAN•BEARD•APPOQUINIMINK” engraved into the moon arch; “D CORBIT / 1847” scratched upside down into lower left back corner of dial along with names of various repairmen in the upper right; “Wm. CORBIT HOUSE / ODESSA, DELAWARE–1772” on a metal plaque nailed to the inside of the door; “WILLIAM CORBIT 1772 / CLOCK MADE BY / DUNCAN BEARD CLOCKMAKER / SCOTCHMAN SETTLED ONE MILE / BELOW CANTWELLS BRIDGE / NOW ODESSA IN / 1767” on a brass plaque screwed to the inside of the door. An ink-on-paper recipe for “Warner’s cordial,” signed by Andrew Naudain and dated “1/21/[18]41” is pasted onto the inside of the backboards at the waist; a printed rendition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Old Clock on the Stairs” (written November 1845) is pasted to the inside of the door.

Condition Notes

The clock survives remarkably intact. Some minor repairs have been made to glue blocks in the feet and to cracks in the pediment. A central finial is missing from atop the pediment plinth.


The clock descended from William Corbit, the original owner, to his eldest son, Pennell, to his daughters Sarah and Mary. Their guardian and Pennell’s brother Daniel Corbit purchased the clock. It then passed to his son Daniel Wheeler Corbit (1843–1922), to his daughter Mrs. Frederick W. (Sara Corbit) Curtis (1871–1952), and to her children, who donated it to Winterthur through Mrs. Earle R. (Mary Curtis) Crowe (1897–1976), one of her daughters.


This clock, almost nine feet tall, was listed in William Corbit's 1818 estate inventory as a "clock & case in Dineing Room," where it stands today.  The silvered dial and brass clock movement were made by Duncan Beard, who lived about 1-1/2 miles from the Corbit house.  John Janvier Sr. made the case; he lived about a half-mile in the opposite direction.  The engraving on the dial conforms to others signed by Beard, but this one is among the most delicately handled.  The clock case embodies several attributes of Janvier’s work:  the scalloping pattern of the waist door and the base panel, the half-colonnettes dovetailed into the back of the bonnet, the slightly out-flared ogee bracket feet, and the stacked horizontal backboards of the case. 


Sweeney, Grandeur, 114–15, pl. 7.

Hotchkiss, “Odessa Furniture Returns,” 101.

Sweeney, “Corbit-Sharp House,” 879, pl. V.

Norcini, “John Janvier, Sr.,” fig. 9.

Zimmerman, Delaware Clocks, 30–31.

Zimmerman, A Storied Past, 71-72.