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Jacob Graf was one of the earliest known clockmakers from Lebanon County. He is listed as a “clockmaker” in the 1750 Lebanon Township taxable records. Most other clockmakers of the period were listed as watchmakers, or advertised as a watchmaker in local publications. No known references to Graf link him to watch making which would indicate that he was working solely as a clockmaker.
Several known Jacob Graf clocks that were built in Lebanon County have survived and are in private and museum collections.
One known Jacob Graf clock is signed other than Lebanon. It is dated 1775 and is signed ‘Lancaster, Pa.’ His will was written in German and recorded in Lancaster County on February 5, 1782. Lebanon County was formed in 1813 from a part of Lancaster County, so this “Lancaster” clock could have possibly been made in present-day Lebanon.
One of the rarest and finest examples of an early Pennsylvania tall case clock is now housed in the Winterthur Museum (America’s premier museum of early American decorative arts) and was made by Jacob Graf. The case is made from black walnut wood and stands 98 inches tall. The superb workmanship features an intricate sun wheel with tulip inlays and turned finials. The dial is made of an unusual (and highly expensive for its day) brass, pewter, iron and silver plate and is considered to be extremely rare. It is signed ‘Jacob Graff Machet Dieses’ (Jacob Graff made this.)
Jacob Graf is known as a master craftsman and one of the most talented of all the Pennsylvania clockmakers. His impeccable attention to detail and style influenced and motivated both his contemporaries and later Pennsylvania clockmakers as well.
Jacob Graf died in Lebanon, PA in 1778.
Graf, Jacob (1729-1778) - (also spelled Graff)
Black Walnut Tall Clock - circa 1745-1755 - featuring a “rare” Clock Dial made from Brass, Pewter, Iron and Silver Plate - this clock is considered one of the finest surviving Pennsylvania Tall Clocks (Housed in the Winterthur Museum)
The Jacob Graf Black Walnut Tall Clock - circa 1745-1755 - standing in the Kircher Bedroom (Housed in the Winterthur Museum)
Jacob Graff - Important Early Pennsylvania Clockmaker - Tall Case Clock with hand-made 30-Hour Brass Movement - (circa 1743)
Here is a rare and historically important early American (Pennsylvania) tall case clock by Jacob Graff.
He was born in 1729 but not much is known of his early life. It is likely that his father was also named Jacob and has been identified as a linen weaver. He is known as a master craftsman and one of the most talented of all the Pennsylvania clockmakers. His impeccable attention to detail and style influenced and motivated both his contemporaries and later Pennsylvania clockmakers as well.
I have done extensive research on Lebanon County, Pennsylvania clockmakers, and their clocks, and this Jacob Graff tall case clock is only 1 of 4 known to exist by this important clockmaker. This particular clock is one of his earliest (and possibly his first) clocks due to its obvious age and movement style. One of his tall case clocks sold at auction in 2004 for $50,000. Another one of his clocks features a musical movement with moving hand-carved figurines (and is in a private collection in the York, Pennsylvania area.) The most famous of his clocks is housed in the collection of the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware and is considered to be one of the best (and most important) examples of Pennsylvania Tall Case clocks known to exist.
For more information read the published article written about Winterthur’s Jacob Graff clock:
This particular clock has a hand-made 30-hour brass movement as all its gears are hand cut and the brass plates are sand cast. It has a bell gong that sounds on the top of the hour. The impressive Walnut wood case is 94" high x 20" wide x 10"deep.
The case (top of the inside of the back) has a hand-carved date of 1743. This is interesting because we know that Jacob Graff was born in 1729 so he would have been 14 years old when this case was made. Looking back in history it could have been possible for him to build this clock in 1743 because in the early 1700s people started working and doing apprenticeships very early in life.
The case also features a round hole cut-out behind the movement (approximately 5” in diameter). This was used to project the sound of the bell gong (a piece of heavy cloth was glued on the inside of the back case over the hole to protect the movement and inside of the case from dirt and dust.)
One of the most interesting features of this clock case is its carved fan design at the lunette area at the top of the dial (I have never seen another one like it.) It is carved into the bonnet and painted with a gold color. Most likely the paint was done in a later period than the mid-1700s. There are three matching turned finials on top of the bonnet with the center piece being smaller than the side pieces. The pediment features a curved design ending with carved scroll rounded figures in the center.
The dial is made from iron and measures 10” square. It features a painted crème color background with fancy brass spandrels (that have the definite style used in the early 1700s and even includes the original flat screws). The circular chapter ring is made from pewter and has engraved Roman numerals in the inner circle and smaller Arabic numbers (in increments of 5 [starting at 5 to 60] in the outer circle), and is engraved with the name of ‘Jacob Graff’ along the bottom. The hands are obviously in the 1700s style and most likely the originals. The colorful Pennsylvania Dutch hand-painted motif includes a floral design in the middle of the dial. Most likely this was painted in a later period than the mid-1700s.
The person I purchased this clock from said it came from a Pennsylvania family whose great grandfather received it as a payment for a debt.
Research is continuing…
Item ID: WNS-CLK-169
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Front Top Bonnet View_
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743- Walnut Tall Case Clock - carved 1743 date Close Up View
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Top Movement with Bell View
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Full Front View_
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Movement Plate Side View
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Dial Close Up View_
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Movement Plate View
WNS-CLK-169 - Jacob Graff - 30 Hour - circa 1743 - Walnut Tall Case Clock - Movement Gear View