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A timely acquisition

Early 19th century clock comes home to Miller House

Early 19th century clock comes home to Miller House

June 09, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Washington County Historical Society recently has made a timely acquisition.

A clock, made in Hagerstown about two centuries ago by Johnston and Melhorn clockmakers, has a new home at Miller House, the organization's 135 W. Washington St. headquarters.

It is likely that the clockworks were imported from somewhere else and the clock assembled in Hagerstown, says Lee Stine, who is completing his third three-year term as president of the historical society board. Gregory Sullivan, owner of Hudson House Galleries Inc. in Funkstown, agrees. New England clockmakers shipped their clockworks all over, he says, calling them the "Wal-Mart of the time."

This clock is important because there are not a lot of shelf clocks, Sullivan says. A shelf clock is small enough to stand on a shelf or mantel - unlike a taller and more popular grandfather clock that stands on the floor.

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And, of course, it is meaningful because it was made in Hagerstown during the period the clockmakers were active - 1785-1818.

"This clock is an important addition to the Miller House collection," says Melinda Marsden, the historical society's executive director.

The clock's glass door features a hand-done reverse-glass painting of "Hagerstown's Market and Courthouse Pubic Square 1807." The technique involved the artist painting - from the backside of the glass - the foreground details, adding the broader background afterwards, Marsden says. The artist is unknown, she adds.

The painting is not original to the clock, Stine says. He and Sullivan estimate the painting was done in the 20th century.

Clockmaker Arthur Johnston worked in different partnerships, one of which was with Walter Melhorn. He had a shop at the northwest corner of the public square in Hagerstown - now the site of Saum's Jewelers, and one in what is now the alleyway between the courthouse and Hagerstown Trust on West Washington Street, Sullivan says. The exact location of his Boonsboro shop hasn't been pinpointed, Sullivan says

The clock came to the Miller House collection from a Catonsville, Md., clock and antique collector who grew up in Hagerstown. He had acquired the clock in 1971 from the Hagerstown estate of Fred Peterman, a collector and antique dealer. The clock is valued at several thousand dollars.

The clock came with all its parts, including a brass pendulum imprinted with an acorn, popular at the time.

"I don't have any doubts that it will work," Sullivan says.

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