One of the best engraved miniature clock faces I have seen by Usher?
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Wm. R. Robertson

From time to time I do repairs on fine miniatures for collectors and museums. Often these pieces have to be taken apart which gives me a knowledge of how different artists made things. I have been doing this for over 35 years and have about every well known named artists work in my shop and apart.

But here is something outstanding and I don't know the story behind it. If anyone knows anything about these guys I would love to know.

Interesting is the clock face was done by another artist other than who made the case… the dial is marked " Usher '81" on the top….... or based on the date was it a replacement?

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It is signed " Fecit et sculpsit Fred Widmer 2000- '04"

There is also some very faint, almost burnished out writing "AND REF?????HING by FW, Fred Widmer 2002"

This face is hand engraved but does not look the work of a professional engraver, it is very good but his cutting strokes are not the norm. Also his name is scribed in with multiple lines, again not the way an engraver would do it. As it has a quartz movement I'll have that looked at to see if it is dateable.

The clock case appears to the work of a different artist named Usher ……..

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And signed "Littlestuff by Usher '81"

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So does anyone know anything about this?

Thanks

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usherj1

Good Morning, 

 

David Frederick Usher was my grandfather. He would have made this clock in Torrington, CT in 1981. From what I can tell, both the clock face and the body are his work; typically he produced the entire item, sometimes even reproducing reverse paintings in miniature. The "df USHER '81" on the face is in his handwriting and the body is certainly his. 

 

http://www.firefly.us/files/david-usher-littlestuff.jpg

 

"Fecit et sculpsit" translates to "And he carved." I suspect that the embellishments on the front were added by Fred Widmer in 2000.

 

My grandfather passed away in 1994, and unfortunately none of his work survives in the family, which is what led me to a recent auction listing and this post. I would be very interested in purchasing this work or others you may come across. We know that many pieces were commissioned by a woman in PA in the 1970s and early 1980 and other work went to museums, but there are very few specific details. 

 

Any help would be appreciated!

 

Kind Regards, 

 Jeremy Usher

 Bristol, Maine

 1 (207) 221-0311

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WeekendMiniaturist

Wow, mystery solved!  I can cross off reading those back issues of Miniature Collector and Nutshell News to see if I could identify "usher"...

 

Tamra

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Wm. R. Robertson

Jeremy, This is great..... When the forum was created it is this kind of exchange of information that was the goal, and here it has worked.... We have answered our questions and you have connected with your Grandfathers work.

In thinking about this I think I may have met your grandfather years ago.... This would have been at Molly Broody's Darien, Ct. Show between about 1979 and 81........ The sad thing is I don't remember him as there were so many great artists at the show and I was super busy.

Do you know how long your grandfather worked on miniatures? Did he make more than clocks? About how many clocks do you think he might have made?....... I know I have seen others but can't remember where. The woman you mention from PA..... Do you know her name or where she was from? I knew many of the major collectors back in those days from the area...... Most of them are gone and collection have been sold. BTW, this clock is owned by a museum.

I'll give you a call when I get a chance.

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ElgaKoster

I love how the internet and forums like this has made it possible to solve mysteries and connect people all over the world with similar interests.

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usherj1

I'm very glad I could help! And I'm also happy to hear this clock is in a museum.  My grandfather began in miniatures in 1972 (he would have been 45 then). He was still working, although not a great deal, when he died in November 1993.  I am certain that you did meet him at those shows as I have heard the name in the past and even tried to track down other attendees. 

 

My grandfather produced a great many different types of miniatures; clocks were only one variety, although it was the tiny Eli Terry Clock's and their paintings that I remember from when I was little (~1982).  We know that he was commissioned to do custom reproductions, as well as china cabinets, desks, chairs, candlesticks and fireplaces with working iron implements and pots.

 

I wish I knew more about the red haired woman from PA. She seemed to have been a wealthy collector and was quite young at the time, if that rings any bells. 

 

My email is jeremy.usher [at] gmail.com for anyone who is interested!

 

Best, 

 Jeremy

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Wm. R. Robertson

I at first thought that too.... But the panel on the base is different. This is very similar to a family of well documented clocks of that period..... I did the Elnathen Taber clock shown in drawings in Walace Nutting's 3rd volume....... At about the same time.

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usherj1

I did notice the panel, although I had wondered if that was part of the "refinishing." Although perhaps not.

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Peter Jensen

I thought the difference in the base panel might be the result of the refinishing too. Especially since the workmanship did not seem up to the standards of the rest of the clock. The clocks are very similar, but I don't think they are the same. There are just too many other differences that cannot be explained by a later refinishing. The flanking finials on Bill's clock seem to have taller wooden bases and the brass finials themselves seem to lack an extra base turning present on the finials in the black and white photo. The embossed globe on Bill's clock extends below the bottom of the arch where it appears to be wholly above the arch in the other clock. There also appears to be a line defining the bottom of the arch of the dial in the black and white photo where there is none on Bill's clock. There is an extra vertical molding on Bill's clock between the dial window/door frame and the outer reeded column that is not present in the black and white photo. Also the molded feet on the black and white clock appear wider at the bottom than those on Bill's clock.

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miraclechicken

Hello Jeremy and welcome! This is all very interesting---

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Wm. R. Robertson

I keep thinking I should know more about Mr. Usher's work than I do. Well yes! I helped the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures acquire a piece years ago. This came out of well known NYC collection. It was a copy of the Sheraton style cradle at Mount Vernon. It was featured in The book American Period Interiors in Miniature by Kate Doordan Klavan's, 1984. I seem to remember it was also in one of Rooftop Studio's engagement calenders but have not had time to check.

So this shows he made more than clocks, his work was really good and he was selling to some of the very discriminating collectors.

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usherj1

Hi Bill, 

 

Sorry to be slow getting back to you. Yes, my understanding is that the clocks were only a small part of what my Grandfather made. 

 

My family believes that there were two cribs; the first was an exact copy of the Mount Vernon crib and used their measurements. He was then commissioned to make a second copy but with small intentional differences from the first. It seems likely that this is second crib. He may have made the first crib for Mount Vernon's own collection.

 

This weekend, I also heard of a Medieval Pie Cupboard he made for and with information from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

 

Also, some of his early fireplaces were built using individual bricks that he made and I know they had working iron implements as well.

 

There was also apparently a joke/spoof miniature of Richard Nixon's desk with a wine bottle in one drawer and an ivory comb.

 

Best 

 Jeremy

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Wm. R. Robertson

That is interesting...... There is a miniature Mount Vernon, it is in the visitors center. The folks that built it were in the Seattle area and commissioned artists from all over to make the pieces for it...... However I think that was somewhat later than your Grand Father was working. I think the miniature Mount Vernon was done in the 90's. We'll have to check to see if there is a crib in it and who made it. Do you know his exact working dates?

The story of a bottle in the desk is a common one, many makers used to put a bottle in a drawer, often Jack Daniels. I remember Tom Warner put a bottle in every desk he made........ And wasn't Nixon a whiskey drinker.... Not wine, except at dinner of course.

One thing interesting, you said he sold to museums........ Today, two of the best museums to see fine scale miniatures are the ones in Kansas City and Maysville, Ky......... Neither bought pieces from him, but each of them owns one of the pieces shown here.

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Susan Milmore

The red-haired collector in Pennsylvania was probably Carolyn Sunstein and I catalogued an Usher clock for her when Noel Barrett sold her collection back in 2005. I recall it brought several hundred dollars. I have a hand-carved aumbry by David Usher - in fact, I had two and sold one some years ago. It is on the right in this photo.

Midsomer bedroom5.jpg

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Susan Milmore

I believe this was Carolyn Sunstein's Usher clock, sold in 2005. Appears to be the same clock now in the museum, comparing some little spots here and there. I recall KC bought quite a few things at that auction and I wonder if they also bought the Fred Early secretary - there was fierce bidding for that. Also sharing the aumbry I own, purchased in a box lot for $35 at a very poorly catalogued local auction.

 

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Usher aumbry.jpg

Edited by Susan Milmore
typo

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WeekendMiniaturist

Susan, Thanks for the wonderful info about Usher's work.  The cupboard looks so realistically aged; I could have spent a couple more days at the KC Toy & Miniature museum studying the collection.    It is great to have your experience in the Forum... in 1981 I didn't even know about 1/12th scale miniatures; my appreciation grows when we are able to study the photos in a close up viewpoint.  I can't imagine engraving the clock face and the years of practice that it took to make those fluid movements in miniature.  In theory I imagine engraving to be similar to calligraphy, but to complete this task in 1/12th scale makes me pause and appreciate this artisan's work.  I hope as time permits you will post other treasures for the forum.

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Wm. R. Robertson

The Early secretary in the KC museum is not the one from Carolyn’s collection. It came from a private sale. I believe there are 7 or 8 of these. I have been involved with the sales of 3 of them. Wish I had one!

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WeekendMiniaturist

<confusion>  Is the Fred Early Secretary also by Usher? or was it created by Fred?  

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