Aaron Willard

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Aaron Willard

Birthdate: (86)
Birthplace: Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: May 20, 1844 (86)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Place of Burial: Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Benjamin Willard, Sr. and Sarah Willard
Husband of Catherine Willard and Mary Willard
Father of Aaron Willard; Nancy Willard; Mary Willard; Sophia Willard; Emily Willard and 6 others
Brother of Reverend Joseph Willard; Benjamin Willard Jr.; Simon Willard Sr.; Eunice Carroll; Sarah Willard and 6 others
Half brother of Daniel Gearfield; Meribah Mary Wheeler; Jotham Gearfield and Anna Billing

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Aaron Willard


Aaron Willard (b. October 14, 1757, Grafton, Massachusetts Bay; d. May 20, 1844, Boston, Massachusetts, USA] was an entrepreneur, an industrialist, and a designer of clocks who worked extensively at his Roxbury, Massachusetts, factory during the early years of the United States of America.

A Patriot of the American Revolution for MASSACHUSETTS with the rank of PRIVATE. DAR Ancestor # A125685

  1. ID: I26622
  2. Name: Aaron Willard 1
  3. Sex: M
  4. Birth: 14 OCT 1757 in Grafton, Worcester, MA
  5. Death: ABT. 20 MAY 1810
  6. Military Service: 19 APR 1755 Revolutionary War, One year
  7. Residence: Grafton, Worcester, MA, Roxbury, Suffolk, MA
  8. Note: Sold Grafton land in 1792.

Father: Benjamin Willard b: 13 NOV 1716 in Framingham, Middlesex, MA

Mother: Sarah Brooks

Marriage 1 Catherine Gates b: BET. MAR 1762 - 1763

   * Married: 6 MAR 1783


  1. Has Children Aaron Willard b: 29 JUN 1783 in Grafton, Worcester, MA
  2. Has No Children Nancy Willard b: 14 JUL 1785

Marriage 2 Mary Partridge

   * Married: 19 NOV 1789


  1. Has No Children Mary Willard b: 18 DEC 1790
  2. Has No Children Sophia Willard b: 27 NOV 1792
  3. Has No Children Emily Willard b: 27 NOV 1792
  4. Has No Children Catherine Gates Willard b: 25 AUG 1794
  5. Has No Children George Willard b: 19 MAR 1796
  6. Has No Children Jane Willard b: 2 MAR 1798
  7. Has No Children Charles Willard b: 12 JUL 1800
  8. Has No Children Henry (Harry) Willard b: 1 MAY 1802
  9. Has No Children Morris Willard b: 21 OCT 1808


     Author: Materials gathered by Joseph Willard and Charles Wilkes Walker, Edited and completed by Charles Henry Pope
     Publication: Printed for the Willard Family Assn., Boston, MA, 1915, Murray and Emery, Kendall Sq., Cambridge, MA, Digital Edition 2001 by Richard Bingham, Oceanport, NJ
     Media: Electronic 


Aaron Willard





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Birth: Oct. 13, 1757


Worcester County

Massachusetts, USA

Death: May 20, 1844


Worcester County

Massachusetts, USA

Aaron Willard 1757-1844 was part of the Famous American clockmaker family including; Benjamin 1743-1803, Simon Willard 1753-1848, and Aaron Willard 1757-1844 from Grafton, Massachusetts. The most famous was Simon Willard 1753-1848, who patented the Willard patent timepiece (1802) and the banjo wall clock.

Family links:

 Benjamin Willard (1716 - 1775)
 Sarah Brooks Willard (1717 - 1775)


Old Oak Street Burial Ground


Worcester County

Massachusetts, USA


Aaron Willard

Aaron WillardAaron Willard (b. October 13, 1757, Grafton, Massachusetts, United States; d. August 30, 1848, Boston, Massachusetts, United States) was an entrepreneur, an industrialist, and a designer of clocks who worked extensively at his Boston factory during the early years of the Unite

In America, Willard’s family history started in 1634, with Simon Willard, who arrived from his original Kent, United Kingdom, with both his wife Mary Sharpe and his baby Mary. Willard was one of the founders of Concord, Massachusetts. Additionally, he had other important social roles as both politician and judge.

Later in the 1700s, Benjamin Willard, who belonged to the fourth generation, married Sarah Brooks. Both were Grafton natives. Successively, their sons were Benjamin, Simon, Aaron, and Ephraim. All were born at Willard's Grafton's farm. Simon Willard was born on April 3, 1753.

[edit] Simon's brothers

See corresponding article: Willard Brothers

At their family farm in Grafton, all Willard brothers apprenticed in horology. Their lives were divided between the farm and the clock workshop. They influenced each other strongly, and eventually all moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston that later became part of Boston in 1868, long after Simon's death. After them, three successive Willard generations were dedicated to horology.

[edit] Grafton farmhouse

The Grafton's farm had been built by Joseph Willard, who was of the Willards' third generation, in 1718. However, when Simon Willard was born, the house still had only one room.

After his sons were born, Benjamin Willard senior learned horology. Then in 1764, he opened a small workshop at the farm, and he taught the craft to his sons.

Thus, at only 11 years of age, Simon Willard began to learn the business and soon showed an inherent ability. In 1765, the father hired an Englishman, Mr. Morris, to teach Simon further. Afterward, Simon remembered that Morris didn't know much about clockmaking, and indeed all Simon's knowledge was due to his own father. Nonetheless, the 13-year-old Simon Willard built his first grandfather clock.

Like other contemporaneous horologists, the family divided its life seasonally, between farming and the clock workshop. Eventually the business became profitable, at which point the house was further enlarged.

After the farm, at some point Simon became independent while still living in the Grafton region. Some surviving clocks have dials reading "Simon Willard, Grafton." On February 22, 1771, the Boston Gazette advertised Simon's own Grafton workshop: "Musical clocks playing different tunes, a new tune every day in the week, and on Sunday a Palm tune. These tunes perform every hour."

At this horology shop, Simon worked with simple tools, among which were a hammer, drill, file, and so forth. In particular, his shop manufactured one standard model which was widely accepted among the regional society. This clock was weight-powered, and it struck hourly. It had a 30-hour wooden works. These initial models were made of mahogany and brass.

While in Grafton, Simon developed his first banjo timepiece, which was patented much later in 1802. This small wall clock was preceded by the Grafton wall clock, which also was weight driven and had an eight-day brass movement with no striking mechanism.

[edit] The clocks

Initially, Simon Willard’s main economical support stemmed from longcase clock production, but he didn't produce these after 1802 except to fill special requests.

In 1802, Simon Willard patented his banjo timepiece, which had a brass, weight-driven movement that ran for eight days. This new model was popular, successful, and historically important. Its immediate success soon made it the main focus of Simon's workshop, and its attractive design was widely copied by other clockmakers.

In addition to producing his banjo design, Simon Willard also continued to make more elaborate and sumptuous clocks that today have historical significance. These included the turret, gallery, church, or hall clocks and timepieces that bear Simon's name.

See corresponding articles:

Simon Willard's Tall Clocks

Simon Willard's Banjo Clocks

Simon Willard's Shelf Clocks

[edit] Roxbury's pioneer American industry

See main article: Boston Early Clock Industry (Willard Brothers)

After 1770, Benjamin Willard moved to Roxbury, near Boston. Simon followed in 1778, and his address was 2196 Roxbury Street. In 1792, Aaron Willard also established a workshop nearby, 400 meters from Simon's business.

Initially, Simon Willard built tall-case clocks and his workshop did general clock repairing.

Like Aaron, Simon Willard blended the 18th-century knowledge with modern industrial principles. Mainly, these included both using previously wrought wooden parts and hiring specialized labor.

Both brothers' influence extended throughout Roxbury and the greater Boston region, where a massive supply system supported their factories. By 1807, over 20 industries were active in their neighborhood. They provided previously cast brass pieces, clock works, gilt parts, jewels, painted faces, and the like. Some mahogany sawmills functioned nearby as part of the surrounding early-American industry. The Willards dominated the region, sharing the same craftsmen and suppliers, and even the same technicians.

The clock became an urban status sign. People were eager to add clocks to their parlors, offices, churches, and other locations. Simon Willard's clocks were the most famous in United States.

However, clocks were too expensive for most people. Simon Willard was known for his sumptuous clocks, but he determined to make clocks that people could use to furnish their homes inexpensively. Thus, Simon's workshop production was much less than Aaron's, although Simon's clocks are sold for much higher amounts in today's auctions.

Simon Willard interviewed his clients personally, evaluating their needs and many final details. Also, he recommended that his technicians should check that everything was all right. With each clock sold, he included brochures bearing the clock's instructions, guarantee, and ownership certificate. Also, his workshop provided continuing clock repairs and service.

Simon Willard advertised using labels that were affixed inside his clocks. There he touted that his clocks were made "in the best manner" whilst they ran "one year without winding up." The clients were assured that they would "receive satisfactory evidence that it is much cheaper to purchase new than old and second hand clocks."

Simon Willard stayed in Roxbury for approximately 60 years. In 1839, he retired from the business, when he was 86 years old.

[edit] Simon Willard's personality

Although Simon Willard is historically regarded as both energetically productive and honest, he is also depicted as a not quite good businessman. The foremost example was that he didn't manage his banjo timepiece patent properly. As a consequece, right after its launching it was widely copied by competing manufacturers. However, Simon Willard never filed any legal claims or lawsuits over these infringements.

[edit] Renowned work

[edit] Senate (1801)

At Washington's Capitol, the US Senate requested Simon Willard to build a large gallery clock. Subsequently, he was invited both to set the clock up and to show its working.

Eventually, this trip had particularly importance because Simon Willard became acquainted with President Thomas Jefferson. After that they became close friends.

[edit] Thomas Jefferson (1801-1802)

Among their first correspondence, in 1801 Thomas Jefferson alerted Simon Willard that his banjo timepiece hadn't yet been patented. Subsequently, on November 25, 1801, Willard made his application to the US Patent Office. The patent was both granted and issued on February 8, 1802. It was signed by President Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison, and Attorney General Levi Lincoln.

In subsequent years, Simon Willard visited Thomas Jefferson at his home, which was located in Monticello, Virginia. There they held many conversations. On one occasion, Thomas Jefferson invited Willard to chop a young tree down. Subsequently, Jefferson transformed it into a cane. It was given a silver mount that read: "Thomas Jefferson to Simon Willard, Monticello."

[edit] Harvard

For 50 years, Simon Willard was responsible for the periodic maintenance of all clocks at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. Additionally, he oversaw Harvard's management of its clocks. In addition, Simon Willard built two clocks for Harvard. One was a tall-case clock long used by the faculty. The other was a wall-mounted regulator clock that was installed at University Hall.

A particular incident relates to Harvard's Great Orrery, which was malfunctioning. Many craftsmen had unsuccessfully attempted to repair it, until finally Harvard's authorities offered an important reward if anyone were able to fix it. Eventually, they called Simon Willard. For days, Willard analyzed the device until he decided to act. He fixed the orrery both by drilling a hole and by fastening a rivet. The satisfied authorities asked: "Now, Mr. Willard. How much do we owe you?" Willard simply answered: "Oh. About a ninepence will do, I guess."

[edit] University of Virginia (1826)

In 1826, Thomas Jefferson ordered Simon Willard to build a clock for the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. The clock had to be a turret one, and it would be placed into the University's rotunda. Jefferson provided all of the clock's plans and specifications. Accordingly with these, later all clock's pieces assembled precisely. However, Jefferson didn't live to see the operating clock because he died in July, 1826. The clock was installed in 1827. In 1895, though, a blaze destroyed both University's building and Willard's clock.

[edit] Former President James Madison (1827)

At his home which was at Ash Lawn, Virginia, former President Madison received Simon Willard. Madison gifted Willard with a second illustrious cane. It mounting was silvered and it read "Presented by James Madison, Ex-President of the United States, to Simon Willard, May 29, 1827."

[edit] Capitol Building (1837)

After an official request, in 1837 the last two of Simon Willard's important works were again destined for the Washington's Capitol Building. Although Willard was already 84 years old, nonetheless he went personally to install both.

One clock was placed into the Senate's Chamber, but afterward it was brought into the Supreme Court. The other clock was a bare mechanism indeed, and it was placed into a preexisting case which had been sculpted by Carlo Franzoni in 1819 and which represented Clio, the Greek History Muse. Both clocks are still operational.

[edit] Inventions

See corresponding article: Simon Willard's Inventions

Simon Willard patented three clock models:

Banjo clock

Roasting Jack

Patent Alarm Timepiece

The first, and clearly the most important one, one was his celebrated 8-day patent timepiece, commonly referred to as the Banjo clock, a new type of wallclock that incorporated a novel movement and a novel case design. Simon Willard never referred to this design as a "banjo", and technically speaking it is a "timepiece" rather than as a "clock" because it does not stike. This invention revolutionized the wee American clock industry with both its cozy compact design and its affordable price. The 8-day patent timepiece, together with Terry's "Pillar and Scroll" design for a shelf clock is one of very few timepiece case designs that is uniquely American and instantly recognized as such.

However, also Simon Willard patented two curious models which had variable success. His Roasting Jack was a portable clock which was to be specifically used at outdoor barbecuing events.

Later, Simon Willard's Patent Alarm Timepiece was a clock whose bare mechanism was decoratively under a huge glass cupola. Originally it was intended to bear an alarm device although many models lacked it.

[edit] Marriages

[edit] Hannah Willard

Simon Willard married Hannah Willard on November 29, 1776. She was a 20 years old Grafton native. Their lone son was born in 1777, on February 6, and he was named Isaac Watts Willard.

[edit] Mary Bird

In 1787, Simon Willard married again, to Mary Bird. She was a 24 years old Boston native. Of their sons, both Benjamin and Simon continued their father's craft.

[edit] Last Years

In 1839, Simon Willard retired. He sold his business to Elnathan Taber, his apprentice. Furthermore, Taber received the business' name too.

In August 30, 1848, Simon Willard passed away in Boston. He was 95 years old. Because of his commercial traits, Simon finished his life with just five hundred dollars. However, simultaneously all other competing clock manufacturers had benefitted from producing the Banjo Clock massively, although the corresponding royalties were never claimed by Willard.

[edit] Trivia

Nowadays, Simon Willard's clocks are recognized as American masterpieces. As such, they are avidly sought by both antiquarians and museums. In perfect condition, a Simon Willard's clock is usually sold from $50,000 up to $250,000.

Simon Willard was particularly proud about the two canes which were given to him by American Presidents. Willard used them when he strolled around. Nowadays, both canes are displayed at Grafton's Willard House and Clock Museum.

Succeeding Willard generations continued successfully as horologists. Simon Willard Junior (1795-1874) apprenticed in horology at Simon Willard's shop, beginning in 1828. Subsequently he established his workshop also at Boston. He specialized in both watches and chronometers, while his foremost jobs were Harvard's astronomical clock and the astronomical regulator which standardized the time for all New England's railroads.

The Willard brothers revolutionized clock manufacturing by both division of labor and by using multiple previously molded parts. However, it is commonly accepted that historically their clocks weren't definitively popular. Instead, Eli Terry popularized clock ownership, among common American people.

[edit] Current exhibitions

[edit] Willard House and Clock Museum

Nowadays, the Grafton farm which held the original Willard family's workshop has become a museum, the Willard House and Clock Museum, which exhibits about 70 original clocks and many Willards' heirlooms too.

Willard House and Clock Museum [1]

[edit] Old Sturbridge Village

The J. Cheney Wells Clock Gallery is located at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The 122-clock collection ranges from 1725 up to 1825. Some pieces are valuated above hundred thousand dollars.

[edit] Simon Willard's Stamp

In January 24, 2003, with its American Design Series, the US Postal Service issued a commemorative 10 cent stamp which remembered Simon Willard. The stamp featured a Banjo Clock's dial, drawn by the artist Lou Nolan.

[edit] Apprentices

Junior Daniel Munroe

Levi Hutchins

Abel Hutchins

[edit] Bibliography

A Study of Simon Willard's Clocks. Richard W. Husher and Walter W. Welch. Nahant, Massachusetts, 1980

Simon Willard and His Clocks. John Ware Willard. Dover 1968 edition

[edit] Main Sources

Elegant Faces & Mahogany Cases: Clocks By The Willard Family. Robert C. Cheney; Philip M. Zea. Old Sturbridge Visitor, Winter, 1992.

[edit] External links

Willard House and Clock Museum

[edit] Main Sources

Descendants of Simon Willard

Commemorative stamp

Grandfather Clocks


The Willard Clocks


1st Looksmart article

2nd Looksmart article

Enciclopedia of Antiques

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Willard"

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Aaron Willard's Timeline

October 13, 1757
Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
June 29, 1783
Age 25
Grafton, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
July 14, 1785
Age 27
United States
December 18, 1790
Age 33
United States
November 27, 1792
Age 35
United States
November 27, 1792
Age 35
United States
August 25, 1794
Age 36
United States
March 19, 1796
Age 38
United States