John H. Bellamy Carved Masonic Clock 

& Picture/Mirror Frame

Fraternal organizations have played a significant role in the history of America. The use of the iconography of these organizations in the decorative arts has been a significant aspect of the material culture of America through the centuries.

Free Masonry is one of those organizations. The use of Masonic imagery can be found in virtually all of the decorative arts of America including clocks and watches. To see an excellent website with examples of decorative and utilitarian objects incorporating Masonic symbols, click here .

John Haley Bellamy was a wood carver from Kittery, ME. He was active in the latter 1/2 of the 19th century into the early 20th. He is best known for his ship carving and his decorative eagles which in today's folk art market can bring large sums of money. For more about him, please see Yvonne Brault Smith's excellent book, John Haley Bellamy:Carver of Eagles, probably the best reference about the oeuvre of this important American wood carver. The objects he created are highly sought after by folk art collectors.

Bellamy is known to have carved objects, especially frames, replete with Masonic symbols as the main decorative elements. See the above reference, website and the picture below for examples of the frames. The one I posted is in my own collection and a picture of it's twin, from the collection of The Museum of Our National Heritage, is pictured in Smith on page 13.

Bellamy was also known to have carved shelf clock cases. The designs for which, according to Smith, he took out 6 patents. See Smith, pages 16 and 89 for a copies of two of his patents on these clock cases and pages 17 and 88 for examples of the clocks bearing the label of E.N. Welch. Scans of the pictures of clocks in Smith are posted below.

 Also see the above website for examples of these clock cases. I have posted pictures of the clocks from the website as well. Note one says "Sessions" on the dial. This is an obvious later replacement. I have only seen 2 of these clocks in person. They don't come up very often.

Posted below are pictures of what I believe to be a Masonic clock by Bellamy. I has a striking resemblance to other published examples as well as sharing some of the attributes mentioned in the patents. What sets it apart and I think may make it a bit more special is that it is a miniature at a mere 10 1/2 inches tall and it is a lever movement time piece (movement by Hubbell).


The case is walnut with walnut carving applied to a stipple punched background all in old surface. Yes, there are some age splits and a few what look to me to be old pieced repairs to the applied decoration. The movement sits in a simple "box" attached to the front.

A special "Thank You" to Bob Markowitz for sharing the pictures of his beautiful clock and picture/mirror frame with our museum!

About the Artist/Carver

John Haley Bellamy 1836 - 1914

John Haley Bellamy was a wood carver in Maine, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Boston.  Although he is best known for his ship figureheads and carved eagles, he also carved decorative pieces and family coats of arms.  Heraldry was a hobby of his and his familiarity with the subject is obvious in the design of the above pictured clock case.  Born in 1836 in Kittery Point, Maine, John Haley Bellamy worked in Boston as a young man in the shop of the ship carver Laban Beecher (1805-1876) and later attended the New Hampton Literary institute.  Sometime after 1857, Bellamy began his career as a carver, working first at a shop on Washington street in Boston and later back home in Maine.  By the time he was thirty, his work was beginning to be recognized for its creativity.  Though he never considered himself an artist, he was fiercely proud of his creations: "There is one thing I can say as to this work of mine.  It is original with me and never known or heard of until I produced it."  In addition to his well-known eagles, Bellamy's output included clock cases, signs, frames, animal figures, and furniture.  Despite enjoying a reputation as a master carver, shipping his pieces throughout the country, and patenting six types of clock cases and an oarlock by 1880, Bellamy never achieved true financial security.  Part of this is due to his restless nature which never allowed him to stay in one position, no matter how successful, for too long.  Regardless, Bellamy never stopped carving, and, by the time of his death, his work was well-known.  When Bellamy died in 1914, The Portsmouth Herald wrote prophetically that "his name and his carvings will probably be known longer to the outside world than that of any ... man from (Portsmouth)." 

Bellamy's most famous work is the monumental Eagle figurehead carved in the late 1870s for the ship U.S.S. Lancaster in Portsmouth, removed from the ship in the 1920s.  Despite weighing 3,200 pounds and displaying an eighteen foot wingspan, the Lancaster Eagle is Bellamy's masterpiece, exemplifying his skill in using simple lines to convey action.  The only identifiable figurehead carved by Bellamy, the Lancaster Eagle is in the collection of the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Twenty-one years after his death, Victor Stafford, Bellamy's nephew, published "John Haley Bellamy, The Woodcarver of Kittery Point" in The Magazine Antiques, which was the first national article to explore his life and work.  A later, more scholarly, treatment of his life and work is Yvonne Brault Smith's John Haley Bellamy; Carver of Eagles published in 1982.





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