This important Philadelphia Chippendale mahogany tall case clock, ca. 1770, is a rococo carved masterpiece representing the epitome of Philadelphia cabinetmaking. The carving is attributed to John Pollard (1740-1787), an English-trained master carver who was one of the most highly skilled and prolific artisans in Philadelphia, at the time employed by cabinetmaker Benjamin Randolph, and after 1772 in a shop of his own. The broken arch bonnet is adorned with applied acanthus scrolls and dentil molded border, surmounted by flame and suppressed ball finials, and encloses an eight day works with brass face inscribed David Paterson Sunderland, over a case with fluted quarter columns and ogee bracket feet. It was common amongst wealthy English Philadelphia Quakers to use English clock makers such as Paterson or Wagstaff, which they considered superior to American clockmakers. Provenance: descended in the family of Captain John Green of Philadelphia; Pook & Pook March 20, 2004, lot 440.
Continental Navy Captain John Green (1736-1796) was a Revolutionary War veteran. He was captured and held for nine months with 250 others in Mill Prison, Plymouth, England (see also lot 476, miniature portrait of Captain George Southward). Freed in an exchange, he immediately took command of the brig Duc de Lauzun, and was involved in the last naval battle of the War in 1783. On February 22, 1784, just six months after the Treaty of Paris was signed, Captain Green piloted the three-masted sailing ship The Empress of China out of icy New York Harbor. The first American ship to sail from the independent United States to China, it carried the first government envoy to the Qing Empire, as well as lead, animal skins, cloth, and ginseng to trade for tea and porcelain. Having lost favored trading status within the British Empire and barred from the West Indies, America now sought to stake its independent claim to the tea trade. Commissioned by Philadelphian Robert Morris, the venture returned a 25% profit amounting to $30,000, persuading Stephen Girard and others to follow, and establishing what is known as the Old China Trade.
After a voyage of 18,000 nautical miles and fifteen months, the Empress of China reached Canton, where it would have sailed up the Pearl River to an anchorage in Whampoa, where the Canton System trading compounds, or Hongs, were set up to house foreigners. During the four month trading season, Captain Green would have moved into the upper story of a Hong, the ground floor of which was used to warehouse trading goods. Foreigners were restricted to the Hongs, and permitted only to deal with one of thirteen appointed merchants known as Cohongs. Green might have crossed paths with a young Howqua, who was to inherit the reins of his father’s trading company in 1801 and become one of the world’s richest men. Captain Green had been commissioned by Morris to purchase for his wife a dressing box, fans, and window blinds. On his own account, Green purchased umbrellas, lacquerware, 600 ladies silk mitts, 6 pairs of satin ladies shoes, 113 pairs of satin breeches, and chickens. Upon the ship’s return in May 1785, laden with a cargo of tea, trousers, and porcelain, George Washington purchased a set of Chinese porcelain tableware, pieces of which still can be found at Mount Vernon. Captain Green completed a second trip to China before retiring to his farm in Bucks County.
Lot 337 Captain John Green’s tall case clock, ca. 1770
By Cynthia Beech Lawrence