VIRGINIA TALL CASE CLOCK
Height: 97.5″; width: 21″; depth: 11″
This rare, tall case clock from Alexandria represents the combination of two of the city’s most successful artisans in the neoclassical period. The clockmaker, Mordecai Miller, originally from Chester County, Pennsylvania was a prosperous silversmith, clockmaker and later, merchant and abolitionist in Alexandria. The case is attributed to Henry Ingle, originally from Philadelphia, who migrated south as the activity in the new capital city burgeoned after the Revolution.
Clockmaker and silversmith Mordecai Miller was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania and likely apprenticed with his cousin, clockmaker Elisha Kirk (1757-1790)in York. There he met another apprentice, Caleb Bentley and the two Quakers formed a partnership, Bentley & Miller in Leesburg, Virginia. The partnership ended around 1788 by which time Miller was living in Alexandria. By 1794 Miller operated a shop on Fairfax Street. He imported watches, jewelry and trinkets from England. In 1795 he specifically advertised “spring and other clocks” and “best enamel’d Clock and Watches faces.”
The clock case is attributed to the cabinetmaker Henry Ingle while living in Alexandria between 1795-1800. The case features a sophisticated broken arch pediment with fretwork in the Philadelphia style. Ingle apprenticed in Philadelphia and in 1784, at age 20, he moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia where he is known to have made furniture for Thomas Jefferson. Ingle also made a handful of furniture for clients in the Richmond area including a desk and bookcase made in 1789 with a fretwork broken arch pediment nearly identical to this clock.
Henry Ingle left Virginia in 1791 and returned to Philadelphia. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington hired Ingle to make furniture and perform other “sundry jobs” during Washington’s first administration there. In 1793 Henry’s brother, Joseph moved to Alexandria had established a cabinetmaking shop at 112 South Royal Street. Henry, after dissolving a separate cabinetmaking partnership with Jacob Schreiner in Philadelphia in 1795 likely joined his brother in Alexandria but by 1799 established a separate hardware store at King and Royal Streets just a few blocks away. That same year both brothers were hired to provide a casket and oversee the funeral of George Washington. Henry Ingle moved to Washington DC in 1800 and opened a hardware shop on New Jersey Avenue near the new Capitol building. Records indicate Henry worked intermittently on the Capitol building until his retirement six years later.
This clock is a fine example of the often overlooked artistry of the Washington DC area during the Federal period. The establishment of the new Capital City spurred tremendous economic and cultural growth in the region and attracted a mix of new skilled craftsmen to the area, eager to take advantage of the new opportunities the Capital provided.