Antique handmade scroll saw roman cathedral clock

Oct 14, 2021. 14:10 UTC
Antique Handmade scroll saw Roman Cathedral clock
United States of America


Acquired from

For sale

Similar scroll saw pattern still available but with differences. Penciled name of builder and date of 1906 inside back panel. Does not work but being handmade does not have to have specific works. Builder added music box with lever to back. Builder also scroll sawed pieces of wood to inlay in some scrolled holes making it more intricate than patterns available. Is about 37” tall and 26” wide. Guessing 10-12” deep. Is in good shape - has top of center scroll work at top - chipped off in moving - needs to be glued back - one tiny piece of “railing” missing. Comes with large scrolled shelf that is very fragile and has a few “scrolls” broken - a couple still with it and maybe a couple missing. This is a beautiful piece made of beautiful dark wood (mahogany?) and lighter inlaid wood.


Inherited from father. No idea where he bought. Believe was built in 1906 from pencil on back panel

Answered within about 6 hours
Oct 14, 19:46 UTC
By David

Fair Market Value

$2,000 - $2,500 USD

Suggested Asking Price

$2,000 USD
What does this mean?

Hello Mary,
Thank you for sending in this interesting carved mantel clock to for an appraisal. I shall try to determine the fair market value of this item for you today.
Tramp Art, chip carved and finely made Cathedral mantel clock on appropriate Tramp Art shelf, clock movement (not seen) is spring driven and has time, strike and musical chimes (music box attached to the structure utilizing a lever at the back of the case), maker unknown, back panel signed in pencil 1906, made in a northern tier state in the USA, circa 1906.
Tramp Art is an art movement found throughout the world where small pieces of wood, primarily from discarded cigar boxes and shipping crates, are whittled into layers of geometric patterns having the outside edges of each layer notch carved. The artists used simple tools such as a pocket knife to carve the recycled wood. It was popular in the years between the 1870s to the 1940s after which the art form started to decline. It was made in prodigious numbers. The most common forms were the box and the frame. Although there were no rules or patterns to lend commonality in the artists’ work there were objects made in every conceivable shape and size including full sized furniture and objects of whimsy. My own impression is that this form of art was inspired by the work of German carvers working in the Black Forest region of southern Germany in the 19th century, although they worked in the later 19th century with more machinery than we usually associated with Tramp Art clock production here in America. In the USA the regions that fostered tramp art carvings, including clocks, were usually found across the northern tier of states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio etc., areas where Germans immigrants settled extensively. (It has not been proven to be a German art form, but I suspect that was the origin, at least in my own opinion.)
"Inherited from father. No idea where he bought. Believe was built in 1906 from pencil on back panel."
Further examination of the inside of the clock reveals a date of 1896 and the name of the clockmaker, Henry Orth. Research from the client is as follows, "The maker was Henry Orth, a single child, who came to the U.S. from Germany in 1870 (age 10). He lived in Sandusky, Ohio (a small city about 150 miles from my father who bought the clock). Henry was single until 1899 and had no children. His wife Louisa died in 1942. He dated the clock to 1896 when he was still single with no family of his own leaving him time to work on such an intricate project. He was listed in one document as a dyer at a steam and dye shop and elsewhere later as a dry cleaner."
CASE: 37” tall x 26” wide x 10-12” deep – the form of this piece of sculpted wood is a Gothic Cathedral with features that are suggestive of German Gothic architecture (rather than English, French and Italian). The main emphasis on tapered turret type towers tends to be seen, not so much in the English style of cathedral (Salisbury is an example) but more in the French Cathedrals, and the French style was the one followed by the Germans (see a photo of the cathedral at Cologne). German Gothic architecture had a vertical emphasis, with pointed arches and large stained-glass windows, sometime running the length of the wall inside a room. Walls were supported by external arched flying buttresses that allowed for greater height. (Not seen in your example) German Gothic churches often included spires, tall tapered structures on top of roofs or towers. One other feature of gothic churches in Germany is that each of the hallways or aisles. In this construction of your cathedral clock, it appears that the nave and choir main aisle would be the same height as the two side aisles. Inside it there is a crossing of the nave, the ceiling would be constructed at the same height. In this German type of construction with ceiling all being of the same height, such a cathedral would have no need for flying buttresses, which are not seen in this example of a Hall cathedral, as it was known in Germany. On the exterior there is a canted nave roof, which I would normally consider the pediment of the clock case. It connects to of the front towers and the pediment is surmounted by four spire type towers consisting of four or five sides and tapered to a point at the top where there is a carved wooden finial roughly in the shape of a tree. The canted roof of the building has open pierced fretwork in a foliate pattern while each of the pierced wooden towers has a clearly delineated fenestrated cross. There are small carved fenestrated fleur-de-Lys ornaments suspended under the nave pediment. The polygon shaped towers continue to descend on either side of the façade of the building retaining their shape and form and occupy the length of the clerestory of the nave down to the first balcony and below the clock dial which replaces the oculus window of the façade of the cathedral. The pierced wooden upper balcony is missing a small piece of the railing at the front, but more importantly is decorated below with pointed concave Gothic arches across the entire building facade. This upper railing would be on the same level as the ‘gallery’ inside the cathedral while the lower balcony, also with a complex carved ornamental design seen both above and below the railing. On the façade and just below the lower railing, we see a gentle rounded arch filled with open fretwork in the design of foliage, flowers and crosses above the main entrance. The lower railing would be at the level of the arcade if one were standing in the nave. The main portal or main entrance has rounded Gothic doors with pierced crosses flanked by two lancet shaped doors. The windows seen throughout the sculpture have open fretwork designs, all in a manner similar to what has been previously described. To either side of the portal there are wooden rounded arches covering the walkways. The church appears to sit on a substantial rectangular box, approximately 4-5 inches in height and having blind pierced fretwork across the façade of the box, the latter resting on a variegated multi-colored marble platform. It is very possible that the box the cathedral sits on contains the Music box you mention. I have no way of knowing since I cannot see inside to see either the musical mechanism or the movement itself. The interior of the csae reveals the true patina of the old wood and confirms that this clock and all associated with it are antique and at least 100-125 years old at this point in time.
“Builder added music box with lever to back.” I just cannot see enough of this mechanism to describe it except for having levers and pulleys to operate the music box. Rarely do I find a machine-made music box in conjunction with this type of tramp art. With further photos it appears to be a simple spicule type music box located below the american made movement and connected to it with wires to operate the tunes. (see below for the clock mechanism)
DIAL: The dial replaces the Gothic Oculus window found on the facade of Gothic cathedrals. If we just look at the shape of the dial plate centering the dial with the canted nave at the top and the upper balcony at the bottom, it is remarkably similar in design to looking at a Swiss Chalet type cuckoo clock pattern. The dial is surrounded by blind pierced architectural style fretwork. The round dial has a brown hued Gothic roman hour chapter ring (The white numerals are in the Germanic Gothic form) and in addition the edge of the round chapter ring has teeth much like a clock gear. There are two winding arbors for the time side and the strike side, both powered by springs. The central canon pipe that held the clock hands is precisely where it should be but has no hands. The movement has some significance in terms of value. You state - “Does not work but being handmade does not have to have specific works.” Generally, when such finely chip-carved pieces such as the one you own were made in America, they would usually contain a time and strike movement made by one of the great American clock companies from Connecticut: Seth Thomas, New Haven, Ansonia, Ingraham, EN Welch, Waterbury or Gilbert clock Companies. That may be what is behind the dial but since I cannot see it, I cannot identify it. If the case were carved in Germany, I would expect some type of German movement inside the case. So, the movement does have value and it is much better to have the original movement inside the cathedral since it would be a purer antique rather than a marriage of parts. Overall, the value of the carving is the main factor in determining price, but having the original movement would push the price upwards.
MOVEMENT: New photos include the actual movement inside this case. the movement is a lyre shaped fenestrated brass plate movement made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company of Thomaston, Connecticut, fully signed with name and location and with their logo. It is called Seth Thomas movement number 42 and the Tran Du Ly text on Seth Thomas clocks said it was listed in both the 1907 and 1901 catalogs, one slightly smaller than the other. I am not certain which version this is but it is powered by two steel springs and has a 5 & 7/8th cm pendulum rod and lead bob. Added to the movement is a wire which controls the small metal spicule cylinder type music box just below the bell of the movement. This is an eight day time and half hour and hourly bell striking movement. (The movement is quite dirty and needs either a full overhaul or thorough cleaning to get it running. However, the time period coincides with when Henry Orth completed his carving of this wonderful clock. Rarely do we find a signed and dated example of german-american folk art. )
SHELF: Scalloped edge wall hung shelf, ornamented with a plethora of open pierced chip carved wooden fretwork, intricately carved and containing approximately twenty layers adjacent to each other, and matching the carvings in the Cathedral Tramp Art Clock. An extraordinary carved shelf for the Cathedral clock.
CONDITION: I will use your description – “has top of center scroll work at top - chipped off in moving - needs to be glued back - one tiny piece of “railing” missing. Comes with large scrolled shelf that is very fragile and has a few “scrolls” broken - a couple still with it and maybe a couple missing.” As far as the wood, most of the carving is done using a soft wood such as from pine crates or cigar boxes with a mahogany stain. If the box below the structure is a music box, that part is mahogany and is not a true part of the tramp art since it is factory made. However, this is one of the most complete and nicest examples that I have seen and it is much more complex in its tiny carvings than most that I have seen. The few small broken pieces need repair, which should not be terribly difficult for any woodcarver to do for you.
MODERN SCHOLARSHIP ABOUT TRAMP ART: (Taken from Clifford and Nancy Wallach,
Tramp art was a democratic art form made around the world wherever the raw materials, (mostly cigar boxes and shipping crates), used in its construction were found. In the United States there were over 50 different ethnic groups documented making it. It appealed to men who might have made an important body of work such as ‘Sunflower’ artist John Zubersky or the wonderfully expressive wall pockets by John Zadzora but also to men who might have made one piece in their lifetime. It was easy to make and appealed to anyone who had a desire to take a pocket knife to wood.
We have uncovered hundreds of men, some women, and even children who made historical tramp art. Tramp art was mostly made in home-based settings and by men who were factory workers, farmers, and labored in just about every conceivable occupation. There were tramps or hoboes who made the art form but not in the numbers the name suggests. The name tramp art was a contemporary invention and had nothing to do with the art form as a whole.
As I said Tramp art is an important art movement maybe not yet comparable to other important art movements throughout our culture but it is a testament to the ability of the common man untrained in the arts to produce objects of immense artistic integrity. Their movement was one of the first to use discarded materials to make objects of art as well as utilitarian objects for everyday use.
~ (sold for $350 in 2018)
~ (Sold for $150 in 2019)
~ (Sold for $200 in 2020)
**~ (Sold for $3750 in 2018 and the structure is made like a museum with pictures sculpture and lighting in the interior.
**~ extraordinary and rare tramp art clock with automata sold for $7380 in 2019)
~ (sold for $375 in 2015 and is most reminiscent of the style of your example although less detailed and no shelf present)
~ (sold for $150 in 2015)
~ (German made and sold in 2019 for $50)
Your example is in the more traditional Gothic Cathedral style and not in the rarity of the two clocks selling in the thousands of dollars above **. However, yours appears to be a better example than just about all of the others, especially with the addition of the music box (although I do not know if that was present when the original carving took place or not. The presence of the shelf is rather rare, and difficult to find with other examples. Now that we have seen the inside of the case, the date and pencil signature of the carver and even know about his German ancestry and the original Seth thomas movement, I believe the value place on this clock has to be revalued upwards. How often do we see a Tramp art clock signed, dated and authenticated in such wonder condition. Almost never!
I believe if offered for sale, as is, despite the few breaks and the missing hands, your example would have a fair market value in the range of $2000-$2500.
Retail pricing would be about twice that amount, most likely in the range of $$4000-$5000, if you purchased this from a dealer. Thank you for sharing all of the parts and your research with me.
Thank you for choosing for your appraisal and best of luck selling your example.
My best,
p.s. - you can alter the asking price up and down. The price provided is only a suggestion.

Mary scafidi Oct 15, 06:11 UTC

David. Thank you for your response. I did not know any of that. Fascinating. I mentioned that there is still a scroll saw pattern available for purchase - the church is pretty much the same but the base has a different pattern. The Tramp Art tells me why the builder of this clock inlaid other woods instead of leaving filigree, but I am perplexed about there being a pattern available.

David Oct 15, 13:46 UTC

Mary -
When you say there is another "scroll saw pattern" available, are you referring to another structure or another set of "blue-prints" to create this type of tramp art ?
Generally, these 'artists' did not make a living by carving these structures, but rather did them as a hobby in their spare time. Most used a soft wood and a penknife to create the final product. However, as mechanization became more common
I suppose many of these talented carvers would use some type of hand saw to create their patterns. That would only make sense to me. By 1906 carpenters shops flourished throughout the country and tools were readily available. Each artist used what he had at hand, usually a simple tool such as a knife to carve with. They tended to work slowly and were not concerned about time or their ability to produce copies or make money from their work. Of course, some may have ultimately been cabinet makers who used their more sophisticated tools at hand and with their talents could make these much more quickly. I myself have never heard of patterns being available, and would like to see what you mean by that. Is it possible to send me a photo of one of the Patterns you mention? If you are unable to send it to me on the mearto website, you can send it to my email, [email protected] - With tramp art anything is possible, from using machine tools to penknives and even drawings to copy as time went by and we moved into the 20th century. With saws they could use mahogany, but usually post Civil War what was used were all softwoods that could be carved by hand with a simple knife and then either stained to look like mahogany or painted in some manner. Most of these people made a single piece of work or perhaps two, not much more.
Again, I have never heard of working from a pattern, but many of these cathedrals and other more simple forms were very similar to each other, so some type of pattern may have been available to them by the time the 20th century rolled around.
My best,

Mary scafidi Oct 15, 14:57 UTC

David. I found it.
Let me know. It is kind of intriguing. Thanks!

David Oct 15, 19:29 UTC

Very interesting indeed. I think what you found represents a rather modern patterns for recreating original tramp art. Note that in these new patterns there are no winding holes on the dial, there is a cuckoo clock door under the eaves, the open scrollwork in the base is not backed by wood as in your example, but left simply open. In addition, there are several other commonly found Church pattern examples. Your example shows age and discoloration from usage over many years. I think that a similar example to your clock was copied at some point and along with other more commonly seen models was used for making patterns and creating and online business. That is NOT surprising.
Of course, the real question is whether your example truly dates from 1906, as we had thought. So, the question becomes how long have you owned it since you say you inherited this from your father, and about how many years he had it as well. For now, and from what I can see in examining your example, I would say there are enough signs of wear and age, that I believe it is the real thing and quite genuine. The fact that today they make patterns for such clocks comes as no surprise. I thought you meant you found patterns dating back to the time when tramp art was in style and was being made.
Clock kits to make one's own grandfather clock became popular in the 1980s.
There are all sorts of ways of recreating what was popular in the past, and this is no different. I would not alter anything that I have written, and I still believe this is a genuine piece of Tramp Art dating to the early 20th century.
I hope that eases your perplexity about modern patterns being found.

Mary scafidi Oct 16, 21:10 UTC

David. You are brilliant. I opened the back of the clock and, obvious in the new photos I am adding next, this is definitely Tramp art. There are pieces that have upside down writing, some pieces had been painted, stain was applied unevenly, the handle to pull the back off was crudely formed metal.

By searching a "few" hours on the name of the maker, date, and street address (no town) penciled inside, I FOUND THE CLOCK MAKER. And, yes, he was German. And single when the clock was made with no CNN or Facebook and no electricity, just working on the intricacies of the clock.

The maker was Henry Orth, a single child, who came to the U.S. from Germany in 1870 (age 10). He lived in Sandusky, Ohio (a small city about 150 miles from my father who bought the clock). Henry was single until 1899 and had no children. His wife Louisa died in 1942. He dated the clock to 1896 when he was still single with no family of his own leaving him time to work on such an intricate project. He was listed in one document as a dyer at a steam and dye shop and elsewhere later as a dry cleaner. I continue to try to dig up more - it is fascinating to look into the life and complexities of another person of another time. I would love to know what he looked like and Louisa and what he would have had to say. I have a request into the historical society to see if he was in any public pictures, a request for his and Louisa's obituaries, and a request to pin down whether he lived with his parents.

You are right. The currently available pattern has a number of differences: no ornamentation on the tops of the top spires, addition of a cuckoo door, addition of small decorations in the corners on the top surface of the base, the design on the front of the base and around the dial are different, and, of course, the lack of all of the inlays.

Mary scafidi Oct 16, 21:55 UTC

And another difference in the currently available pattern: the lack of the holes to wind the clock.

When I say you are brilliant, I don't mean just because of one factor. This has a been a wonderful and enlightening journey. I did not know any of this. And you were able to response so quickly with all of this knowledge. My father would have loved to converse with you. I wish I could tell him all of this; he was so in love with the clock; he recognized the true artisanal value. It was his pride which is why I couldn't part with it for years after he died. Pondering now whether to sell it or keep it. Of course, my daughter said, "I have other things to remember Grandpa by. Puh.

Mary scafidi Oct 16, 22:07 UTC

Oh. And Henry died in 1927 at the age of 66, too young, no doubt from work chemicals and eating heavy German food everyday.
Louisa was 72 when she died.

David Oct 16, 23:01 UTC

Thank you for all your kind comments. I try my best with every item. You did a great job of researching this further and that is what an owner interested in his or her item should do.
Congratulations to you!
Keep the history with the appraisal and it will be simpler for those who come after us.
My best wishes,

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