Waltham Pocket Watches


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EDWARD HOWARD was a veteran watch and clockmaker of Boston. He was born in Hingham, Mass., Oct. 6, 1813. He served an apprenticeship of seven years as a clockmaker. At the age of twenty-nine he embarked in the business of clockmaking on his own account, his partner being D. P. Davis, and the firm being known as Howard & Davis. The firm manufactured a very superior line of clocks and regulators, and their goods soon gained a world-wide reputation. In 1849 Mr. Howard, together with A. L. Dennison, Samuel Curtis, a Boston capitalist, and D. P. Davis organized a company for the manufacture of watches. This company was separate and distinct from that of Howard &Davis, and was known as the American Horologe Company. This company was the first in the world to undertake the manufacture of watches on the interchangeable system.

AARON L.DENNISON, The father of the American watch factories, was the first person to apply the interchangeable system to the manufacture of watches. This he did in 1850. He was the son of a shoemaker of Freeport, Me., and was born in the year 1812. He was apprenticed to James Carey, a watchmaker of Brunswick, Me., in 1830. In 1839 he was engaged in a general watch and jewelry business in Boston and also carried a line of watchmakers' tools and materials. He invented the Dennison Standard Gauge in 1840. In the fall of 1849 he began to build machinery for the manufacture of watches on the interchangeable system, having associated himself with Messrs Howard, Davis and Curtis. In 1850 he completed the model for the first watch which was 18 size, with two barrels, and was made to run eight days. The watch, however, was not a success, and it was replaced by a one day wind model.

The factory was situated directly opposite to the Howard & Davis shop. The name of the company was changed subsequently to the Warren Manufacturing Company honoring a hero of the Revolutionary War who came from Roxbury, Massachusetts., and later to the Boston Watch Company. In 1854 the location of the factory was changed to Waltham. In 1857 the company made an assignment, and the property, consisting of real estate, the factory, and numerous other buildings, machinery, steam engine, etc , was offered at public auction and was bid in for $56,500 by Royal E. Robbins, for himself and the firm of Tracy & Baker, case makers of Philadelphia, who were creditors of the defunct company. After the failure of the Boston Watch Company Mr. Howard returned to Roxbury and continued with his clock business in connection with Mr, Davis.

The Tracy and Baker Company didn’t last long. Baker soon sold out to James Appleton and the name was changed to the Appleton, Tracy and Company. C T. Parker and P. S. Bartlett, both company employees, were the names of most of the watches produced. On January 1, 1859, the company merged with the Waltham Improvement Company, to form the American Watch Company.

Then the Civil war broke out. Royal E. Robbins, the majority stock holder of the new company, said; "During that year, came the outburst of the Civil War which brought the business to a standstill and threatened to again bankrupt the enterprise. There was little hope of finding a market for the factory product, unless it should be so reduced in quantity as to be manufactured at a loss. It was therefore decided to reduce expenditures to the lowest point, but to keep the factory in operation to such an extent as to hold the leading personnel.''

In the first year in business,The American Watch Company manufactured the same watch as those manufactured by the Appleton, Tracy and Company. A. L. Dennison, while he was with the company, and prior to 1857, while he was with the Boston Watch Company, had experimented with and sold a few full plate 7 jewel models which were engraved Dennison, Howard and Davis, the same as the 18-size 15 jewel model which up to that time had been the sole product of the company. Robbins, when the company was known as Appleton Tracy and Company, had some minute changes made in this model in 1857, and tried to market it for $12.00 under the name of C. T. Parker. Only 399 of these 7 jewel models were produced as they did not go over well. In early 1861, the American Watch Company changed the name of this movement to J. Watson. The company dropped the name of J. Watson after the second run and renamed the model William Ellery, after one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This watch became known as the "soldiers watch". In September, 1861 the company manufactured the first watch for women ever by machinery and interchangable parts. It was a 10-size 3/4 plate keywind and keyset. It was produced in two grades, a 13 jewel model engraved P.S Bartlett and a 15 jewel Appleton, Tracy and Company. Production of the 10 size movements ceased in 1873, but the company had manufactured enough movements, to assemble and offer them throughout the life of the American Watch Company. In the year 1885 the name changed to the American Waltham Watch Company. In 1905 the name was again changed to the Waltham Watch Company. The production of watches continued until 1953, having produced over 33,000,000 watch movements.

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