regular second Sunday meeting at the San Leandro Boys and
Girls Club began with the usual lively and well attended Mart,
with nearly 60 tables packed with a profusion of horological treasures.
The extensive Silent Auction, ably hosted (for the past twenty years) by
Seth Finkelstein, ended with a whistle, signaling the beginning of the
Membership meeting. After Chapter President Frank Keillor oversaw a
brief and concise business meeting, he turned the floor over to Larry
Bernard for the afternoon’s program.
Larry’s program is
entitled “Early American Watch Production: Products, Personalities and
Progress toward Mass Production – 1809 to the Civil War.” Lacking
examples of Goddards, Pitkins, and pre-1855 Walthams, Larry created
large drawings of these movements to illustrate his talk. We learned
about the Jefferson Embargo that stimulated itinerant preacher Luther
, to produce a large number of
traditional English style verge watches popular at the time. This
enterprise ceased when imports resumed and Reverend Goddard could not
price his product competitively.
The next enterprise
by the Pitkin brothers, Henry and James, in
, in the late 1830’s, was an effort to
use mass production methods, developed nearby in the Springfield Armory
and clock factories, to manufacture a watch. This watch was a unique
design of Henry Pitkin’s and featured screws as pivot holes, which
were thought for many years to be conical recesses to hold conical steel
pivots as in many alarm clocks.
However, when Larry
on the 1993 Henry B. Fried Horological
Tour, participants were treated to a display of drawings on this very
watch, expertly presented by the artist David Penny. Mr. Penny, one of
the finest horological illustrators of our time, had disassembled the
movement and discovered cylindrical pivots, with rounded ends, in
cylindrical holes, with flat ends. In discussion with the artist after
the show, Larry had found that Mr. Penny planned to publish these
findings, along with his excellent drawings, in the NAWCC Bulletin.
When this did not
appear, Larry had corresponded with Mr. Penney who graciously granted
permission to enhance Larry’s presentation, and everyone’s
knowledge, by using drawings of these pivots, supplied by Mr. Penney.
This was of great interest to all who attended Larry’s presentation,
and most everyone came up afterwards to have a closer look.
We all eagerly anticipate Mr. Penney’s article, which he hopes
to soon finish and send to the Bulletin, and we thank him for his
generosity in sharing this valuable information with us.
The American Watch
Company, as it came to be called, in
, was the last maker before the Civil
War. Although bankrupt in 1857, this company had managed, at last, (the
Pitkin had failed ten years before) to manufacture watches using factory
mass production methods, with many parts interchangeable. This was due
to the industry of Aaron Dennison and Edward Howard. A drawing of a
Samuel Curtis movement rounded off the presentation. We all went home
knowing a lot more about early American watch manufacture and the
efforts to achieve mass production with interchangeable parts than we
had known before.