History of the American Clock Business for the Past Sixty Years, - and Life of Chauncey Jerome
by Chauncey Jerome
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Barnum's Connection with the Yankee Clock Business



The manufacture of Clocks has become one of the most important branches of American industry. Its productions are of immense value and form an important article of export to foreign countries. It has grown from almost nothing to its present dimensions within the last thirty years, and is confined to one of the smallest States in the Union. Sixty years ago, a few men with clumsy tools supplied the demand; at the present time, with systematized labor and complicated machinery, it gives employment to thousands of men, occupying some of the largest factories of New England. Previous to the year 1838, most clock movements were made of wood; since that time they have been constructed of metal, which is not only better and more durable but even cheaper to manufacture.

Many years of my own life have been inseparably connected with and devoted to the American clock business, and the most important changes in it have taken place within my remembrance and actual experience. Its whole history is familiar to me, and I cannot write my life without having much to say about "Yankee clocks." Neither can there be a history of that business written without alluding to myself. A few weeks since I entered my sixty-seventh year, and reviewing the past, many trying experiences are brought fresh into my mind. For more than forty-five years I have been actively engaged in the manufacture of clocks, and constantly studying and contriving new methods of manufacturing for the benefit of myself and fellow-men, and although through the instrumentality of others, I have been unfortunate in the loss of my good name and an independent competency, which I had honorably and honestly acquired by these long years of patient toil and industry, it is a satisfaction to me now to know that I have been the means of doing some good in the world.

On the following pages in my simple language, and in a bungling manner, I have told the story of my life. I am no author, but claim a title which I consider nobler, that of a "Mechanic." Being possessed of a remarkable memory, I am able to give a minute account and even the date of every important transaction of my whole life, and distinctly remember events which took place when I was but a child, three and a half years old, and how I celebrated my fourth birthday. I could relate many instances of my boyhood and later day experiences if my health, and strength would permit. It has been no part of my plan to boast, exaggerate, or misrepresent anything, but to give "plain facts."

A history of the great business of Clock making has never been written. I am the oldest man living who has had much to do with it, and am best able to give its history. To-day my name is seen on millions of these useful articles in every part of the civilized globe, the result of early ambition and untiring perseverance. It was in fact the "pride of my life." Time-keepers have been known for centuries in the old world; but I will not dwell on that. It is enough for the American people to know that their country supplies the whole world with its most useful time-keepers, (as well as many other productions,) and that no other country can compete with ours in their manufacture.

It has been a long and laborious undertaking for me in my old age to write such a work as this; but the hope that it might be useful and instructive to many of my young friends has animated me to go on; and in presenting it to the public it is with the hope that it will meet with some favor, and that I shall derive some pecuniary benefit therefrom.

NEW HAVEN, August 15th, 1860.


CHAPTER I.—MY EARLY HISTORY.—Birthplace; nail making; death of my Father; leaving home; work on a farm; hard times; the great eclipse; bound out as a carpenter; carry tools thirty miles; work on clock dials; what I heard at a training; trip to New Jersey in 1812; first visit to New York; what I saw there; cross the North River in a scow; case making in New Jersey; hard fare; return home; first appearance in New Haven; at home again; a great traveller; experiences in the last war; go to New London to fight the British in 1813; incidents; soldiering at New Haven in 1814; married; hard times again; cottton [sic] cloth $1 per yard; the cold summer of 1816; a hard job; work at clocks.

CHAPTER II.—EARLY HISTORY OF YANKEE CLOCK MAKING.—Mr. Eli Terry the father of wood clocks in Connecticut; clocks in 1800; wheels made with saw and jack-knife; first clocks by machinery; clocks for pork; men in the business previous to 1810; [ ] a new invention; the Pillar Scroll Top Case; peddling clocks on horseback; the Bronze Looking Glass Clock.

CHAPTER III.—PERSONAL HISTORY CONTINUED.—1816 to 1825; work with Mr. Terry; commence business; work alone; large sale to a Southerner; a heap of money; peddle clocks in Wethersfield; walk twenty-five miles in the snow; increase business; buy mahogany in the plank; saw veneers with a hand saw; trade cases for movements; move to Bristol; bad luck; lose large sum of money; first cases by machinery in Bristol; make clocks in Mass.; good luck; death of my little daughter; form a company; invent Bronze Looking Glass Clock.

CHAPTER IV.—PROGRESS OF CLOCK MAKING.—Revival of business; Bronze Looking Glass Clock favorite; clocks at the South; $115 for a clock; rapid increase of the business; new church at Bristol—Rev. David L. Parmelee; hard times of 1837; panic in business; no more clocks will be made; wooden clocks and wooden nutmegs; opposition to Yankee pedlars in the South; make clocks in Virginia and South Carolina; my trip to the South; discouragements; "I won't give up;" invent one day Brass clock; better times ahead; go further South; return home; produce the new clock; its success.

CHAPTER V.—BRASS CLOCKS—CLOCKS IN ENGLAND.—The new clock a favorite; I carry on the business alone; good times; profits in 1841; wood clock makers half crazy; competition; prices reduced; can Yankee clocks be introduced into England; I send out a cargo; ridiculed by other clock makers; prejudice of English people against American manufacturers; how they were introduced; seized by custom house officers; a good joke; incidents; the Terry family.

CHAPTER VI.—THE CAREER OF A FAST YOUNG MAN.—Incidents; Frank Merrills; a smart young man; I sell him clocks; his bogus operations; a sad history; great losses; human nature; my experience; incident of my boyhood; Samuel J. Mills, the Missionary; anecdotes.

CHAPTER VII.—REMOVAL TO NEW HAVEN—FIRE—TROUBLE.—Make cages at New Haven; factories at Bristol destroyed by fire; great loss; sickness; heavy trouble; human nature; move whole business to New Haven; John Woodruff; great competition; clocks in New York; swindlers; law-suit; ill-feeling of other clock makers.

CHAPTER VIII.—THE METHOD OF MANUFACTURING—THE JEROME MANUFACTURING COMPANY.—Benefit of manufacturing by system; a clock case for eight cents; a clock for seventy-five cents; thirty years ago and to-day; more human nature; how the Brass clock is made; cost of a clock; the facilities of the Jerome Manufacturing Company; a joint stock company; how it was managed; interesting statements; its failure.

CHAPTER IX.—MEN NOW IN THE BUSINESS.—The New Haven Clock Co.: Hon. Jas. E. English, H.M. Welch, John Woodruff, Hiram Camp, Philip Pond, Charles L. Griswold, L.F. Root. Benedict & Burnham Company of Waterbury: Arad W. Welton. Seth Thomas & Co. Wm. L. Gilbert. E.N. Welch. Beach & Hubbell. Ireneus Atkins.

CHAPTER X.—BARNUM'S CONNECTION IN THE CLOCK BUSINESS.—Barnum and the Jerome Manufacturing Co.; Terry & Barnum; interesting statements; causes of the failure; the results.

CHAPTER XI.—EFFECTS OF THE FAILURE ON MYSELF.—My prospects; leave New Haven; move to Waterbury; a frightful accident; a practical story.

CHAPTER XII.—ANOTHER UNFORTUNATE PARTNERSHIP.—More misplaced confidence; a dishonest man threatening to imprison me for fraud; every dollar gone; kindness of John Woodruff, etc.

CHAPTER XIII.—THE WOOSTER PLACE CHURCH.—Reasons for building it, and how it was built; growth of different denominations, etc.

CHAPTER XIV.—NEW HAVEN AS A BUSINESS PLACE.—growth, extensive manufactories, facilities for manufacturing, population, wealth, etc.

APPENDIX.—General directions for keeping clocks in order, etc.



I was born in the town of Canaan, Litchfield County, in the State of Connecticut, on the 10th day of June, 1793. My parents were poor but respectable and industrious. My father was a blacksmith and wrought-nail maker by trade, and the father of six children—four sons and two daughters. I was the fourth child.

In January, 1797, he moved from Canaan to the town of Plymouth, in the same County, and in the following spring built a blacksmith shop, which was large enough for three or four men to work at the nail making business, besides carrying on the blacksmithing. At that time all the nails used in the country were hammered by hand out of iron rods, which practice has almost entirely been done away by the introduction of cut nails.

My advantages for education were very poor. When large enough to handle a hoe, or a bundle of rye, I was kept at work on the farm. The only opportunity I had for attending school was in the winter season, and then only about three months in the year, and at a very poor school. When I was nine years old, my father took me into the shop to work, where I soon learned to make nails, and worked with him in this way until his death, which occurred on the fifth of October, 1804. For two or three days before he died, he suffered the most excruciating pains from the disease known as the black colic. The day of his death was a sad one to me, for I knew that I should lose my happy home, and be obliged to leave it to seek work for my support. There being no manufacturing of any account in the country, the poor boys were obliged to let themselves to the farmers, and it was extremely difficult to find a place to live where they would treat a poor boy like a human being. Never shall I forget the Monday morning that I took my little bundle of clothes, and with a bursting heart bid my poor mother good bye.

I knew that the rest of the family had got to leave soon, and I perhaps never to see any of them again. Being but a boy and naturally very sympathizing, it really seemed as if my heart would break to think of leaving my dear old home for good, but stern necessity compelled me, and I was forced to obey.

The first year after leaving home I was at work on a farm, and almost every day when alone in the fields would burst into tears—not because I had to work, but because my father was dead whom I loved, and our happy family separated and broken up never to live together again. In my new place I was kept at work very hard, and at the age of fourteen did almost the work of a man. It was a very lonely place where we lived, and nothing to interest a child of my age. The people I lived with seemed to me as very old, though they were probably not more than thirty-six years of age, and felt no particular interest in me, more than to keep me constantly at work, early and late, in all kinds of weather, of which I never complained. I have many times worked all day in the woods, chopping down trees, with my shoes filled with snow; never had a pair of boots till I was more than twenty years old. Once in two weeks I was allowed to go to church, which opportunity I always improved.

I liked to attend church, for I could see so many folks, and the habit which I then acquired has never to this day left me, and my love for it dates back to this time in my youth, though the attractions now are different.

I shall never forget how frightened I was at the great eclipse which took place on the 16th of June, 1806, and which so terrified the good people in every part of the land. They were more ignorant about such operations of the sun fifty-four years ago than at the present time. I had heard something about eclipses but had not the faintest idea what it could be. I was hoeing corn that day in a by-place three miles from town, and thought it certainly was the day of judgment. I watched the sun steadily disappearing with a trembling heart, and not till it again appeared bright and shining as before, did I regain my breath and courage sufficient to whistle.

The winter before I was fifteen years old, I went to live with a house carpenter to learn the trade, and was bound to him by my guardian till I was twenty-one years old, and was to have my board and clothes for my services. I learned the business very readily, and during the last three years of my apprenticeship could do the work of a man.

It was a very pleasant family that I lived with while learning my trade. In the year 1809 my "boss" took a job in Torringford, and I went with him. After being absent several months from home, I felt very anxious to see my poor mother who lived about two miles from Plymouth. She lived alone—with the exception of my youngest brother about nine years old. I made up my mind that I would go down and see her one night. In this way I could satisfy my boss by not losing any time. It was about twenty miles, and I only sixteen years old. I was really sorry after I had started, but was not the boy to back out. It took me till nearly morning to get there, tramping through the woods half of the way; every noise I heard I thought was a bear or something that would kill me, and the frightful notes of the whippoorwill made my hair stand on end. The dogs were after me at every house I passed. I have never forgotten that night. The boys of to-day do not see such times as I did.

The next year, 1810, my boss took a job in Ellsworth Society, Litchfield County. I footed it to and from that place several times in the course of the year, with a load of joiners' tools on my back. What would a boy 17 years old now think to travel thirty miles in a hot summer's day, with a heavy load of joiners' tools on his back? But that was about the only way that we could get around in those days. At that time there were not half a dozen one-horse wagons in the whole town. At that place I attended the church of Rev. Daniel Parker, father of Hon. Amasa J. Parker, of Albany, who was then a little boy four or five years old. I often saw him at meeting with his mother. He is a first cousin of F.S. & J. Parker of this city, two highly respectable men engaged in the paper business.

In the fall of 1811, I made a bargain with the man that I was bound to, that if he would give me four months in the winter of each year when the business was dull, I would clothe myself. I therefore went to Waterbury, and hired myself to Lewis Stebbins, (a singing master of that place,) to work at making the dials for the old fashioned long clock. This kind of business gave me great satisfaction, for I always had a desire to work at clocks. In 1807, when I was fourteen years old, I proposed to my guardian to get me a place with Mr. Eli Terry, of Plymouth, to work at them. Mr. Terry was at that time making more clocks than any other man in the country, about two hundred in a year, which was thought to be a great number.

My guardian, a good old man, told me that there was so many clocks then making, that the country would soon be filled with them, and the business would be good for nothing in two or three years. This opinion of that wise man made me feel very sad. I well remember, when I was about twelve years old, what I heard some old gentleman say, at a training, (all of the good folks in those days were as sure to go to training as to attend church,) they were talking about Mr. Terry; the foolish man they said, had begun to make two hundred clocks; one said, he never would live long enough to finish them; another remarked, that if he did he never would, nor could possibly sell so many, and ridiculed the very idea.

I was a little fellow, but heard and swallowed every word those wise men said, but I did not relish it at all, for I meant some day to make clocks myself, if I lived.

What would those good old men have thought when they were laughing at and ridiculing Mr. Terry, if they had known that the little urchin who was so eagerly listening to their conversation would live to make Two Hundred Thousand metal clocks in one year, and many millions in his life. They have probably been dead for years, that little boy is now an old man, and during his life has seen these great changes. The clock business has grown to be one of the largest in the country, and almost every kind of American manufactures have improved in much the same ratio, and I cannot now believe that there will ever be in the same space of future time so many improvements and inventions as those of the past half century—one of the most important in the history of the world. Everyday things with us now would have appeared to our forefathers as incredible. But returning to my story—having got myself tolerably well posted about clocks at Waterbury, I hired myself to two men to go into the state of New Jersey, to make the old fashioned seven foot standing clock-case. Messrs. Hotchkiss and Pierpont, of Plymouth, had been selling that kind of a clock without the cases, in the northern part of that State, for about twenty dollars, apiece. The purchasers, had complained to them however, that there was no one in that region that could make the case for them, which prevented many others from buying. These two men whom I went with, told them that they would get some one to go out from Connecticut, to make the case, and thought they could be made for about eighteen or twenty dollars apiece, which would then make the whole clock cost about forty dollars—not so very costly after all; for a clock was then considered the most useful of anything that could be had in a family, for what it cost. I entered into an agreement with these men at once, and a few days after, we three started on the 14th Dec., 1812, in an old lumber wagon, with provisions for the journey, to the far off Jersey. This same trip can now be made in a few hours. We were many days. We passed through Watertown, and other villages, and stopped the first night at Bethel. This is the very place where P.T. Barnum was born, and at about this time, of whom I shall speak more particularly hereafter. The next morning we started again on our journey, and not many hours after, arrived in Norwalk, then quite a small village, situated on Long Island Sound; at this place I saw the salt water for the first time in my life, also a small row-boat, and began to feel that I was a great traveler indeed. The following night we stopped at Stamford, which was, as I viewed it, a great place; here I saw a few sloops on the Sound, which I thought was the greatest sight that I had ever seen. This was years before a steamboat had ever passed through the Sound. The next morning we started again for New York, and as we passed along I was more and more astonished at the wonderful things that I saw, and began to think that the world was very extensive. We did not arrive at the city until night, but there being a full moon every thing appeared as pleasant, as in the day-time. We passed down through the Bowery, which was then like a country village, then through Chatham street to Pearl street, and stopped for the night at a house kept by old Mr. Titus. I arose early the next morning and hurried into the street to see how a city looked by day-light. I stood on the corner of Chatham and Pearl for more than an hour, and I must confess that if I was ever astonished in my life, it was at that time. I could not understand why so many people, of every age, description and dress, were hurrying so in every direction. I asked a man what was going on, and what all this excitement meant, but he passed right along without noticing me, which I thought was very uncivil, and I formed a very poor opinion of those city folks. I ate nothing that morning, for I thought I could be in better business for a while at least. I wandered about gazing at the many new sights, and went out as far as the Park; at that time the workmen were finishing the interior of the City Hall. I was greatly puzzled to know how the winding stone stairs could be fixed without any seeming support and yet be perfectly safe. After viewing many sights, all of which were exceedingly interesting to me, I returned to the house where my companions were. They told me that they had just heard that the ship Macedonian, which was taken a few days before from the British by one of our ships, had just been brought into the harbor and lay off down by Burling Slip, or in that region. We went down to see her, and went on board. I was surprised and frightened to see brains and blood scattered about on the deck in every direction. This prize was taken by the gallant Decatur, but a short distance from New York. Hastening back from this sickening scene, we resumed our journey. My two companions had been telling me that we should have to cross the North River in a boat, and I did not understand how a boat could be made to carry our team and be perfectly safe, but when we arrived there, I was much surprised to see other teams that were to cross over with us, and a number of people. At that time an old scow crossed from New York City to the Jersey shore, once in about two hours. What a great change has taken place in the last forty-seven years; now large steam ferry boats are crossing and recrossing, making the trip in a few minutes. It was the first time that I had ever crossed a stream, except on a bridge, and I feared that we might upset and all be drowned, but no accident happened to us; we landed in safety, and went on our way rejoicing towards Elizabethtown. At that place I saw a regiment of soldiers from Kentucky, who were on their way to the northern frontier to fight the British. They were a rough set of fellows, and looked as though they could do a great deal of fighting. It will be remembered that this was the time of the last war with England. We passed on through Elizabethtown and Morristown to Dutch Valley, where we stopped for the night. We remained at this place a few days, looking about for a cabinet shop, or a suitable place to make the clock cases. Not succeeding, we went a mile further north, to a place called Schooler's Mountain; here we found a building that suited us. It was then the day before Christmas. The people of that region, we found, kept that day more strictly than the Sabbath, and as we were not ready to go to work, we passed Christmas day indoors feeling very lonely indeed. The next day we began operations. A young man from the lower part of New Jersey worked with me all winter. We boarded ourselves in the same building that we worked in, I doing all of the house-work and cooking, none of which was very fine or fancy, our principal food being pork, potatoes and bread, using our work-bench for a table. Hard work gave us good appetite.

We would work on an average about fifteen hours a day, the house-work not occupying much of our time. I was then only nineteen years old, and it hardly seems possible that the boys of the present day could pass through such trials and hardships, and live. We worked in this way all winter. When the job was finished, I took my little budget of clothes and started for home. I traveled the first day as far as Elizabethtown, and stopped there all night, but found no conveyance from there to New York. I was told that if I would go down to the Point, I might in the course of the day, get a passage in a sailing vessel to the city. I went down early in the morning and, after waiting till noon, found a chance to go with two men in a small sail boat. I was greatly alarmed at the strange motions of the boat which I thought would upset, and felt greatly relieved when I was again on terra firma.

I wandered about the streets of New York all that afternoon, bought a quantity of bread and cheese, and engaged a passage on the Packet Sloop Eliza, for New Haven, of her Captain Zebulon Bradley. I slept on board of her that night at the dock, the next day we set sail for New Haven, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, with a fair wind, and arrived at the long wharf in (that city) about eight o'clock the same day. I stopped at John Howe's Hotel, at the head of the wharf. This was the first time that I was ever in this beautiful city, and I little thought then that I ever should live there, working at my favorite business, with three hundred men in my employ, or that I should ever be its Mayor.—Times change.

Very early the next morning, after looking about a little, I started with my bundle of clothes in one hand, and my bread and cheese in the other, to find the Waterbury turnpike, and after dodging about for a long time, succeeded in finding it, and passed on up through Waterbury to Plymouth, walking the whole distance, and arrived home about three o'clock in the afternoon. This was my first trip abroad, and I really felt that I was a great traveler, one who had seen much of the world! What a great change has taken place in so short space of time.

Soon after I returned from my western trip, there began to be a great excitement throughout the land, about the war. It was proposed by the Governor of Connecticut, John Cotton Smith, of Sharon, to raise one or two regiments of State troops to defend it in case of invasion. One Company of one hundred men, was raised in the towns of Waterbury, Watertown, Middlebury, Plymouth and Bethlem, and John Buckingham chosen Captain, who is now living in Waterbury; the other commissioned officers of the company, were Jas. M.L. Scovill, of Waterbury, and Joseph H. Bellamy, of Bethlem. The company being composed of young men, and I being about the right age, had of course to be one of them.

Early in the Summer of 1813, the British fleet run two of our ships of war up the Thames River, near New London. Their ships being so large could not enter, but lay at its mouth. Their presence so near greatly alarmed the citizens of that city, and in fact, all of the people in the eastern part of the State. Our regiment was ordered to be ready to start for New London by the first of August. The Plymouth company was called together on Sunday, which was the first of August, and exercised on the Green in front of the church, in the fore part of the day. This unusual occurrence of a military display on the Sabbath greatly alarmed the good people of the congregation, but it really was a case of necessity, we were preparing to defend our homes from a foreign foe.

In the afternoon we attended church in a body, wearing our uniforms, to the wonder and astonishment of boys, but terrible to the old people. On Monday morning we started on a march to Hartford, sleeping that night in a barn, in the eastern part of Farmington, and reaching Hartford the next day, where we joined the other companies, and all started for New London. The first night we slept in a barn in East Hartford, and the second one in an old church in Marlboro. I remember lying on the seat of a pew, with my knapsack under my head. We arrived at New London on Saturday, marching the whole distance in the first week in August, and a hotter time I have never experienced since. We were dressed in heavy woolen clothes, carrying heavy guns and knapsacks, and wearing large leather caps. It was indeed a tedious job. We were whole days traveling what can now be done in less than as many hours, and were completely used up when we arrived there, which would not appear strange. We were immediately stationed on the high ground, back from the river, about half way between the city and the light-house, in plain view of the enemy's ships. They would frequently, when there was a favorable wind, hoist their sails and beat about in the harbor, making a splendid appearance, and practising a good deal with their heavy guns on a small American sloop, which they had taken and anchored a long distance off. The bounding of the cannon balls on the water was an interesting sight to me. The first night after our arrival, I was put on guard near the Light-house, and in plain sight of the ships. I was much afraid that the sharp shooters from their barges would take me for a target and be smart enough to hit me; and a heavy shower with thunder and lightning passing over us during the night, did not alleviate my distress. I was but a boy, only twenty years old, and would naturally be timid in such a situation, but I passed the night without being killed; it seems that was not the way that I was to die.

I soon became sick and disgusted with a soldier's life; it seemed to be too lazy and low-lived to suit me, and, as near as I could judge, the inhabitants thought us all a low set of fellows. I never have had a desire to live or be anywhere without I could be considered at least as good as the average, which failing I have now as strong as ever. We not having any battles to fight, had no opportunities of showing our bravery, and after guarding the city for forty-five days, were discharged; over which we made a great rejoicing, and returned home by the way of New Haven, which was my second visit to this city. The North and Centre Churches were then building, also, the house now standing at the North-east corner of the Green, owned then by David DeForest; stopping here over night, we pased [sic] on home to Plymouth. I had not slept on a bed since I left home, and would have as soon taken the barn floor as a good bed. This ended my first campaign.

After this I went to work at my trade, the Joiners business. I was still an apprentice; would not be twenty-one till the next June.

The War was not yet over, and in October, 1814, our Regiment was ordered by Governor Smith to New Haven, to guard the city. Col. Sanford, (father of Elihu and Harvey Sanford of this city,) commanded us. On arriving, we were stationed at the old slaughter-house, in the Eastern part of the city, at the end of Green street. All the land East of Academy street was then in farmers' lots, and planted with corn, rye and potatoes now covered with large manufactories and fine dwellings. I little thought then, that I should have the largest Clock-factory in the world, within a stone's throw of my sleeping-place, as has since proved. Nothing of much importance took place during our campaign at New Haven. The British did not land or molest us. We built a large fort on the high grounds, on the East Haven side, which commanded the Harbor, the ruins of which can now be seen from the city. A good deal of fault was found by the officers and men with the provisions, which were very poor. When this campaign closed I was through with my military glory, and returned to my home, sick and disgusted with a soldier's life. I hope our country will not be disgraced with another war.

All of the old people will remember what a great rejoicing there was through the whole country, when peace was declared in February, 1815. I was married about that time to Salome Smith, daughter of Capt. Theophilus Smith, one of the last of the Puritanical families there was in the town; she made one of the best of wives and mothers. She died on the 6th of March, 1854. We lived together 39 years. A short time after we were married, I moved to the town of Farmington, and hired a house of Mr. Chauncey Deming to live in, and went to work for Capt. Selah Porter, for twenty dollars per month. We built a house for Maj. Timothy Cowles, which was then the best one in Farmington. I was not worth at this time fifty dollars in the world.

1815, the year after the war, was, probably the hardest one there has been for the last hundred years, for a young man to begin for himself.

Pork was sold for thirteen dollars per hundred, Flour at thirteen dollars per barrel; Molasses was sold for seventy-five cents per gallon, and brown Sugar at thirty-four cents per pound. I remember buying some cotton cloth for a common shirt, for which I paid one dollar a yard, no better than can now be bought for ten cents. I mention these things to let the young men know what a great change has taken place, and what my prospects were at that time. Not liking this place, I moved back to Plymouth. I did not have money enough to pay my rent, which however, was not due until the next May, but Mr. Deming, who by the way, was one of the richest men in the State, was determined that I should not go till I had paid him. I promised him that he should have the money when it was due, if my life was spared, and he finally consented to let me go. When it came due I walked to Farmington, fifteen miles, paid him and walked back the same day, feeling relieved and happy. I obtained the job of finishing the inside of a dwelling house, which gave me great encouragement. The times were awful hard and but little business done at anything. It would almost frighten a man to see a five dollar bill, they were so very scarce. My work was about two miles from where I lived. My wife was confined about this time with her first babe. I would rise every morning two hours before day-light and prepare my breakfast, and taking my dinner in a little pail, bid my good wife good-by for the day, and start for my work, not returning till night. About this time the Congregational Society employed a celebrated music teacher to conduct the church singing, and I having always had a desire to sing sacred music, joined his choir and would walk a long distance to attend the singing schools at night after working hard all day. I was chosen chorister after a few weeks, which encouraged me very much in the way of singing, and was afterwards employed as a teacher to some extent, and for a long time led the singing there and at Bristol where I afterwards lived. The next summer was the cold one of 1816, which none of the old people will ever forget, and which many of the young have heard a great deal about. There was ice and snow in every month in the year. I well remember on the seventh of June, while on my way to work, about a mile from home, dressed throughout with thick woolen clothes and an overcoat on, my hands got so cold that I was obliged to lay down my tools and put on a pair of mittens which I had in my pocket. It snowed about an hour that day. On the tenth of June, my wife brought in some clothes that had been spread on the ground the night before, which were frozen stiff as in winter. On the fourth of July, I saw several men pitching quoits in the middle of the day with thick overcoats on, and the sun shining bright at the same time. A body could not feel very patriotic in such weather. I often saw men when hoeing corn, stop at the end of a row and get in the sun by a fence to warm themselves. Not half enough corn ripened that year to furnish seed for the next. I worked at my trade, and had the job of finishing the inside of a three-story house, having twenty-seven doors and a white oak matched floor to make, and did the whole for eighty-five dollars. The same work could not now be done as I did it for less than five hundred dollars. Such times as these were indeed hard for poor young men. We did not have many carpets or costly furniture and servants; but as winter approached times seemed to grow harder and harder. No work could be had. I was in debt for my little house and lot which I had bought only a short time before, near the center of Plymouth, and had a payment to make on it the next spring. I proposed going south to the city of Baltimore, to obtain work, and had already made preparations to go and leave my young family for the winter, at which I could not help feeling very sad, when I accidentally heard that Mr. Eli Terry was about to fit up his factory (which was built the year before,) for making his new Patent Shelf Clock. I thought perhaps I could get a job with him, and started immediately to see Mr. Terry, and closed a bargain with him at once. I never shall forget the great good feeling that this bargain gave me. It was a pleasant kind of business for me, and then I knew I could see my family once a week or oftener if necessary.



At the beginning of this book I have said that I would give to the public a history of the AMERICAN CLOCK BUSINESS. I am now the oldest man living that has had much to do with the manufacturing of clocks, and can, I believe, give a more correct account than any other person. This great business has grown almost from nothing during my remembrance. Nearly all of the clocks used in this country are made or have been made in the small State of Connecticut, and a heavy trade in them is carried on in foreign countries. The business or manufacture of them has become so systematized of late that it has brought the prices exceedingly low, and it has long been the astonishment of the whole world how they could be made so cheap and yet be good. A gentleman called at my factory a few years ago, when I was carrying on the business, who said he lived in London, and had seen my clocks in that city, and declared that he was perfectly astonished at the price of them, and had often remarked that if he ever came to this country he would visit the factory and see for himself. After I had showed him all the different processes it required to complete a clock, he expressed himself in the strongest terms—he told me he had traveled a great deal in Europe, and had taken a great interest in all kinds of manufactures, but had never seen anything equal to this, and did not believe that there was anything made in the known world that made as much show, and at the same time was as cheap and useful as the brass clock which I was then manufacturing.

* * * * *

The man above all others in his day for the wood clock was Eli Terry. He was born in East Windsor, Conn., in April, 1772, and made a few old fashioned hang-up clocks in his native place before he was twenty-one years of age. He was a young man of great ingenuity and good native talent. He moved to the town of Plymouth, Litchfield county, in 1793, and commenced making a few of the same kind, working alone for several years. About the year 1800, he might have had a boy or one or two young men to help him. They would begin one or two dozen at a time, using no machinery, but cutting the wheels and teeth with a saw and jack-knife. Mr. Terry would make two or three trips a year to the New Country, as it was then called, just across the North River, taking with him three or four clocks, which he would sell for about twenty-five dollars apiece. This was for the movement only. In 1807 he bought an old mill in the southern part of the town, and fitted it up to make his clocks by machinery. About this time a number of men in Waterbury associated themselves together, and made a large contract with him, they furnishing the stock, and he making the movements. With this contract and what he made and sold to other parties, he accumulated quite a little fortune for those times. The first five hundred clocks ever made by machinery in the country were started at one time by Mr. Terry at this old mill in 1808, a larger number than had ever been begun at one time in the world. Previous to this time the wheels and teeth had been cut out by hand; first marked out with square and compasses, and then sawed with a fine saw, a very slow and tedious process. Capt. Riley Blakeslee, of this city, lived with Mr. Terry at that time, and worked on this lot of clocks, cutting the teeth. Talking with Capt. Blakeslee a few days since, he related an incident which happened when he was a boy, sixty years ago, and lived on a farm in Litchfield. One day Mr. Terry came to the house where he lived to sell a clock. The man with whom young Blakeslee lived, left him to plow in the field and went to the house to make a bargain for it, which he did, paying Mr. Terry in salt pork, a part of which he carried home in his saddle-bags where he had carried the clock. He was at that time very poor, but twenty-five years after was worth $200,000, all of which he made in the clock business.

Mr. Terry sold out his business to Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley, two of his leading workmen, in 1810. This establishment was the leading one for several years, but other ones springing up in the vicinity, the competition became so great that the prices were reduced from ten to five dollars apiece for the bare movement. Daniel Clark, Zenas Cook and Wm. Porter, started clock-making at Waterbury, and carried it on largely for several years, but finally failed and went out of the business.

Col. Wm. Leavenworth, of the same place, was in the business in 1810, but failed, and moved to Albany, N.Y. A man by the name of Mark Leavenworth made clocks for a long time, and in the latter part of his life manufactured the Patent Shelf Clock.

Two brothers, James and Lemuel Harrison, made a few before the year 1800, using no machinery, making their wheels with a saw and knife. Sixty years ago, a man by the name of Gideon Roberts got up a few in the old way: he was an excellent mechanic and made a good article. He would finish three or four at a time and take them to New York State to sell. I have seen him many times, when I was a small boy, pass my father's house on horseback with a clock in each side of his saddle-bags, and a third lashed on behind the saddle with the dials in plain sight. They were then a great curiosity to me. Mr. Roberts had to give up this kind of business; he could not compete with machinery. John Rich of Bristol was in the business; also Levi Lewis, but gave it up in a few years. An Ives family in Bristol were quite conspicuous as clock-makers. They were good mechanics. One of them, Joseph Ives, has done a great deal towards improving the eight day brass clock, which I shall speak about hereafter.

Chauncey Boardman, of Bristol, Riley Whiting, of Winsted, and Asa Hopkins, of Northfield, were all engaged in the manufacture of the old fashioned hang-up clock. Butler Dunbar, an old schoolmate of mine, and father of Col. Edward Dunbar, of Bristol, was engaged with Dr. Titus Merriman in the same business. They all gave up the business after a few years.

Mr. Eli Terry (in the year 1814,) invented a beautiful shelf clock made of wood, which completely revolutionized the whole business. The making of the old fashioned hang-up wood clock, about which I have been speaking, passed out of existence. This patent article Mr. Terry introduced, was called the Pillar Scroll Top Case. The pillars were about twenty-one inches long, three-quarters of an inch at the base, and three-eights at the top—resting on a square base, and the top finished by a handsome cap. It had a large dial eleven inches square, and tablet below the dial seven by eleven inches. This style of clock was liked very much and was made in large quantities, and for several years. Mr. Terry sold a right to manufacture them to Seth Thomas, for one thousand dollars, which was thought to be a great sum. At first, Terry and Thomas made each about six thousand clocks per year, but afterwards increased to ten or twelve thousand. They were sold for fifteen dollars apiece when first manufactured. I think that these two men cleared about one hundred thousand dollars apiece, up to the year 1825. Mr. Thomas had made a good deal of money on the old fashioned style, for he made a good article, and had but little competition, and controlled most of the trade.

In 1818, Joseph Ives invented a metal clock, making the plates of iron and the wheels of brass. The movement was very large, and required a case about five feet long. This style was made for two or three years, but not in large quantities.

In the year 1825, the writer invented a new case, somewhat larger than the Scroll Top, which was called the Bronze Looking-Glass Clock. This was the richest looking and best clock that had ever been made, for the price. They could be got up for one dollar less than the Scroll Top, yet sold for two dollars more.



I must now go back and give a history of myself, from the winter of 1816, to this time (1825.) As I said before, I went to work for Mr. Terry, making the Patent Shelf Clock in the winter of 1816. Mr. Thomas had been making them for about two years, doing nearly all of the labor on the case by hand. Mr. Terry in the mean time being a great mechanic had made many improvements in the way of making the cases. Under his directions I worked a long time at putting up machinery and benches. We had a circular saw, the first one in the town, and which was considered a great curiosity. In the course of the winter he drew another plan of the Pillar Scroll Top Case with great improvements over the one which Thomas was then making. I made the first one of the new style that was ever produced in that factory, which became so celebrated for making the patent case for more than ten years after.

When my time was out in the spring, I bought some parts of clocks, mahogany, veneers, etc., and commenced in a small shop, business for myself. I made the case, and bought the movements, dials and glass, finishing a few at a time. I found a ready sale for them. I went on in this small way for a few years, feeling greatly animated with my prosperity, occasionally making a payment on my little house. I heard one day of a man in Bristol, who did business in South Carolina, who wanted to buy a few clocks to take to that market with him. I started at once over to see him, and soon made a bargain with him to deliver twelve wood clocks at twelve dollars apiece. I returned home greatly encouraged by the large order, and went right to work on them. I had them finished and boxed ready for shipping in a short time. I had agreed to deliver them on a certain day and was to receive $144 in cash. I hired an old horse and lumber wagon of one of my neighbors, loaded the boxes and took an early start for Bristol. I was thinking all the way there of the large sum that I was to receive, and was fearful that something might happen to disappoint me. I arrived at Bristol early in the forenoon and hurried to the house of my customer, and told him I had brought the the clocks as agreed. He said nothing but went into another room with his son. I thought surely that something was wrong and that I should not get the wished-for money, but after a while the old gentleman came back and sat down by the table. "Here," he says, "is your money, and a heap of it, too." It did look to me like a large sum, and took us a long time to count it. This was more than forty years ago, and money was very scarce. I took it with a trembling hand, and securing it safely in my pocket, started immediately for home. This was a larger sum than I had ever had at one time, and I was much alarmed for fear that I should be robbed of my treasure before I got home. I thought perhaps it might be known that I was to receive a large sum for clocks, and that some robbers might be watching in a lonely part of the road and take it from me, but not meeting any, I arrived safely home, feeling greatly encouraged and happy. I told my wife that I would make another payment on our house, which I did with a great deal of satisfaction. After this I was so anxious to get along with my work that I did not so much as go out into the street for a week at a time. I would not go out of the gate from the time I returned from church one Sunday till the next. I loved to work as well as I did to eat. I remember once, when at school, of chopping a whole load of wood, for a great lazy boy, for one penny, and I used to chop all the wood I could get from the families in the neighborhood, moonlight nights, for very small sums. The winter after I made this large sale, I took about one dozen of the Pillar Scroll Top Clocks, and went to the town of Wethersfield to sell them. I hired a man to carry me over there with a lumber wagon, who returned home. I would take one of these clocks under each arm and go from house to house and offer them for sale. The people seemed to be well pleased with them, and I sold them for eighteen dollars apiece. This was good luck for me. I sold my last one on Saturday afternoon. There had been a fall of snow the night before of about eight or ten inches which ended in a rain, and made very bad walking. Here I was, twenty-five miles from home, my wife was expecting me, and I felt that I could not stay over Sunday. I was anxious to tell my family of my good luck that we might rejoice together. I started to walk the whole distance, but it proved to be the hardest physical undertaking that I ever experienced. It was bedtime when I reached Farmington, only one-third the distance, wallowing in snow porridge all the way. I did not reach home till near Sunday morning, more dead than alive. I did not go to church that day, which made many wonder what had become of me, for I was always expected to be in the singers' seat on Sunday. I did not recover from the effects of that night-journey for a long time. Soon after this occurrence, I began to increase my little business, and and employed my old joiner "boss" and one of his apprentices; bought my mahogany in the plank and sawed my own vaneers [sic] with a hand-saw. I engaged a man with a one horse wagon to go to New York after a load of mahogany, and went with him to select it. The roads were very muddy, and we were obliged to walk the whole distance home by the side of the wagon. I worked along in this small way until the year 1821, when I sold my house and lot, which I had almost worshipped, to Mr. Terry; it was worth six hundred dollars. He paid me one hundred wood clock movements, with the dials, tablets, glass and weights. I went over to Bristol to see a man by the name of George Mitchell, who owned a large two story house, with a barn and seventeen acres of good land in the southern part of the town, which he said he would sell and take his pay in clocks. I asked him how many of the Terry Patent Clocks he would sell it for; he said two hundred and fourteen. I told him I would give it, and closed the bargain at once. I finished up the hundred parts which I had got from Mr. Terry, exchanged cases with him for more, obtained some credit, and in this way made out the quantity for Mitchell.

The next summer I lost seven hundred and forty dollars by Moses Galpin of Bethlem. Five or six others with myself trusted this man Galpin with a large quantity of clocks, and he took them to Louisiana to sell in the fall of 1821. In the course of the winter he was taken sick and died there. One of his pedlars came home the next spring without one dollar in money; the creditors were called together to see what had better be done. The note that he had given me the fall before was due in July, and I as much expected it as I did the sun to rise and set. Here was trouble indeed; it was a great sum of money to lose, and what to do I didn't know. The creditors had several meetings and finally concluded to send out a man to look after the property that was scattered through the state. He could not go without money. We thought if we furnished him with means to go and finish up the business, we should certainly get enough to pay the original debt. It was agreed that we should raise a certain sum, and that each one should pay in proportion to the amount of his claim. My part was one hundred dollars, and it was a hard job for me to raise so large a sum after my great loss. When it came fall and time for him to start, I managed in some way to have it ready. This man's name was Isaac Turner, about fifty years old, and said to be very respectable. He started out and traveled all over the state, but found every thing in the worst kind of shape. The men to whom Galpin had sold would not pay when they heard that he was dead. Mr. Turner was gone from home ten months, but instead of his returning with money for us, we were obliged to pay money that he had borrowed to get home with, besides his expenses for the ten months that he was gone. This was harder for me than any of the others, and was indeed a bitter pill. As it was my first heavy loss I could not help feeling very bad.

In the winter and spring of 1822, I built a small shop in Bristol, for making the cases only, as all of the others made the movements. The first circular saw ever used there was put up by myself in 1822, and this was the commencement of making cases by machinery in that town, which has since been so renowned for its clock productions. I went on making cases in a small way for a year or two, sometimes putting in a few movements and selling them, but not making much money. The clocks of Terry and Thomas sold first rate, and it was quite difficult to buy any of the movements, as no others were making the Patent Clock at that time. I was determined to have some movements to case, and went to Chauncey Boardman, who had formerly made the old fashioned hang-up movements, and told him I wanted him to make me two hundred of his kind with such alterations as I should suggest. He said he would make them for me. I had them altered and made so as to take a case about four feet long, which I made out of pine, richly stained and varnished. This made a good clock for time and suited farmers first rate.

In the spring of 1824, I went into company with two men by the name of Peck, from Bristol. We took two hundred of these movements and a few tools in two one horse wagons and started East, intending to stop in the vicinity of Boston. We stopped at a place about fifteen miles from there called East Randolph; after looking about a little, we concluded to start our business there and hired a joiners' shop of John Adams, a cousin of J.Q. Adams. We then went to Boston and bought a load of lumber, and commenced operations. I was the case-maker of our concern, and 'pitched into' the pine lumber in good earnest. I began four cases at a time and worked like putting out fire on them. My partners were waiting for some to be finished so that they could go out and sell. In two or three days I had got them finished and they started with them, and I began four more. In a day or two they returned home having sold them at sixteen dollars each. This good fortune animated me very much. I worked about fourteen or fifteen hours per day, and could make about four cases and put in the glass, movements and dials. We worked on in this way until we had finished up the two hundred, and sold them at an average of sixteen dollars apiece. We had done well and returned home with joyful hearts in the latter part of June. On arriving home I found my little daughter about five years old quite sick. In a week after she died. I deeply felt the loss of my little daughter, and every 7th of July it comes fresh into my mind.

In the fall of 1824, I formed a company with my brother, Noble Jerome, and Elijah Darrow, for the manufacturing of clocks, and began making a movement that required a case about six or eight inches longer than the Terry Patent. We did very well at this for a year or two, during which time I invented the Bronze Looking Glass Clock, which soon revolutionized the whole business. As I have said before, it could be made for one dollar less and sold for two dollars more than the Patent Case; they were very showy and a little longer. With the introduction of this clock in the year 1825, closed the second chapter of the history of the Yankee Clock business.



With the introduction of the Bronze Looking-Glass Clock, the business seemed to revive in all the neighboring towns, but more especially in Plymouth and Bristol. Both Mr. Terry and Mr. Thomas, did and said much in disparagement of my new invention, and tried to discourage the pedlars from buying of me, but they did as men do now-a-days, buy where they can do the best and make the most money. This new clock was liked very much in the southern market. I have heard of some of these being sold in Mississippi and Lousianna [sic] as high as one hundred and one hundred and fifteen dollars, and a great many at ninety dollars, which was a good advance on the first cost. Mr. Thomas gave out that he would not make them any how, he did not want to follow Jerome, but did finally come to it, making only a few at first, but running them down in the mean time and praising his old case. He finally gave up making the Scroll Top and made my new kind altogether.

Samuel Terry, a brother of Eli, came to Bristol about this time, and commenced making this kind of clock.

Several others began to make them—Geo. Mitchell and his brother in-law Rollin Atkins went into it, also Riley Whiting of Winsted. The business increased very rapidly between 1827 and 1837. During these ten years Jeromes and Barrow made more than any other company. The two towns of Plymouth and Bristol grew and improved very rapidly; many new houses were built, and every thing looked prosperous.

In 1831, a new church was built in Bristol, and, it is said, through the introduction of this Bronze Looking Glass Clock. Jeromes and Barrow paid one-third of the cost of its erection. The writer obtained every dollar of the subscription. The Hon. Tracy Peck and myself first started this project, which ended in building this fine church which was finished and dedicated in August, 1832. The Rev. David Lewis Parmelee preached the dedication sermon, and was the settled minister there. I was greatly interested in his preaching for ten years. He has for the last nineteen years preached at South Farms now the town of Morris. This Mr. Parmelee was a merchant till he was thirty years old, and was then converted in some mysterious manner, as St. Paul was, and left his business to preach the gospel. He proved to be one of the soundest preachers in the land, and I have no doubt but he will be one of the bright and shining lights in heaven. Oh! what happy days I saw during those ten years, little dreaming of the great troubles that were before me, or that I should experience in after life, which are now resting so heavily upon me, many times seeming greater than I can bear. But such is life.

About this time, also, Chauncey and Lawson C. Ives, two highly respectable men, built a factory in Bristol for the purpose of making an eight day brass clock. This clock was invented by Joseph Ives, a brother of Chauncey, and sold for about twenty dollars. The manufacture of these was carried on very successfully for a few years by them, but in 1836, their business was closed up, they having made about one hundred thousand dollars. Soon after this, in 1837, came the great panic and break down of business which extended all over the country. Clock makers and almost every one else stopped business. I should mention that another company made the eight day brass clock previous to 1837, Erastus and Harvey Case and John Birge. Their clocks were retailed mostly in the southern market. They made perhaps four thousand a year. The Ives Co., made about two thousand, but both went out of business in 1837, and it was thought that clock making was about done with in Conn.

The third chapter, as I have divided it, was now closing up. Wood clocks were good for time, but it was a slow job to properly make them, and difficult to procure wood just right for wheels and plates, and it took a whole year to season it. No factory had made over Ten thousand in a year; they were always classed with wooden nutmegs and wooden cucumber seeds, and could not be introduced into other countries to any advantage. But this was not the only trouble; being on water long as they would have to be, would swell the wood of the wheels and ruin the clock. Here then we had the eight day brass clock costing about twenty dollars; the idea had always been that a brass clock must be an eight day, and all one day should be of wood, and the plan of a brass one day had never been thought of.

In 1835, the southern people were greatly opposed to the Yankee pedlars coming into their states, especially the clock pedlars, and the licences were raised so high by their Legislatures that it amounted to almost a prohibition. Their laws were that any goods made in their own States could be sold without licence. Therefore clocks to be profitable must be made in those states. Chauncey and Noble Jerome started a factory in Richmond Va., making the cases and parts at Bristol, Connecticut, and packing them with the dials, glass &c. We shipped them to Richmond and took along workmen to put them together. The people were highly pleased with the idea of having clocks all made in their State. The old planters would tell the pedlars they meant to go to Richmond and see the wonderful machinery there must be to produce such articles and would no doubt have thought the tools we had there were sufficient to make a clock. We carried on this kind of business for two or three years and did very well at it, though it was unpleasant. Every one knew it was all a humbug trying to stop the pedlars from coming to their State. We removed from Richmond to Hamburg, S.C., and manufactured in the same way. This was in 1835 and '36.

There was another company doing the same kind of business at Augusta, Geo., by the name Case, Dyer, Wadsworth & Co., and Seth Thomas was making the cases and movements for them. The hard times came down on us and we really thought that clocks would no longer be made. Our firm thought we could make them if any body could, but like the others felt discouraged and disgusted with the whole business as it was then. I am sure that I had lost, from 1821 to this time, more than one hundred thousand dollars, and felt very much discouraged in consequence. Our company had a good deal of unsettled business in Virginia and South Carolina, and I started in the fall of 1837 for those places. Arriving at Richmond, I had a strong notion of going into the marl business. I had been down into Kent county, the summer before, where I saw great mountains of this white marl composed of shells of clams and oysters white as chalk. I had sent one vessel load of this to New Haven the year before. At Richmond I was looking after our old accounts, settling up, collecting notes and picking up some scattered clocks.

One night I took one of these clocks into my room and placing it on the table, left a light burning near it and went to bed. While thinking over my business troubles and disappointments, I could not help feeling very much depressed. I said to myself I will not give up yet, I know more about the clock business than anything else. That minute I was looking at the wood clock on the table and it came into my mind instantly that there could be a cheap one day brass clock that would take the place of the wood clock. I at once began to figure on it; the case would cost no more, the dials, glass, and weights and other fixtures would be the same, and the size could be reduced. I lay awake nearly all night thinking this new thing over. I knew there was a fortune in it. Many a sensible man has since told me that if I could have secured the sole right for making them for ten years, I could easily have made a million of dollars. The more I looked at this new plan, the better it appeared. My business took me to South Carolina before I could return home. I had now enough to think of day and night; this one day brass clock was constantly on my mind; I was drawing plans and contriving how they could be made best. I traveled most of the way from Richmond by stage. Arriving at Augusta, Geo., I called on the Connecticut men who were finishing wood clocks for that market, and told Mr. Dyer the head man, that I had got up, or could get up something when I got home that would run out all the wood clocks in the country, Thomas's and all; he laughed at me quite heartily. I told him that was all right, and asked him to come to Bristol when he went home and I would show him something that would astonish him. He promised that he would, and during the next summer when he called at my place, I showed him a shelf full of them running, which he acknowledged to be the best he had ever seen.

I arrived home from the south the 28th of January, and told my brother who was a first-rate clock maker what I had been thinking about since I had been gone. He was much pleased with my plan, thought it a first rate idea, and said he would go right to work and get up the movement, which he perfected in a short time so that it was the best clock that had ever been made in this or any other country. There have been more of this same kind manufactured than of any other in the United States. What I originated that night on my bed in Richmond, has given work to thousands of men yearly for more than twenty years, built up the largest manufactories in New England, and put more than a million of dollars into the pockets of the brass makers,—"but there is not one of them that remembers Joseph."



We went on very prosperously making the new clock, and it was admired by every body. In the year 1839, some of my neighbors and a few of my leading workmen had a great desire to get into the same kind of business. We knew competition amongst Yankees was almost sure to kill business and proposed to have them come in with us and have a share of the profits. An arrangement to this effect was made and we went on in this way until the fall of 1840. I found they were much annoyance and bother to me, and so bought them all out, but had to give them one hundred per cent. for the use of their money. Some of them had not paid in anything, but I had to pay them the same profits I did the rest, to get rid of them. One man had put in three thousand dollars for which I paid him six thousand. I also bought out my brother Noble Jerome, who had been in company with me for a long time, and carried on the whole business alone, which seemed to be rapidly improving.

I made in 1841, thirty-five thousand dollars clear profits. Men would come and deposit money with me before their orders were finished. This successful state of things set all of the wood clock makers half crazy, and they went into it one after another as fast as they could, and of course run down the price very fast—"Yankee-like." I had been thinking for two or three years of introducing my clocks into England, and had availed myself of every opportunity to get posted on that subject; when I met Englishmen in New York and other places, I would try to find out by them what the prospects would be for selling Yankee clocks in their country. I ascertained that there were no cheap metal clocks used or known there, the only cheap timepiece they had was a Dutch hang-up wood clock.

In 1842, I determined to make the venture of sending a consignment of brass clocks to Old England. I made a bargain with Epaphroditus Peck, a very talented young man of Bristol, a son of Hon. Tracy Peck, to take them out, and sent my son—Chauncey Jerome, Jr. with him. All of the first cargo consisted of the O.G. one day brass clocks. As soon as it was known by the neighboring clock-makers, they laughed at me, and ridiculed the idea of sending clocks to England where labor was so cheap. They said that they never would interfere with Jerome in that visionary project, but no sooner had I got them well introduced, after spending thousands of dollars to effect it, than they had all forgotten what they said about my folly, and one after another sent over the same goods to compete with me and run down the price. As I have said before, wood clocks could never have been exported to Europe from this country, for many reasons. They would have been laughed at, and looked upon with suspicion as coming from the wooden nutmeg country, and classed as the same. They could not endure a long voyage across the water without swelling the parts and rendering them useless as time-keepers; experience had taught us this, as many wood clocks on a passage to the southern market, had been rendered unfit for use for this very reason. Metal clocks can be sent any where without injury. Millions have been sent to Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, Palestine, and in fact, to every part of the world; and millions of dollars brought into this country by this means, and I think it not unfair to claim the honor of inventing and introducing this low-price time-piece which has given employment to so many of our countrymen, and has also, been so useful to the world at large. No family is so poor but that they can have a time-piece which is both useful and ornamental. They can be found in every civilized portion of the globe. Meeting a sea captain one day, he told me that on landing at the lonely island of St. Helena, the first thing that he noticed on entering a house, was my name on the face of a brass clock. Many years ago a missionary (Mr. Ruggles,) at the Sandwich Islands, told me that he had one of my clocks in his house, the first one that had ever been on the islands. Travelers have mentioned seeing them in the city of Jerusalem, in many parts of Egypt, and in fact, every where, which accounts could not but be interesting and gratifying to me.

It was a long and tedious undertaking to introduce my first cargo in England. Mr. Peck and my son wrote me a great many times the first year, that they never could be sold there, the prejudice against American manufactures was so great that they would not buy them. Although very much discouraged, I kept writing them to 'stick to it.' They were once turned out of a store in London and threatened if they offered their "Yankee clocks" again to the English people "who made clocks for the world;" "they were good for nothing or they could not be offered so cheap." They were finally introduced in this way; the young men persuaded a merchant to take two into his store for sale. He reluctantly gave his consent, saying he did not believe they would run at all; they set the two running and left the price of them. On calling the next day to see how they were getting along, and what the London merchant thought of them, they were surprised to find them both gone. On asking what had become of them, they were told that two men came in and liked their looks and bought them. The merchant said he did not think any one would ever buy them, but told them they might bring in four more; "I will see" he says, "if I can sell any more of your Yankee clocks." They carried them in and calling the next day, found them all gone. The merchant then told them to bring in a dozen. These went off in a short time, and not long after, this same merchant bought two hundred at once, and other merchants began to think they could make some money on these Yankee clocks and the business began to improve very rapidly. There are always men enough who are ready to enter into a business after it is started and looks favorable. A pleasing incident occurred soon after we first started. The Revenue laws of England are (or were, at that time) that the owner of property passing through the Custom-house shall put such a price on his goods as he pleases, knowing that the government officers have a right to take the property by adding ten per cent. to the invoiced price.

I had always told my young men over there to put a fair price on the clocks, which they did; but the officers thought they put them altogether too low, so they made up their minds that they would take a lot, and seized one ship-load, thinking we would put the prices of the next cargo at higher rates. They paid the cash for this cargo, which made a good sale for us. A few days after, another invoice arrived which our folks entered at the same prices as before; but they were again taken by the officers paying us cash and ten per cent. in addition, which was very satisfactory to us. On the arrival of the third lot, they began to think they had better let the Yankees sell their own goods and passed them through unmolested, and came to the conclusion that we could make clocks much better and cheaper than their own people. Their performance has been considered a first-rate joke to say the least. There will, in all probability, be millions of clocks sold in that country, and we are the people who will furnish all Europe with all their common cheap ones as time lasts.

All of the spring and eight day clocks have grown out of the one day weight clock. There can now be as good an eight day clock bought for three or four dollars, as could be had for eighteen or twenty dollars before I got up the one day clock. Mr. Peck, who went to England with my son, died in London on the 20th, September, 1857; my son died in this country in July, 1853: so they have gone the way of all the earth, and I shall have to follow them soon. They were instrumental in laying the foundation of a large and prosperous business which is now being successfully carried on. The duties on clocks to England have been recently removed, which will result to the advantage of persons now in the business. The many difficulties which we had to battle and contend with are all overcome. When I invented this one day brass clock, I for the first time put on the zinc dial which is now universally used, and is a great improvement on the wood dial, both in appearance and in cost. This simple idea has been of immense value to all clock-makers.

In the year 1821, when I moved to Bristol, no one was making clocks in that town; the business had all passed away from there and was carried on in Plymouth. The little shop I had put up had no machinery in it at that time. I soon began to make so many cases that I wanted some better way to get my veneers than to saw them by hand. I found a small building on a stream some distance from my shop which I secured, with the privilege of putting a circular saw in the upper part, but which I could not use till night—the power being wanted for the other machinery during the day. I have worked there a great many nights till twelve o'clock and even two in the morning, sawing veneers for my men to use the next day. I sawed my hand nearly off one night when alone at this old mill, and was so faint by the loss of blood that I could hardly reach home. I always worked hard myself and managed in the most economical manner possible. In 1825, we built a small factory on the stream below the shop where I sawed my veneers two or three years before, but there was no road to it or bridge across the stream. I had crossed it for years on a pole, running the risk many times when the water was high, of being drowned, but it seems I was not to die in that way, but to live to help others and make a slave of myself for them. In 1826, we petitioned the town to lay out a road by our factory and build a bridge, which was seriously objected to. We finally told them that if they would lay out the road, we would build the bridge and pay for one half of the land for the road, which, after a great deal of trouble, was agreed to, and proved to be of great benefit to the town. Our business was growing very rapidly and a number of houses were built up along the new road and about our factory. I should here mention that Mr. Eli Terry, Jr., when I had got the Bronze Looking-Glass Clock well a going, moved from Plymouth Hollow two miles east of Plymouth Centre, (now the village of Terryville,) where he built another factory and went into business. His father retiring about this time, he took all of his old customers. He was a good business man and made money very fast. He was taken sick and died when about forty years old, leaving an estate of about $75,000. His brother, Silas B. Terry, is now living, a Christian gentleman, as well as a scientific clock-maker, but he has not succeeded so well as his brother in making money. Henry Terry of Plymouth, who is another son of Mr. Eli Terry, was engaged in the clock business thirty years ago, but left it for the woolen business. I think that he is sorry that he did not continue making clocks. He is a man of great intelligence and understands the principles of a right tariff as well as any man in Connecticut. His father was a great man, a natural philosopher, and almost an Eli Whitney in mechanical ingenuity. If he had turned his mind towards a military profession, he would have made another General Scott, or towards politics, another Jefferson; or, if he had not happened to have gone to the town of Plymouth, I do not believe there would ever have been a clock made there. He was the great originator of wood clock-making by machinery in Connecticut. I like to see every man have his due. Thomas and many others who have made their fortunes out of his ingenuity, were very willing to talk against him, for they must, of course, act out human nature. Seth Thomas was in many respects a first-rate man. He never made any improvements in manufacturing; his great success was in money making. He always minded his own business, was very industrious, persevering, honest, his word was as good as his note, and he always determined to make a good article and please his customers. He had several sons who are said to be smart business men.

I knew Mrs. Thomas well when I was a boy, fourteen years old. She is one of the best of women, and is now the widow of one of the richest men in the state. The families of Terry and Thomas are extensively known, throughout the United States. Mr. Thomas died two years ago at the age of seventy-five. He was born in West Haven, about four miles from New Haven, and learned the joiners' trade in Wolcott, and worked in that region and in Plymouth five or six years, building houses and barns. I waited on him when he built a barn in Plymouth, carrying boards and shingles. He soon after went into the clock business in which he remained during life. Mr. Terry died in 1853, at the advanced age of eighty-one.



In the fall, of the year 1840, a young man by the name of Franklin Merrills was introduced to me as one the smartest and likeliest business men in the whole country. It was said that he could trade in horses, cattle, sheep, wool, flour, or any thing else, and make money. He belonged to one of the first families in Litchfield county. I thought by his appearance and recommendations that he would be a good customer for me and I sold him a thousand dollars worth of clocks to begin with. He gave me his four months' note which was promptly paid when due. He hired three pedlars and went with them into Dutchess county New York, where they sold the clocks very fast. The one-day O.G. brass clock was a new thing to them, first-rate for time, and they readily went off for fifteen and twenty dollars apiece. I sold them to him for six dollars apiece, and it appeared, at this rate, that he could make a fortune in a few years. His credit became established for any amount, and he soon began to want clocks about twice as fast as at first. A man by the name of Bates transported them for him in a large two-horse wagon from my place to Washington Hollow, about twelve miles east of Poughkeepsie. Mr. Bates lived in the same neighborhood where Frank was brought up in New Hartford, Conn. Every week or two he would go out with a load. Things moved on in this seemingly prosperous way for some time. One day I accidentally heard that parties in New York with whom I had never dealt, were selling my clocks at very reduced prices, and I began to mistrust that Frank had been selling to them at less than cost. On seeing him, he told me I was greatly mistaken and smoothed down the matter so that it appeared satisfactory to me. He had at this time got into debt about eighteen thousand dollars. One day he went to Hartford and bought seven thousand dollars worth of cotton cloth from a shrewd house in that city, telling them a very fine story that he had a vessel which would sail for South America the next day, and that the cloth must go down immediately on the boat. He told them who his father was, and promised to bring his endorsement in a few days, which was satisfactory to them, and they let him have the goods. But the paper did not come. One of the firm went to New York and there found some of the goods in an Auction store, and a part of them sold. He got out a writ and arrested Frank. His father was sent for, and settled this matter satisfactorily. I thought I would go up to New Hartford and see Capt. Merrills about Frank's affairs—he told me all about them, and said he had been looking over Frank's business very thoroughly, and found that a large amount was owing him and that Frank had shown him on his book invoices of a large amount of goods that he had shipped to South America, besides several large accounts and notes—one of eight thousand dollars. He told me that he thought after paying me and others whom he owed, there would be as much as twenty thousand dollars left. This was very satisfactory to me, though I knew nothing about the cotton cloth speculation at that time. If I had, it would have saved me a great deal of trouble. This was in February, 1844. There was a note of his lying over, unpaid, in the Exchange Bank in Hartford, of two thousand dollars. I had moved a few weeks before this to New Haven. In the latter part of February, I went down to New York to see if he could let me have the two thousand to take up the note; he said he could in a day or two. I told him I would stay till Saturday. On that day he was not able to pay me, but would certainly get it Monday, and urged me to stay over, which I did. He took me into a large establishment with him, and, as I have since had reason to believe, talked with parties who were interested with him, about consigning to them a large quantity of tallow, beeswax and wool which he owned in the West. He told me that he had some trouble with his business, and that all he wanted was a little help; he said he had a great deal of property in New York State, and that if he could raise some money, he could make a very profitable speculation on a lot of wool which he knew about. He told me that if I would give him my notes and acceptances to a certain amount, he would secure me with the obligations of Henry Martin, one of the best farmers there was in Dutchess county. He also gave the names of several merchants in New York who were acquainted with the rich farmers. I called on them and all spoke very highly of him. I thought, there could be no great risk in doing it, for my confidence in Frank was very great. I thought, of course, this would insure my claim of eighteen thousand dollars, but it eventually proved to be a deep-laid plot to swindle me. Frank had no notes or accounts that were of any value; they were all bogus and got up to deceive his poor old father and others. He had no property shipped to South America. It was all found out, when too late, that he had ruined himself by gambling and bad company, often losing a thousand dollars in one night. He was arrested, taken before the Grand Jury of New York, committed to jail for swindling, and died in a few months after. He ruined his father, who was a very cautious man, ruined three rich farmers of Dutchess county, and came very near ruining me. It was a sad history and mortifying to a great many. I was advised by my counsel, Seth P. Staples of New York, to contest the whole thing in law. I had five or six suits on my hands at one time, and it was nine years before I was clear from them. What he owed me for clocks, and what I had to pay on notes and acceptances and the expenses of law, amounted to more than Forty Thousand Dollars. Nine years of wakeful nights of trouble, grief and mortification, for this profligate young man! There never was a man more honest than I was in my intentions to help him in his troubles, and I am quite sure no man got so badly swindled. Every clock maker in the state would have been glad to have sold to him as I did. This young man was well brought up, but bad company ruined him and others with him. This life seems to be full of trials. In latter years I have remembered what an old man often told me when a boy. "Chauncey," he says, "don't you know there are a thousand troubles and difficulties?" I told him I did not know there were; "well," he says, "you will find out if you live long enough." I have lived long enough to see ten thousand troubles, and have found out that the saying of the old man is true. I have narrated but a small part of my business troubless [sic] in this brief history. One of the most trying things to me now, is to see how I am looked upon by the community since I lost my property. I never was any better when I owned it than I am now, and never behaved any better. But how different is the feeling towards you, when your neighbors can make nothing more out of you, politically or pecuniarily. It makes no difference what, or how much you have done for them heretofore, you are passed by without notice now. It is all money and business, business and money which make the man now-a-days; success is every thing, and it makes very little difference how, or what means he uses to obtain it. How many we see every day that have ten times as much property as they will ever want, who will do any thing but steal to add to their estate, for somebody to fight about when they are dead. I see men every day sixty and seventy years old, building up and pulling down, and preparing, as one might reasonably suppose, to live here forever. Where will they be in a few years? I often think of this. My experience has been great,—I have seen many a man go up and then go down, and many persons who, but a few years ago, were surrounded with honors and wealth, have passed away. The saying of the wise man is true—all is "vanity of vanities" here below. It is now a time of great action in the world but not much reflection.

An incident of my boy-hood has just come into my mind. When an apprentice boy, I was at work with my "boss" on a house in Torringford, very near the residence of Rev. Mr. Mills, the father of Samuel J. Mills the missionary. This was in 1809, fifty-one years ago. This young man was preparing to go out on his missionary voyage. How wickedly we are taught when we are young! I thought he was a mean, lazy fellow. He was riding out every day, as I now suppose, to add to his strength. An old maid lived in the house where I did who perfectly hated him, calling him a good-for-nothing fellow. I, of course, supposed that she knew all about him and that it was so. I am a friend to the missionary cause and have been so a great many years. How many times that wrong impression which I got from that old maid has passed through my mind, and how sorry I have always been for that prejudice. The father of Samuel J. Mills was a very eccentric man and anecdotes of him have been repeatedly told. I attended his church the summer I was in Torringford. He was the strangest man I ever saw, and would say so many laughable things in his sermon that it was next to impossible for me to keep from laughing out loud. His congregation was composed mostly of farmers, and in hot weather they appeared to be very sleepy. The boys would sometimes play and make a good deal of noise, and one Sunday he stopped in the middle of his sermon and looking around in the gallery, said in a loud voice, "boys, if you don't stop your noise and play, you will certainly wake your parents that are asleep below!" I think by this time the good people were all awake; it amused me very much and I have often seen the story printed. Many a time when I think of Mr. Mills, an anecdote of him comes into my mind, and I presume that a great many have heard of the same. He was once traveling through the town of Litchfield where there was at that time a famous law school. Two or three of the students were walking a little way out of town, when who should they see coming along the road but old Mr. Mills. They supposing him to be some old "codger," thought they would have a little fun with him. When they met him one of them asked him "if he had heard the news?" "No," he says, "what is it?" "The devil is dead." "Is he?" says Mr. Mills, "I am sorry for you—poor fatherless children, what will become of you?" I understand that they let him pass without further conversation. He was a good man and looked very old to me, as he always wore a large white wig.



In the winter of 1844, I moved to the city of New Haven with the expectation of making my cases there. I had fitted up two large factories in Bristol for making brass movements only the year before, and had spared no pains to have them just right. My factory in New Haven was fitted up expressly for making the cases and boxing the finished clocks; the movements were packed, one hundred in a box, and sent to New Haven where they were cased and shipped. Business moved on very prosperously for about one year. On the 23d of April 1845, about the middle of the afternoon one of my factories in Bristol took fire, as it was supposed by some boys playing with matches at the back side of the building, which set fire to some shavings under the floor. It seemed impossible to put it out and it proved to be the most disastrous fire that ever occurred in a country town. There were seven or eight buildings destroyed, together with all the machinery for making clocks, which was very costly and extensive. There were somewhere between fifty and seventy-five thousand brass movements in the works, a large number of them finished, and worth one dollar apiece. The loss was about fifty thousand dollars and the insurance only ten thousand. This was another dark day for me. I had been very sick all winter with the Typhus fever, and from Christmas to April had not been able to go to Bristol. On the same night of the fire, a man came to tell me of the great loss. I was in another part of the house when he arrived with the message, but my wife did not think it prudent to inform me then, but in the latter part of the night she introduced a conversation that was calculated to prepare my mind for the sad news, and in a cautious manner informed me. I was at that time in the midst of my troubles with Frank Merrills, had been sick for a long time, and at one time was not expected to recover. I was not then able to attend to business and felt much depressed on that account. It was hard indeed to grapple with so much in one year, but I tried to make the best of it and to feel that these trials, troubles and disappointments sent upon us in this world, are blessings in disguise. Oh! if we could really feel this to be so in all of our troubles, it would be well for us in this world and better in the next. I never have seen the real total depravity of the human heart show itself more plainly or clearly than it did when my factories were destroyed by fire. An envious feeling had always been exhibited by others in the same business towards me, and those who had made the most out of my improvements and had injured my reputation by making an inferior article, were the very ones who rejoiced the most then. Not a single man of them ever did or could look me in the face and say that I had ever injured him. This feeling towards me was all because I was in their way and my clocks at that time were preferred before any others. They really thought I never could start again, and many said that Jerome would never make any more clocks. I learned this maxim long ago, that when a man injures another unreasonably, to act out human nature he has got to keep on misrepresenting and abusing him to make himself appear right in the sight of the world. Soon after the fire in Bristol I had gained my strength sufficiently to go ahead again, and commenced to make additions to my case factory in New Haven (to make the movements,) and by the last of June was ready to commence operations on the brass movements. I then brought my men from Bristol—the movement makers—and a noble set of men as ever came into New Haven at one time. Look at John Woodruff; he was a young man then of nineteen. When he first came to work for me at the age of fifteen, I believed that he was destined to be a leading man. He is now in Congress (elected for the second time,) honest, kind, gentlemanly, and respected in Congress and out of Congress. Look at him, young men, and pattern after him, you can see in his case what honesty, industry and perseverance will accomplish.

There was great competition in the business for several years after I moved to New Haven, and a great many poor clocks made. The business of selling greatly increased in New York, and within three or four years after I introduced the one day brass clock, several companies in Bristol and Plymouth commenced making them. Most of them manufactured an inferior article of movement, but found sale for great numbers of them to parties that were casing clocks in New York. This way of managing proved to be a great damage to the Connecticut clock makers. The New York men would buy the very poorest movements and put them into cheap O.G. cases and undersell us. Merchants from the country, about this time, began to buy clocks with their other goods. They had heard about Jerome's clocks which had been retailed about the country, and that they were good time-keepers, and would enquire for my clocks. These New York men would say that they were agents for Jerome and that they would have a plenty in a few days, and make a sale to these merchants of Jerome clocks. They would then go to the Printers and have a lot of labels struck off and put into their cheap clocks, and palm them off as mine. This fraud was carried on for several years. I finally sued some of these blackleg parties, Samuels & Dunn, and Sperry & Shaw, and found out to my satisfaction that they had used more than two hundred thousand of my labels. They had probably sent about one hundred thousand to Europe. I sued Samuels & Dunn for twenty thousand dollars and when it came to trial I proved it on them clearly. I should have got for damages fifteen thousand dollars, had it not been for one of the jury. One was for giving me twenty thousand, another Eighteen, and the others down to seven thousand five hundred. This one man whom I speak of, was opposed to giving me anything, but to settle it, went as high as two thousand three hundred. The jury thought that I had a great deal of trouble with this case and rather than have it go to another court, had to come to this man's terms. The foreman told me afterwards that he had no doubt but this man was bought. New York is a hard place to have a law suit in. This cheat had been carried on for years, both in this country and in Europe,—using my labels and selling poor articles, and in this way robbing me of my reputation by the basest means. After this Sperry, who was in company with Shaw, had been dead a short time, a statement was published in the New York papers that this Henry Sperry was a wonderful man, and that he was the first man who went to England with Yankee clocks. After I had sent over my two men and had got my clocks well introduced, and had them there more than a year, Sperry & Shaw, hearing that we were doing well and selling a good many, thought they would take a trip to Europe, and took along perhaps fifty boxes of clocks. I have since heard that their conduct was very bad while there, and this is all they did towards introducing clocks. There is no one who can claim any credit of introducing American clocks into that country excepting myself. After I had opened a store in New York, we did, in a measure, stop these men from using my labels.

I have said that when I got up this one day brass clock in 1838, that the fourth chapter in the Yankee clock business had commenced. Perhaps Seth Thomas hated as bad as any one did to change his whole business of clock making for the second time, and adopt the same thing that I had introduced. He never invented any thing new, and would now probably have been making the same old hang-up wood clocks of fifty years ago, had it not been for others and their improvements. He was highly incensed at me because I was the means of his having to change. He hired a man to go around to my customers and offer his clocks at fifty and seventy-five cents less than I was selling. A man by the name of J.C. Brown carried on the business in Bristol a long time, and made a good many fine clocks, but finally gave up the business. Elisha Monross, Smith & Goodrich, Brewster & Ingraham were all in the same business, but have given it up, and the clock making of Connecticut is now mostly done in five large factories in different parts of the State, about which I shall speak hereafter.



It would be no doubt interesting to a great many to know what improvements have been made in manufacturing clocks during the past twenty years. I recollect I paid for work on the O.G. case one dollar and seventy-five cents; for the same work in 1855, I paid twenty cents, and many other things in the same proportion. The last thing that I invented, which has proved to be of great usefulness, was the one day timepiece that can be sold for seventy-five cents, and a fair profit at that. I remember well when I was about to give up the job, of asking the man who made the cases for the factory what he would make this case for. He said he could not do it for less than eight cents, I told him I knew he could make them for five cents, and do well, but he honestly thought he could not. He was to make two thousand per month—twenty-four thousand a year. After getting the work well systematized, I told him if he could not make them at that price, I would make it up to him at the end of the year. When the time was up, he told me that it was the best part of his job, and that he would make them the next year for four cents; it will be well understood that this was for the work alone, the stock being furnished.

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