Chauncey Jerome.

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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

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

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Online LibraryChauncey JeromeHistory of the American Clock Business for the Past Sixty Years, and Life of Chauncey Jerome → online text (page 3 of 7)