Chauncey Jerome.

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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.

When I got up this new time-keeper, as usual all the clock-makers were
down on me again; Jerome was going to ruin the business, and this cheap
thing would take the place of larger ones. I told them there were ten
thousand places where this cheap time-piece would be useful, and where a
costly striking one would never be used. There is a variety of places
where they are as useful as if they struck the hour, and there are now
more of the striking clocks wanted than there were when I got up this
one day time-piece. When I first began to make clocks, thousands would
say that they could not afford to have a clock in their house and they
must get along without, or with a watch. This cheap timepiece is worth
as much as a watch that would cost a hundred dollars, for all practical
purposes, as far as the time of day or night is concerned. Since I began
to make clocks, the price has gradually been going down. Suppose the
cheap time-keeper had been invented thirty years ago, when folks felt as
though they could not have a clock because it cost so much, but must get
along with a watch which cost ten or fifteen dollars, what would the
good people have thought if they could have had a clock for one dollar,
or even less? This cheap clock is much better adapted to the many log
cabins and cheap dwellings in our country than a watch of any kind, and
it is not half so costly or difficult to keep in order. I can think of
nothing ever invented that has been so useful to so many. We do not
fully appreciate the value of such things. I have often thought, that if
all the time-pieces were taken out of the country at once, and every
factory stopped making them, the whole community would be brought to see
the incalculable value that this Yankee clock making is to them.

The little octagon marine case which is seen almost every where, was
originated and first made by me. I think it is the cheapest and best
looking thing of the kind in the market, and all the work on the case of
that clock costs but eight cents. All of the large hang-up octagons and
time-pieces were made at our factory two or three years before any other
parties made them at all. As usual, after finding that it was a good
thing and took well, many others began to make them. I will say here a
little more about human nature and what I have seen and experienced.
during the last forty-five years. Let an ingenious, thinking man invent
something that looks favorable for making money, and one after another
will be stealing into the same business, when they know their conduct is
very mean towards the originator who may be one of the best men in the
community; still, nine out of ten of those who are infringing on his
improvement will begin to hate and abuse him. I have seen this
disposition carried out all my life-time. Forty-five years ago, Mr. Eli
Terry was the great man in the wood clock business. As I have said
before, he got up the Patent Wood Shelf Clock and sold a right to make
it to Seth Thomas for one thousand dollars. After two or three years,
Mr. Terry made further improvements and got them patented. Mr. Thomas
then thought as he had paid a thousand dollars, he would use these
improvements; so he went on making the new patent. Mr. Terry sued him
and the case was in litigation for several years. The whole Thomas
family, the workmen and neighbors, felt envious towards Mr. Terry, and I
think they have never got entirely over it. There was a general
prejudice and hatred towards Mr. Terry amongst all the clock-makers at
that time, and for nothing only because they knew they were infringing
on his rights; and to act out human nature, they must slander and try to
put him down. This principle is carried out very extensively in this
world, so that if a man wants to live and have nothing said against him,
he must look out for, and help no one but himself. If he succeeds in
making money, it matters but little in what way he obtains it, whether
by gambling or any other unlawful means; while on the other hand, if he
has been doing good all his life, and by some mishap is reduced to
poverty in his old age, he is despised and treated with contempt by a
majority of the community.

It may not be uninteresting to a great many to know how the brass clocks
at the present day are made. It has been a wonder to the world for a
long time, how they could possibly be sold so cheap and yet answer so
good a purpose. And, indeed, they could not, if every part of their
manufacture was not systematized in the most perfect manner and
conducted on a large scale. I will describe the manner in which the O-G.
case is made, (the style has been made a long time, and in larger
numbers than any other,) which will give some idea with what facility
the whole thing is put through. Common merchantable pine lumber is used
for the body of the case. The first workman draws a board of the stuff
on a frame and by a movable circular saw cuts it in proper lengths for
the sides and top. The knotty portions of it are sawed in lengths
suitable for boxing the clocks when finished, and but little need be
wasted. The good pieces are then taken to another saw and split up in
proper widths, which are then passed through the planeing machine. Then
another workman puts them through the O-G. cutter which forms the shape
of the front of the case. The next process is the glueing on of the
veneers - the workman spreads the glue on one piece at a time and then
puts on the veneer of rosewood or mahogany. A dozen of these pieces are
placed together in hand-screws till the glue is properly hardened. The
O-G. shapes of these pieces fit into each other when they are screwed
together. When the glue is sufficiently dry, the next thing is to make
the veneer smooth and fit for varnishing. We have what is called a sand
paper wheel, made of pine plank, its edge formed in an O-G. shape, and
sand-paper glued to it. When this wheel is revolving rapidly, the pieces
are passed over it and in this way smoothed very fast. They are then
ready to varnish, and it usually takes about ten days to put on the
several coats of varnish, and polish them ready for mitering, which
completes the pieces ready for glueing in shape of the case. The sides
of the case are made much cheaper. I used to have the stuff for ten
thousand of these cases in the works at one time. With these great
facilities, the labor costs less than twenty cents apiece for this kind
of case, and with the stock, they cost less than fifty cents. A cabinet
maker could not make one for less than five dollars. This proves and
shows what can be done by system. The dials are cut out of large sheets
of zinc, the holes punched by machinery, and then put into the paint
room, where they are painted by a short and easy process. The letters
and figures are then printed on. I had a private room for this purpose,
and a man who could print twelve or fifteen hundred in a day. The whole
dial cost me less than five cents. The tablets were printed in the same
manner, the colors put on afterwards by girls, and the whole work on
these beautiful tablets cost less than one and a half cents: the cost of
glass and work was about four cents. Every body knows that all of these
parts must be made very cheap or an O-G. clock could not be sold for one
dollar and a half, or two dollars. The weights cost about thirteen cents
per clock, the cost of boxing them about ten cents, and the first cost
of the movements of a one-day brass clock is less than fifty cents. I
will here say a little about the process of making the wheels. It will
no doubt, astonish a great many to know how rapidly they can be made. I
will venture to say, that I can pick out three men who will take the
brass in the sheet, press out and level under the drop, there cut the
teeth, and make all of the wheels to five hundred clocks in one day;
there are from eight to ten of these wheels in every clock, and in an
eight-day clock more. This will look to some like a great story, but is
one of the wonders of the clock business. If some of the parts of a
clock were not made for almost nothing, they could not be sold so cheap
when finished.

The facilities which the Jerome Manufacturing Company had over every
other concern of the kind in the country, and their customers in this
and foreign countries, are worth to the present company more than one
hundred thousand dollars. Their method of making dials, tablets and
brass doors was a saving of more than ten thousand dollars per year over
any other company doing the same amount of business; and I know that the
present company would not give up the customers of the Jerome
Manufacturing Company for ten thousand dollars per year: they could not
afford to do it. The workmen who came with me from Bristol, were an
uncommonly energetic and ingenious set of men. Many years they had large
and profitable jobs in the different branches, which encouraged them to
invent and get up improvements for doing the work fast, and in a great
many things they far surpass the workmen in similar establishments - all
of which have resulted to the benefit of the present manufacturing
company of New Haven.

In the year 1850, I was induced by a proposition from the Benedict &
Burnham Co., of Waterbury, to enter into a joint-stock company at my
place in New Haven, under the name of the Jerome Manufacturing Co. They
were to put in thirty-five thousand dollars, and I was to furnish the
same amount of capital. We did so, and went on very prosperously for a
year or two, making a great many clocks, and selling about one hundred
and fifty thousand dollars worth per year in England, at a profit of
twenty thousand dollars. They were very thorough in looking into the
affairs of the company, which was all right of course, but did not suit
all of the interested parties. My son was Secretary and financial
manager of the company. He seemed to have a desire to keep things to
himself a little too much, which also did not suit many of the
interested parties. My son told me he thought we had better buy the
company out, and said that we could do so without difficulty, and he
thought it would be a great advantage to us. Some were willing to sell,
and others were not. Mr. Burnham made an offer what he would sell for,
which the secretary accepted, others of the stock-holders made similar
propositions and the bargain closed, we paying them the capital they had
advanced and twenty-one per cent. profits, and buying, in the mean time,
seventy-five thousand dollars worth of brass - the profits on which were
not less than twenty thousand dollars, which they had the cash for in
the course of the year. About this time a man by the name of Lyman
Squires bought stock in the company, and took a great interest in the
business. A wealthy brother of his bought, I think, ten thousand dollars
worth of stock. The stock was increased in this way to two hundred
thousand dollars. The financial affairs were managed by the Secretary,
Mr. Squires, and a man by the name of Bissell. They made a great many
additions to the factory which I thought quite unnecessary, enlarging
the buildings, putting in a new engine and a great deal of costly
machinery. They laughed at me because I found fault with these things
and called me an old fogy. I was not pleased with the management at all
times, and although I had retired from active busines [Transcriber's
note: sic], I felt a deep interest in the affairs of the company, and
owned a large amount of the stock. The Secretary thought I was always
looking on the dark side and prophesying evil, because I frequently
remonstrated with him on the many extravagancies which were constantly
being added to the establishment. I frequently told him that if the
company should fail, I should have to bear the whole blame, because my
name was known all over the world. He always told me in the strongest
terms that I need give myself no uneasiness about that, as the company
was worth a great deal of money. Things went on in this way till the
year 1855, and while I was absent from the State, P.T. Barnum was
admitted as a member of our company. Within six months from that time,
the Jerome Manufacturing Company failed, the causes of which, and the
results, I have clearly and truthfully narrated in another part of this
book. The causes were not fully understood by me at that time. I have
found them out since, and deem it an act of justice to myself to make
them public. I was hopelessly ruined by this failure. The company had
used my name as endorser to a large amount, many times larger than I had
any idea of.



I will here give a brief account of the firms carrying on this
important business in Connecticut. The New Haven Clock Company, which
succeeded the Jerome Manufacturing Company, are now making more clocks
than any three other makers in the state. As I speak of the different
manufactories, I will give the outlines and standing of the men
connected with them. As their goods go all over the world, it is natural
and pleasant for men who are dealing in their goods to know what kind of
men they are at home, and what the community think of them. The New
Haven company is a joint-stock company. The head man in this concern, is
the Hon. James English, who is second to no business man in the State -
high minded, clear sighted, and very popular with all who deal with him.
He was, when a boy, remarkable for industry, prudence and good behavior.
He was an apprentice at the house-joiner trade, but soon got into other
business which gave him a greater chance to develope and become more
useful to himself and the community. He began in life without a dollar,
but is now said to be worth three hundred thousand dollars. His age at
this time is about forty-eight. He is a Democrat in politics; has been
elected to many important offices, and has been the first select man of
New Haven for many years; he has been elected State Senator for three
years in succession, and all of these offices he has filled with
ability. In the spring of 1860, he was nominated as candidate for
Lieutenant Governor on a ticket with Col. Thomas H. Seymour of Hartford,
for Governor, which made the most popular Democratic ticket that has
ever been run in the State. Had it not been for the great anti-slavery
feeling there was at this canvass, Mr. English would have been
triumphantly elected. Many of the opposing party would been glad to have
seen him elected, and would have voted for him, had it not been for the
influence they thought it would have on the Presidential election. We
heard many Republicans say this in New Haven, and many did vote that

H.M. Welch, who has for a long time been connected with Mr. English in
business, is largely interested in this clock company. He gives most of
his attention to other kinds of manufacturing, in which Messrs. English
and Welch, are very extensively engaged. Mr. Welch is one of the most
intelligent, upright, and kind hearted business men in the whole State,
and is admired as such by all who know him. He is also a Democrat in
politics, very popular in his party, and is well qualified for any
offices. He would make a good candidate for Governor or member of
Congress. He is about forty-six years old, worth perhaps, two hundred
thousand dollars; he has held many important offices, has been a
Representative to the State Legislature for many years, and State
Senator a number of times. He has recently been elected Mayor of the
city, and has filled all of these offices with much talent.

John Woodruff, a member of Congress, elected for the second time from
this district, is the next largest owner in this great brass clock
business. He commenced to work at clocks with me when a boy only fifteen
years old. He was a very uncommon boy, and is now an uncommon man, very
popular among his fellow workmen, popular with Democrats, popular with
Republicans, popular every where, and can be elected to Congress when
there is five hundred majority against his party in his district.

Hiram Camp who is the next largest stock-holder in this clock company,
is forty-nine years old. He commenced making clocks with me at the age
of seventeen, and is now President of the company. He is a Republican in
politics, and has been chosen Representative from New Haven to the
Legislature of the State. At this time he is Chief Engineer of the Fire
Department, is very popular with his workmen, and highly respected by
the whole community in which he lives. Many others who hold prominent
positions in this great business in New Haven, first came here with me
when I moved from Bristol. I should mention Philip Pond, an excellent
man who left the business two or three years since, on account of his
health, but who is now connected in the wholesale grocery business of
the firm of Pond, Greenwood & Lester, in this city. Also Charles L.
Griswold, now a bit and augur maker in the town of Chester, who began to
work for me twenty years ago, when a boy. He was once a poor boy, but
now is a talented and superior man. He has been a member of the
Legislature, and has held many offices of trust.

L.F. Root, now a leading man in New Haven, came to work with me when
quite young, nearly twenty years ago. He also has held many offices of
trust, and filled them with great ability. I could mention many others,
but cannot in this brief work speak of them as their merits deserve. It
gives me pleasure to know that the business of the Jerome Manufacturing
Company has fallen into such good hands.

The Benedict and Burnham Company, now making clocks in the city of
Waterbury, under the name of the Waterbury Clock Company, is composed of
a large number of the first citizens of that place. In politics nearly
all of them are Republicans. The oldest man of the company is Deacon
Aaron Benedict, now about seventy-five years old - a real "old Puritan,
Christian gentleman." He has been Representative and State Senator many
times - Mr. Burnham of New York, another member of this company, is well
known to almost every body as one of the richest men in [Transcriber's
note: probable missing word 'the' here] whole country. My brother, Noble
Jerome, who is an excellent mechanic and as good a brass clock maker as
can be found, is now making the movements for this company, and Edward
Church, a first rate man and an excellent workman, is making their
cases. He worked with me seventeen years at case making, and can do a
good job. I cannot pass without speaking about another man of this
company, Arad W. Welton Esq. He was one of my soldier companions in
Capt. John Buckingham's company, which went to fight the British in
1813, at New London, and in 1814 at New Haven. He stood very near me in
the ranks. I shall never forget what pluck and courage he showed one
night when the news was brought into camp that the enemy were landing
from their ships. Our whole regiment was mustered in fifteen minutes,
and on the way to pitch battle with the British and defend our shores.
This Mr. Welton, who is now an old man, as stout and large as Gen. Cass,
and looking something like him, was then a young man nineteen years old,
and without exception the funniest and drollest fellow that I ever saw.
He kept us all laughing while we were going down to fight that awful
battle, which, however, proved to be bloodless. This incident occurred
at New London, and I have often thought of it in latter days. Mr. Welton
Is said to be a great business man, and the company with which he is
connected is doing a good business.

The next clock company which I shall speak of, is that of Seth Thomas &
Co., of Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut. As I have mentioned before, the
senior Thomas is not living. The business is carried on by a company,
the members of which are all Republicans in politics and respectable
men. Fifty years ago this spring, Heman Clark built the factory which
Seth Thomas, two or three years afterwards, bought, and in which he
carried on business until his death, about two years since. It was never
Mr. Thomas' practice to get up any thing new. He never would change his
patterns or mode of manufacturing, until he was driven to it to keep his
customers. At the time when I invented the one-day brass clock in 1838,
he said much against it, that it was not half so good as a wood clock,
and that he never would take up any thing again that Jerome had adopted;
but he was compelled to, in a year or two, to keep his customers. He
sent his foreman over to Bristol, where I was then carrying on business,
to get patterns of movements and cases and take all the advantage he
could of my experience, labors, and improvements which I had been
studying upon so long. I allowed my foreman to spend more than two days
with his, giving him all the knowledge and insight he could of the
business, knowing what his object was. A friend asked me why I was doing
this, and said that if I should send my man to Thomas' factory he would
be kicked out immediately. I told him I knew that perfectly well, but
that if Mr. Thomas set out to get into the business, he certainly would
find out, and that the course I was taking was wisest and more friendly.
I have thought since how quickly such kind treatment as I showed towards
his man can be forgotten; yes; this company have all forgotten the
service that I rendered them twenty years ago, and as I have said
before, would probably have been making the old wood clock to this day,
had it not been for other parties. There always has been a great deal of
jealousy among the Yankee clock-makers, and they all seemed to hate the
one who took the lead. The next establishment of which I shall speak, is
that of William L. Gilbert, of Winsted, Connecticut. He is said to be
miserly in feeling, and is quite rich; not very enterprising, but has
made a great deal of money by availing himself of the improvements of

The next one in the business to whom I shall allude is E.N. Welch, of
Bristol, Connecticut. He is about fifty years of age, and has been in
many kinds of business. He was deeply interested in the failure of J.C.
Brown a few years ago, and succeeded him in the clock business. He is a
leading man in the Baptist church, and has a great tact for making
money; but he says that all he wants of money is to do good with it. He
is a Democrat in politics, and never wants an office from his party.

These five companies which I have named, make nearly all of the clocks
manufactured in Connecticut; though movements are made by three other
companies. Beach and Hubbell of Bristol, are largely engaged in
manufacturing the movements of brass marine clocks. Also two brothers by
the name of Manross, in Bristol, are engaged in the same business. Noah
Pomeroy of Bristol, is also engaged in making pendulum movements for
other parties. I should, however, mention Ireneus Atkins, of Bristol,
who is making a first-rate thirty-day brass clock, and I am told there
is no better one for time in the country. The movement for this kind of
clock was invented by Joseph Ives, who has spent most of his time for
the last twenty-five years in improving on springs and escapements for
clocks, and who has done a great deal for the advancement of this
business. Mr. Atkins, who is making this thirty-day time-piece, is an
excellent man to deal with. The five large companies which I have named,
manufacture about a half a million clocks per annum; the New Haven
company about two hundred thousand; and the others about three hundred
thousand between them.



The connection of Barnum with the Jerome Manufacturing Company of New
Haven, and the failure of the Company have been the subject of much
speculation to the whole world, and has never been clearly understood.
Barnum claimed that he was cheated and swindled by this company, robbed
of his property and name, and reduced to poverty. But before giving any

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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 5 of 7)