Chauncey Jerome.

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statements, I call attention to the following article taken from the New
York Daily _Tribune_, of March 24th, 1860:

THE GREAT SHOWMAN. - P.T. Barnum, "the great American showman," as he
loves to hear himself called, who furnishes more amusement for a
quarter of a dollar than any other man in America, is, we are happy to
announce, himself again. He has disposed of the last of those
villainous clock notes, re-established his credit up on a cash basis,
and once more comes forward to cater for the public amusement at the
American museum. To day, between the acts of the play, Mr. Barnum will
appear upon his own stage, in his own costly character of the Yankee
Clockmaker, for which he qualified himself, with the most reckless
disregard of expense, and will "give a brief history of his adventures
as a clockmaker, showing how the clock ran down, and how it was wound
up; shadowing forth in the same the future of the museum." Of course,
Barnum's benefit will be a bumper. Next week the Museum will be closed
for renovation and repairs, and the week after it will reopen under
the popular P.T.B., once more.

I will now give the true statement of facts and particulars of his
connection with the Jerome Manufacturing Company - which, however, was
not his first experience in clock-making. Some time before this, he was
interested in a Company located in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut,
and, I believe, owned about ten thousand dollars worth of stock. They
made a very poor article which was called a marine clock, if I am
rightly informed. That Company failed, and Barnum took the stock as
security for endorsing and furnishing them with cash. I do not suppose
the whole of the effects were worth transporting to Bridgeport, although
estimated by him at a large amount. About this time Theodore Terry's
clock factory, at Ansonia, was destroyed by fire. A large portion of the
stock was saved, though in a damaged condition, much of which was worth
nothing - the tools and machinery being but little better than so much
old iron. Terry knowing that Barnum was largely interested in real
estate in East Bridgeport, and anxious to have it improved, thought he
could make a good arrangement with him for building a factory there for
the manufacture of clocks, and did so. Terry had a large quantity of old
clocks in a store in New York - many of them old-fashioned and
unsaleable, and thousands of these were not worth fifty cents apiece.
Terry and Barnum now proposed forming a joint-stock company, putting in
their old rubbish as stock, and estimating it, most likely, at four
times its value in cash. They built a factory in East Bridgeport, and
made preparations for manufacturing. Terry knew ten times as much about
the business as Barnum did, and knowing, also, that the old stock was
comparatively worthless, held back while Barnum was urging him to push
ahead with the manufacturing. Terry made a great bluster, saying that he
was going to hire men and do a great business, while, unknown to Barnum,
he was trying to sell the stock he held in the company. They finally
cooked up a plan to sell their New York store and the Bridgeport factory
and machinery, if they could, to the Jerome Manufacturing Company,
taking stock in that company for pay, and - the Jerome Company stock
being issued to the owners of the Terry & Barnum stock - thus merge the
two companies into one. This transaction was made and closed without my
knowledge, (I being at the time from the State,) though the "old man"
has had to bear all the blame. As I afterwards found out, Barnum told my
son, the Secretary of the Company, that Terry & Barnum owed about twenty
thousand dollars: this was the amount Terry had drawn for on the New
York store. They made a written agreement with the Jerome Manufacturing
Company, to this effect; - that our Company should assume the liabilities
of their old Company, which were stated at twenty thousand dollars, and
Barnum was to endorse to any extent for the Jerome Company. It
afterwards proved that the entire debts of Terry & Barnum amounted to
about seventy-two thousand dollars, which the Jerome Company were
obliged to assume. The great difference in the real and supposed amount
of their indebtedness and the unsaleable property turned in as stock
were enough to ruin any company. It is a positive fact that the stock of
the Jerome Company was not worth half as much, three months after Barnum
came into the concern as it was before that time. Some of the
stock-holders did not like to have Terry own stock, and Barnum to
satisfy them, bought him out, paying him twelve thousand dollars in
cash - he in the end, making a grand thing out his Ansonia remains. It is
well known that the Jerome Manufacturing Company failed in the fall of
1855, to the wonder and astonishment of myself and of every body else.
The true causes of this great failure never have been made public. I
myself did not know them at that time, but have found them out from time
to time since, and I now propose to make them public, as it has been the
general impression almost every where that Barnum and myself were
associated in defrauding the community. _I wish to have it understood
that I never saw P.T. Barnum_, while he was connected with the
Company of which I was a member, have never seen him but once since, and
that was in February after the failure. About this time law suits were
being brought against him, and as some supposed, by his friends. He was
called upon, or offered himself as a witness, and I believe testified
that he was worth nothing. The natural effect of this testimony was to
depreciate the paper which his name was on. At the time when I saw him,
he told me that the Museum was his just as much as it ever was, and that
he received the profits, which had never been less than twenty-five
thousand and were sometimes thirty thousand dollars per annum; and yet,
he was publicly stating that he was worth nothing! He also, as I
supposed, held securities of the Jerome Manufacturing Company, to a
large amount, (as I suppose about one hundred thousand dollars,) for I
know that such papers had been in his hands. There were many persons who
were interested in the revival of the business, who were in some way
flattered into the belief that Barnum would re-purchase the whole clock
establishment and put them back into the business again. Several men
were sent by some one to examine the property and estimate its value,
and those persons who were anxious for a restoration of the business
were in some way led to believe that Barnum intended to re-commence the
business of clock-making. For myself, I do not suppose that Barnum ever
seriously contemplated any such thing; but the belief that he did, made
some men quiet who might otherwise have been active and troublesome.

The manner in which this matter has been represented would reflect
dishonesty upon the Secretary, which would be untrue. No one who knows
him will, or can accuse him of dishonesty. I love truth, honesty and
religion; I do not mean, however, the religion that Barnum believes in:
(I believe that the wicked are punished in another world.) I ask the
reader to look at my situation in my old age. I think as much of a good
name, as to purity of character and honesty at heart, as any man living;
and very often reading in the New York papers of speeches that Barnum
has made, alluding to his being defrauded by the Jerome Manufacturing
Company, I wish the world to know the whole facts in the case, and what
my position was in the Company which bore my name. After many years -
years of very active business life - I had retired from active duty in
the Company, although I took a deep interest in every thing connected
with it, and also a great pride, as it was a business that I had built
up and had been many years in perfecting. The manufacturing had been
systematized in the most perfect manner and every thing looked
prosperous to me. I owned stock as others did, but did not know of its
financial standing, and was always informed that it was all right, and
that I should be perfectly safe in endorsing. I wish to have it
understood that I did not sign my name to any of this paper, it being
done by the Secretary himself, that therefore I could not know of the
amounts that were raised in that way, that I did not find out till after
the failure, and then the large amounts overwhelmed me with surprise.

It will be remembered that Barnum made two or three trips to Europe to
provide in some way for the support of his "poor and destitute" family,
which as he claimed, had been robbed and ruined by the Connecticut
clock-makers. At one time he was stopped on a pier in New York, just as
he was starting for Europe, by a suit brought against him. Thus the news
went abroad that poor Barnum was hunted and troubled on every side with
these clock notes. It was reported that he was quite sick in England and
could not live, and, at another time, that being much depressed and
discouraged on account of his many troubles, he had taken to drinking
very hard, and in all probability would live but a short time; while at
the same time, he was lecturing on temperance to the English people, and
was in fact a total-abstinence man. These stories were extensively
circulated; the value of his paper was depreciated in the market, and
was, in several instances bought for a small sum.

Since writing the foregoing with regard to his coming into the Company,
and, as he states, being ruined by it, I have ascertained to my own
satisfaction, that our connection with him was the means of ruining the
Company. A few days since I was talking with a man who has been more
familiar than myself with the whole transaction, and he told me it was
his opinion that if we had never seen Barnum we should still have been
making clocks in that factory. It was a great mystery to me, and to
every body else, how the Company could run down so rapidly during the
last year. I think I have found out, and these are my reasons. Instead
of having an amount of twenty thousand dollars to cancel of the Terry &
Barnum debts and accounts (which the Secretary foolishly agreed to do.)
it eventually proved to be about seventy thousand; (this I have found
out since the failure.) This great loss the Secretary kept to himself,
and it involved the Company so deeply that he became almost desperate;
for knowing by this time that he had been greatly embarrassed, he was
determined to raise money in any way that he could, honestly, and get
out of the difficulty if possible. He had, as he thought, got to keep
this an entire secret, because if known it would ruin the credit of the
Company. When these extra drafts and notes of Terry & Barnum were added
to the debts of the Company, he was obliged to resort to various
expedients to raise money to pay them. This led him to the exchange of
notes on a large scale, which proved to be a great loss, as many of the
parties were irresponsible. There was a loss of thirty thousand dollars
by one man, and I am sure that there must have been more than fifty
thousand dollars lost in this way. He was also obliged to issue short
drafts and notes and raise money on them at fearful rates. The Terry &
Barnum stock which was taken in at par, was not worth twenty-five per
cent, which had a tendency to reduce the value of the stock of our
Company, though I have recently heard that the Secretary bought stock at
par for the Jerome Company of some former owners in the Terry & Barnum
Company, in Bridgeport, only a short time before the failure. To show
the confidence the Secretary had in the standing of the Company, he
recommended one of his own brothers, not more than one month before the
Company failed, to buy five thousand dollars worth of the stock, which
he did. It was owned by a Bridgeport man and he paid par value for it in
good gold and silver watches at cash prices. All of these transactions
were made without my knowledge, and I have found them out by piece-meal
ever since. I do fully believe that if the Secretary had been worth half
a million of dollars, he would have sacrificed every dollar, rather than
have had the Company failed under his management as it did.

It has been publicly stated that Mr. Barnum endorsed largely on blank
notes and drafts and that he was thus rendered responsible to a far
greater extent than he was aware of; such, however, was not the case.

The troubles that have grown out of the failure of this great business,
have left me poor and broken down in spirit, constitution and health. I
was never designed by Providence to eat the bread of dependence, for it
is like poison to me, and will surely kill me in a short time. I have
now lost more than forty pounds of flesh, though my ambition has not yet
died within me.



After saying so much as I have about my misfortunes in life, I must say
a few words about what has happened and what I have been through with
during the last four years.

When the Jerome Manufacturing Company failed, every dollar that I had
saved out of a long life of toil and labor was not enough to support my
family for one year. It was hard indeed for a man sixty-three years old,
and my heart sickened at the prospect ahead. Perhaps there never was a
man that wanted more than I did to be in business and be somebody by the
side of my neighbors. There never was a man more grieved than I was when
I had to give up those splendid factories with the great facilities they
had over all others in the world for the manufacture of clocks both good
and cheap, all of which had been effected through my untiring efforts.
No one but myself can know what my feelings were when I was compelled,
through no fault of my own, to leave that splendid clustre [sic] of
buildings with all its machinery, and its thousands of good customers
all over this country and Europe, and in fact the whole world, which in
itself was a fortune. And then to leave that beautiful mansion at the
head of the New Haven bay, which I had almost worshipped. I say to leave
all these things for others, with that spirit and pride that still
remained within me, and at my time of life, was almost too much for
flesh and blood to bear. What could have been the feelings of my family,
and my large circle of friends and acquaintances, to see creditors and
officers coming to our house every day with their pockets full of
attachments and piles of them on the table every night. If any one can
ever begin to know my feelings at this time, they must have passed
through the same experience. Yet mortified and abused as I was, I had to
put up with it. Thank God, I have never been the means of such trouble
for others. I had to move to Waterbury in my old age, and there commence
again to try to get a living. I moved in the fall of 1856, and as bad
luck would have it, rented a house not two rods from a large church with
a very large steeple attached to it, which had been built but a short
time before. In one of the most terrific hurricanes and snow storms that
I ever knew in my life, at four o'clock in the morning of January 19th,
1857, this large steeple fell on the top of our house which was a three
story brick building. It broke through the roof and smashed in all the
upper tier of rooms, the bricks and mortar falling to the lower floor.
We were in the second story, and some of the bricks came into our room,
breaking the glass and furniture, and the heaviest part of the whole lay
directly on our house. It was the opinion of all who saw the ruins that
we did not stand one chance in ten thousand of not being killed in a
moment. I heard many a man say he would not take the chances that we had
for all the money in the State. One man in the other part of the house
was so frightened that he was crazy for a long time. Timbers in this
steeple, ten inches square, broke in two directly over my bed and their
weight was tremendous. I now began to think that my troubles were coming
in a different form; but it seems I was not to die in that way. The
business took a different shape in the spring, and I moved (another task
of moving!) to Ansonia. Here I lived two years, but very unfortunately
happened to get in with the worst men that could be found on the line of
Rail-road between Winsted and Bridgeport. In another part of this book I
have spoken of them; I do not now wish to think of them, for it makes me
sick to see their names on paper. I had worked hard ever since I left
New Haven - one year at Waterbury, and two at this place (Ansonia,) - but
got not one dollar for the whole time. I was robbed of all the money
which Mr. Stevens, (my son-in-law,) had paid me for the use of my trade-
mark in England, for the years 1857-'58. This advantage was taken of me,
because I could collect nothing in my own name.

I should consider my history incomplete, unless I went back for many
years to speak of the treatment which I received from a certain man. I
shall not mention his name, and my object in relating these
circumstances, is to illustrate a principle there is in man, and to
caution the young men to be careful when they get to be older and are
carrying on business, not to do too much for one individual. If you do,
in nine cases out of ten, he will hate and injure you in the end. This
has been my experience. Many years ago, I hired two men from a
neighboring town to work for me. It was about the time that I invented
the Bronze Looking-Glass Clock, which was, at that time, decidedly the
best kind made. After a while these two men contrived a plan to get up a
company, go into another town, and manufacture the same kind of clock.
This company was formed about six months before I found it out, and much
of their time was spent in making small tools and clock-parts to take
with them. This was done when they were at work for me on wages. They
induced as many of my men as they could to go with them, and took some
of them into company. When they had finished some clocks, they went
round to my customers and under-sold me to get the trade. This is the
first chapter. When I invented the thirty-hour brass clock in 1838, one
of these men had returned to Bristol again, and was out of business; but
he had some money which he had made out of my former improvements. I had
lost a great deal of money in the great panic of 1837. After I had
started a little in making this new clock, he proposed to put in some
money and become interested with me, and as I was in want of funds to
carry on the business, I told him that if he would put in three thousand
dollars, he should have a share of the profits. I went on with him one
year, but got sick of it and bought him out. I had to pay six thousand
dollars to get rid of him. He took this money, went to a neighboring
town, bought an old wood clock factory, fitted it up for making the same
clock that I had just got well introduced, and induced several of my
workmen to go with him, some of whom he took in company with him. As
soon as I had the clock business well a going in England, he sent over
two men to sell the same patterns. He has kept this up ever since, and
has made a great deal of money.

After the failure of the Jerome Manufacturing Company, as I have already
stated, I went to Waterbury to assist the Benedict & Burnham Company.
After I had been there six or eight months, and had got the case-making
well started, (my brother, Noble Jerome, had got the movements in the
works the year before.) this same man I have been speaking about, came
to me and made me a first-rate offer to go with him into a town a short
distance from Waterbury, and make clocks there. I accepted his offer,
but should not have done so, had it not been for the depressed condition
to which I had been brought by previous events. I accordingly moved to
the town where he had hired a factory. He was carrying on the business
at the same time in his old factory, and came to this new place about
twice a week. My work was in the third story, and it was very hard for
an old man to go up and down a dozen times a day. About this time I
obtained a patent on a new clock case, and as I was to be interested in
the business, I let the Company make several thousand of them. We could
make forty cents more on each clock than we could on an O-G. clock. As I
was favorably known throughout the world as a clockmaker, this Company
wanted to use my label as the clocks would sell better in some parts of
the country than with his label. They were put upon many thousands. Soon
after we commenced, I told him I would make out a writing of our bargain
because life was uncertain. He said that was all right, and that he
would attend to it soon. As he always seemed to be in a hurry when he
came, I wrote one and sent it to him, so that he might look it over at
his leisure and be ready to sign it when he came down again. The next
time I saw him, I asked him if the writing was not as we agreed; he said
he supposed it was, but that he had no time to look it over and sign it
then, but would do so when he had time. I paid into the business about
one thousand nine hundred dollars in small sums, as it was wanted from
time to time, and worked at this man for eight months to get a writing
from him, but he always had an excuse. He had agreed to give the
case-maker a share of the profits if he would make the cases at a
certain price, but put him off in the same way. We both became satisfied
that he did not mean to do as he had agreed, and I therefore left him.
The money which I had paid in was what I had received for the use of my
name in England. I had the privilege of paying it in as it was wanted,
working eight months, keeping the accounts which I did evenings, and
giving this man a home at my house whenever he was in town. All of this
which I had done, he refused to give me one dollar for, and it was with
great difficulty that I got my money back. I had to put it into another
man's hands, as his property, to recover it. This man, probably, had two
objects in view when he went to Waterbury to flatter me away. He did not
want me to be there with my name on the movements and cases, and
therefore he made me a first-rate offer. I had been broken up in all my
business, and felt very anxious to be doing something again. I was a
little afraid when he made the offer, but knew that he had made a great
deal of money out of my improvements and was very wealthy, and I did
think he would be true to me, knowing as he did my circumstances. Look
at this miser, with not a child in the world, and no one on earth that
he cares one straw about, and yet so grasping! Oh! what will the poor
creature do in eternity!



Before closing the history of the many trials and troubles which I have
experienced during my life, I will here say that I have never found, in
all my dealings with men for more than forty years, such an untruthful
and dishonest a man as - - of a certain town in Connecticut. In 1858,
he induced me to come into his factory to carry on a little business. My
situation was such, in consequence of the failure of the Jerome
Manufacturing Company, that I could do nothing in my own name, as he
knew. I had a little money that had been paid me for the use of my
trademark in England, and I felt very anxious, as old as I was, to make
a little money so that I could pay some small debts which my family had
made a short time before the company failed. I had also two children who
looked to me for some help. This man said to me, "you may have the use
of my factory for 'so much,' and you may carry on the business for one
year in my name for so 'much.'" This was agreed to by both parties. In
a few days he came to me and said that he had been talking with his
nephew about having the business carried on in his name "& Co.;" - -
being the "Company" and he was to keep his nephew harmless, as he had
nothing for the use of his name. The nephew came into the factory a
short time after, and I asked him if he had agreed to what - - had
stated to me; he said that he had, and that I could go on with the
business in the name of himself & Co.; he was quite sure that his uncle
would keep him harmless. I went on with the business in this name from
May to December, both of those men knowing all the while just as much
about the business as I did, and they never said but that it was all
right as we had agreed. I paid in my money from time to time as it was
wanted. Late in the fall, I paid in at one time, one thousand nine

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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 6 of 7)