A question about Pillar and Scroll ORIGINAL Selling Price

Discussion in 'Wood Movement Clocks' started by George Nelson, Mar 2, 2017.

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  1. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, All,

    Please know that this is not a question about the current value of a pillar and scroll clock! My question relates to the original circa 1815 selling price of such a clock.

    It is my understanding, with the help of several members of this board, that the original selling price of a pillar and scroll in 1815 was $15.00, and was considered affordable by the average US citizen at the time. This poses a question for me...

    I have located an inflation calculator on the web:

    http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php

    I have used it to determine today's equivalent of the original retail selling price of a P&S, which turns out to be $234.38 in today's dollars (actually 2014 dollars). I was somewhat surprised by this revelation.

    Is $234.38 considered "affordable" by today's standards for anything? I know that now, time tellers are ridiculously cheap and available to all, a situation not enjoyed by early citizens of America. However, I suspect that the need for a clock in the early days was not as imperative as ownership of one is today. So, here are my questions:

    1. Am I correct in thinking that a clock in the 1815 time period was a luxury and not a necessity?

    2. My research shows that in 1815, the average American YEARLY income was about $367.00. How then, can a clock costing about 67% of a yearly income be considered affordable?

    3. If my calculations are correct, how do we account for the very large amount of P&S clocks that were sold in these times?

    4. I know that clock peddlers would many times leave a clock "on account" at a residence, give them time to develop a reliance on and appreciation for the clock, and return for payment. I also know that regular payments were often accepted from these same peddlers over a period of up to two years. Does this fact make the clocks affordable?

    Over a two year period, each monthly payment would have to have been $9.76, still quite high. Consider this: In 1815, the average daily wage for a carpenter in New England was $1.50, which equates to $9.00 weekly if worked 6 days (typical for 1815 work schedules). Therefore, each payment would have been roughly a entire week's pay each month. Carpenters were well paid in 1815, making $468 yearly. Even at those "high" wages, a $15.00 clock would be difficult to afford, wouldn't it?

    5. Have I totally missed the point here and messed up my calculations and thought processes?

    Your thoughts, input and comments are most appreciated. I would love to be able to come to terms with this bit of a mystery!

    Thanks to all,

    George Nelson
     
  2. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    #2 Jim DuBois, Mar 2, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2017
    some thoughts around clock making in the period you ask about.

    Banking and wage payments

    Banking in the US was very much in its infancy at this time. National banks did not exist, even region banking was not yet in existence. US coinage was the responsibility of the federal government but the government did not print any paper money. Banks printed their own paper currency, which was at best promissory notes, which were discounted when redeemed other than at the bank of issuance. And the further from "home" the banknote wandered the higher the discount. By the way, the note promised to pay in coinage to the bearer only at the bank of issuance, frequently causing even further discounting when attempting to "cash in" the banknote.

    Wages were usually not completely paid in cash, as least in the early years of these clock makers work. Often the employer would provide room and board as part of the wage, and would extend credit at the local store so the wage earner could trade his labor for food, clothing, and the like. Also, it appears it was not unusual for part of their pay to be in the form of a clock or two. So, this left some workers in a position where they needed to sell (or trade off) a clock every month to help support the family. Barter was prevalent. This may have been a good arrangement early on but as clock makers achieved mass production places for wage earners to "sell" their "wage clocks" became at best tenuous. Ultimately, this practice did cease, when is not clear. There is no written history yet found of many having followed this practice, yet it was common in the area and from his frequent bankruptcies we can conclude he was often cash poor. So, we can assume it was likely. We do know that payment for other work done, parts provided, cases made, and the like were frequently paid in clocks or clock movements, by clock makers as well as many others. This is also a practical explanation why many area merchants had their names over pasted in clocks made by others. And yes, a dollar a day for a 10 or 12 hour day appeared to be the norm. There were no time clocks to punch and wage were really not paid by the hour.

    Many people labored under a"yearly contract", according to Theodore Hodges writings as well as Roberts and others. Or from the legal records it looks like a lot of folks worked from one employer bankruptcy to the next... icon6.png

    While this is written more in perspective of the makers of clocks than their customers, we can well expect that most of society functioned along similar terms and conditions. Barter was common, and yes $15 for a clock was a big piece of a workers income. But in terms of chickens and pigs it might well have been more affordable.....

    This is taken from a paper being written about Joseph Ives.
     
  3. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, All! Well, we unexpectedly have yet another educational discussion on our hands.

    Wow, Jim! Your information really puts a different perspective on things. I didn't know about paper money not existing at the time, but I probably should have assumed so since there were old coins with denominations of half-cents, two cent pieces, etc, all minted by the US government, as you say.

    So, keeping with the information you just presented, I have more questions here:

    Would you say that the estimate of $15 retail for a clock was inflated for lawsuit purposes?? The $15 per clock comes from the Terry -vs- Thomas lawsuit in the mid-1830s, but I've seen this price estimate elsewhere as well, and I think even Jerome quoted it in his autobiography.

    Do you or anyone think that prices for clocks could have been somewhat vaporous? Until the advent of printed catalogs, was there a price range for each clock?

    Does anyone know or have an estimate of the actual cost, in US dollars of 1815, just how much it cost to make a clock?

    Sorry for so many questions, but I am suddenly quite intrigued by all of this information!

    It's a bit on the back-burner, but I have been toying with the idea of assembling $15 of money of the 1815 time period to display with one of my Terry P&S clocks. I'm finding out that it will cost many times more than $15 to amass that amount of period coinage! The 1815 liberty quarter is exceedingly pricey, as are the Spanish reals (pronounced ree-alls) that were more commonly used than was American minted currency at the time. I was hoping to find a large denomination example of paper money, but now, Jim, you have just explained to me why I have not been able to locate one! Perhaps I should just display a stuffed chicken or two, several loaves of petrified bread and bank note to add up to the total :chuckling:...

    I have included several images of coins in circulation during the time period in question just for general information. The half eagle was a five dollar denomination coin, and note that the real was embossed with quarter marks, intended to be cut into fourths as necessary for change, or to purchase something not costing a whole real. Except for the gold coin and the real, the pieces appear remarkably similar to each other, except for size don't they?

    The economic conditions of the first half of the 19th century in America are so interesting! I am aware of the economic crash in the late 1830s, and knew that Chauncey and Noble Jerome continued to sell clocks and managed to revive the clock industry during that time period.

    Anyway, I'm looking quite forward to hearing from anyone who can help with the above questions, or offer comments or more information about this most intriguing subject relating to our clocks!

    Best to all,

    George Nelson
     

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  4. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    Hi George,
    The Spanish real (i.e. 'royal') is not marked so to be cut in four. That is just the quartered coat of arms of the kings of Castile (castle) and Leon (lion). Of course, it would have been a convenient commodity if you neded to cut the coin in two or four...:cool:

    Regards,

    Aitor
     
  5. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Aitor,

    Thanks so much for the correction! I had always thought the design was to facilitate cutting, and that it was the explanation for finding so many quarter and half pieces floating around. I appreciate the opportunity to learn, and these boards have taught me so very much. Your help is most welcome and appreciated! I have corrected my research notes appropriately.

    Best to all,

    George Nelson
     
  6. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    #6 Jim DuBois, Mar 3, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    While not a direct answer to your several thoughts and questions here is some additional related information, starting off with some estimates as to the selling prices of wood works tall clock movements prior to Eli Terry's "Porter Contract" mass production efforts...

    At that time(A.O. 1793) when Mr. Terry commenced business in Plymouth, Timothy Barnes of Litchfield,
    So. Farms, James Harrison of Waterbury (not "Lemuel Harrison") and Gideon Roberts of Bristol,
    were known as clock-makers. Wooden clocks, calculated for a long pendulum and case, were
    sold at this time for £4, or $13 and 33/100 dollars. When the clock was made with a brass dial, and
    a dial for seconds and the moon's age, the price was $25.
    The price of brass clocks was from £1 O to £15, or $33 33-100 dollars to $50. This was
    the price without a case. The case might be procured at a price varying from $5 to $30,
    according to the quality and materials of which it was made; so that the entire cost of a
    wooden clock with the case, was from $18 to $48, and for brass clocks, $38 to $80. He made
    clocks both of wood and brass in the then ordinary way, having a hand engine for cutting the
    teeth or cogs of the wheels and pinions, and using a foot lathe for doing the turning. It is
    probable he used a knife, as well as many other tools then in use, in doing some part of the
    work, but that the different parts of the clock "were cut with the penknife," is a tale of many
    years' growth, having no foundation, and ought not to be stereotyped as part of the history of
    clock making in this country. So limited was the demand for clocks at this time, and so
    inadequate his means for making them, that after finishing three or four he was obliged to go
    out with them on horseback, and put them up, where they had been previously engaged or
    sold. His usual way was to put one forward of the saddle on which he rode, one behind, and
    one on each side in his portmanteau. During this day of small things, however, there was an
    attempt at something more. As early as the year 1797, he procured a patent for what he then
    supposed to be an important improvement in clocks. This patent was for a new construction
    of an equation clock, shewing the difference between the mean and apparent time. The patent
    is now in the possession of the writer, as executor of his estate. It was obtained during the
    early part of John Adams' administration, and bears his autograph signature, together with that
    of Timothy Pickering, then Secretary of State, and Charles Lee, Attorney General. This invention
    proved to be a useful one to him, in no way save the discipline he acquired by it; for the
    secret in money-making at that time, as well as the present day, was not in manufacturing so
    expensive clocks as this kind must necessarily have been. The greater demand was, and still
    is, for a less costly article.

    You may also find some answers concerning the cost of making some clocks, as well as the number of people making them, and money paid for such work. It is also of interest to me that Ingraham was making cases for 20+ other concerns. The cost figures for Jerome's movements suggest these were the 1839 patent model movements......and sorry all this information is just a bit later than the clocks that bought this discussion, but, it is what I have on hand (thanks to Ken Roberts)

    bristol clockmaking number of employees.jpg ingraham sell to list.jpg Jerome cost of clocks.jpg
     
  7. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    George, for some interesting reading get the book written by Chauncey Jerome describing clockmaking in his time. As Jim's charts show, the OG clock did see a much cheaper price than anything before it. When Jerome was sending clocks to be sold in England the tax man wanted to teach Jerome a lesson as the declared value had to be way too small to be possible, so they bought the whole load., at the sale price plus 10%. When he came back with a second load, at the same price, the taxman also purchased this load. The next load went through without any problem as the taxman decided to let Jerome sell is own clocks.
     
  8. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    My pleasure, George:D
    I know even less about numismatics than about horology, but this was an easy one...;)
    I own a few American wowdworks 30 hours movements and even a battered Terry & sons Pillar and Scroll, still waiting for 'resurrection' day...:cuckoo:
    And yes, Jerome's book 'From rags to riches' is a clear 'must read':coolsign: A first-hand account, no matter how much biased, is always invaluable.

    Regards,

    Aitor
     
  9. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Wow- "ask here and you shall receive!" Once again, I am humbled by the completeness of everyone's answers. Thanks so very much.

    I guess I have to change my way of thinking about money in the early days of our clocks. I had intended to merely put into perspective the cost of a clock in 1815 vs the cost of one today, but it is becoming obvious that monetary value cannot always be expressed in simple terms! Live, learn and continue with my education :)

    Harold: I do have a copy of Jerome's biography, an original one, I'm proud to say. I had hunted for one for years, ever since getting my first clock, which was an 1838 Noble and Chauncey round sided 30 hour brass movement. I have, of course, read it, but had always assumed that it was mainly fluff, written by a good man who had been horribly hurt over the years by his competitors, P.T. Barnum, etc. I obviously did not give enough weight to what he had written. My assignment now is to get down that book, and re-read it with a different mindset.

    Jim: Your answer, as always, is most complete and helpful. It will take me a day or two to absorb all of it, after which I'm sure I'll have more questions! Thanks so much.

    Ballistarius: I'm not convinced that you "know little" as you say. Your input has been most welcome.

    To everyone, again let me express my gratitude for the continuing help. I'm moving forward with my "monetary research," and hope to be able to present a helpful conclusion soon.

    My very best to all,

    George Nelson
     

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