Moorhouse (?) Webb C. Ball Dial

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by beta21, Jan 4, 2019.

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  1. beta21

    beta21 Registered User

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    #1 beta21, Jan 4, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
    This dial is on a Hampden Railway htg mvt without any Ball markings, just "Railway, Adjusted, Canton Ohio" SN 654373 (~1889). The dial has two longer pinned feet and one shorter for screw, exactly what this movement needs. Thus I'm not ruling out the possibility that the dial and mvt belong together.
    What do the Ball experts say to this? There is no signature on the dial back.

    moorhouse.jpg
     
  2. Jim Haney

    Jim Haney Registered User
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    Webb C. Ball contracted for Private Labels watches to sell in his store in Cleveland before he started Ball Watch Co.

    I have several early Hamilton's with Webb C. Ball on the dials and movements.
     
  3. Greg Frauenhoff

    Greg Frauenhoff Registered User
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    Beautiful dial. Clint Geller would know more but fwiw I'd say it was probably made by Moorhouse and original to your mvt.
     
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  4. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    In my 1992 NAWCC BULLETIN article on Howard watch dials I speculated, based on the calligraphic elements on the Ball Hampden dials, that they may have been made by the Howard dial room foreman, Josiah Moorhouse, after he left E Howard & Company in the early 1890's. The stylistic similarities between these dials and some of Moorhouse's earlier signed work for other companies are so great that I felt that this was a strong likelihood, even though there was no evidence, at the time, that Moorhouse ever worked for the Hampden Watch Company. However, since that article was published, the late Gerit Nijssen discovered court testimony revealing that Josiah Moorhouse did indeed work for the Hampden Watch Company exactly for one year during the period when the Ball Hampden movements were being produced.
     
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  5. George Frick

    George Frick Registered User
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    That is one good looking dial. And an interesting discussion about the history of it.
     
  6. beta21

    beta21 Registered User

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    Very interesting. I wonder however, shouldn't te movement have been marked with Ball's signature? Are the other Ball/Moorhouse/Hampdens alike, i.e having a "Railway" signed mvt, but no "Ball" sign?
     
  7. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Registered User
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    I've seen these style dials on several grades of Hampden marked movements that appeared to be likely original combinations. I've also seen these style dials on Ball signed Hampden movements.

    I haven't seen one of these "Webb C. Ball" signed Hampden dials that actually had a Moorhouse signature on its rear, though I have seen the Moorhouse signature on other Hampden private label dials of this time period.
     
  8. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    I believe Moorhouse went to work for Ball. I had not seen Moorhouse dials on a Hampton but I have seen one on a Ball retailed Vacheron and Constantin. I suspect a Moorhouse dail can legitimately be on any watch Ball sold when Moorhouse was actively working for the firm.
     
  9. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    Jon, Your suggestion is intriguing, but just to be clear, was that a signed Moorhouse dial on the Vacheron & Constantin watch that you are talking about? I ask because some styles that are sometimes associated with Moorhouse were not invented by or unique to him.

    I know of Ball Hampden dials and Ball Howard dials, but it is definitely known that Moorhouse worked for those companies when those dials were being made, not for Ball. There is a signed Moorhouse Elgin dial that showed up in the first Bonham's sale, and there is a moonlight product that Moorhouse painted for a Waltham Model '83 movement when he was at Howard, that is both signed and dated. (This one even has the time of day, 7:30 PM, making it clear that it was indeed a "moonlight" product.) So Moorhouse seems to have done some freelancing, or moonlighting, for awhile too, but apparently not a lot.
     
  10. Fred Hansen

    Fred Hansen Registered User
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    Clint -

    Are you referring to this one?

    Bonhams : Elgin National Watch Co. A fine open face watchNo.8497079, retailed by Webb C. Ball, Cleveland, O.

    I was the buyer of this watch and its an intriguing piece but this dial was not signed in any way on its reverse side.

    If your referring to something else at Bonhams though can you post a link as I don't remember anything else Moorhouse style in Elgin that they've sold recently.
     
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  11. beta21

    beta21 Registered User

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    Thanks all for trying to answer my questions. I find the discussions very interesting.

    If you compare my dial with that of the Elgin at Bonham's, I'm in fact not at all convinced that they were made by the same artist. There are significant differencies in the stroke of lines and the writing, c.f the endings of the words "Ball" and "Cleveland" and the angle of the fans of the 1's for instance.
     
  12. Clint Geller

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    Yes, that's the one, Fred. I had heard it was signed, but thank you for correcting the record. In any case, I'd bet a hundred dollar bill against a donut that it is a Moorhouse product. Some of his best work for Howard wasn't signed, either. Congratulations on the acquisition, and thanks for showing it again here.
     
  13. Clint Geller

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    #13 Clint Geller, Jan 9, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
    Moorhouse's work varied tremendously, beta21. However, in my 1993 Bulletin article (I had incorrectly recalled the date as 1992 in a previous post, but it was 1993), I identify six general characteristics that turn up repeatedly, but never all of them together, on Moorhouse's signed work. If any dial possesses two or more of these characteristics, I conclude that the chances are high it was painted by Moorhouse, whether or not he signed it. Those characteristics include several that are shared by both the Ball Hampden dial and Fred's Elgin dial, including the finials and cartouche around the inner rule; the elegant hour numerals - in this case, serpentine numerals, which was one style Moorhouse, among many others, often used; The watch company signature embellished with extra flourishes and brushstrokes - but very seldom the exact same embellishments; and the line decorations at the quarters of the minute track, which some have called "mulberries." [sic] These were all elements of Moorhouse's unique artistic signature. (Only the serpentine numerals, if not accompanied by any other Moorhouse features, may be ambiguous.)

    If you click on the link below, which is the pictorial catalog of the 2002 NAWCC Seminar which I chaired, and you scroll down to Theme #4, you can get a sense of the huge variety of styles Moorhouse used. My 1993 Bulletin article shows you an even wider selection.

    Howard Catalog

    Now, could someone else at Hampden, where Moorhouse was known to have worked for a year, have consciously imitated Moorhouse's style? Sure, that is always a possibility. But inasmuch as we now know that Moorhouse worked at Hampden, I think the probability is that he painted all or most of these dials himself.
     
  14. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    Clint,

    The Moorhouse dial I think I saw on a V&C was at an auction. After I dropped out Mike Loux bought it and I never saw it again. I have no idea whether it was signed but Mike evidently thought it was a Moorhouse too.

    I did not take the dial off but whoever has that watch may see this and reply.

    BTW I saw an article by Willis, who is widely regarded as the best English dial maker. He wrote that his dials, to his great disappointment, were being used in foreign watches to the UK. This is another example of great dial maker having to make a living by making dials for all comers.
     
  15. Clint Geller

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    #15 Clint Geller, Jan 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    Thanks, Jon. If Mike had that possible Moorhouse V&C dial, it is possible I might know where it is now. I will check. Perhaps the current owner may even be monitoring this thread. Well that Moorhouse-esque Ball Elgin dial, which I believe is the only one known, may well suggest that Moorhouse may have done some work for Ball. Whether he was an employee or a freelancer is not known, though. Based on known examples of his signed and dated work, Moorhouse was still working at Howard at least as late as sometime in 1892.
     
  16. Clint Geller

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    #16 Clint Geller, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    In a PM, I was just shown an image of a Ball dial on V&C movement SN 290,978 that looks very much like either a Moorhouse product, or a conscious imitation thereof. This could well be the same dial to which Jon had referred in his post. Another participant in the same conversation pointed out that this dial conforms to V&C practice of directly securing it with screws that go into the dial from behind, and he speculated that V&C may have provided the blank. (I'll let the individuals in question identify themselves, if they wish.) According to two Internet sources I checked, SN 290,978 likely would place that movement's date of production at either 1905 or 1906. Fred's Elgin movement SN 8,497,079, on which a likely Ball MH dial was found, dates to 1899, quite a few years earlier. According to his obituary in the May 1914 issue of the Keystone, Moorhouse died in 1914 at age 77, and he was still actively employed as a dial painter (once again, back at Waltham) until five days before he died. So given the evidence of both this Ball V&C dial and the Ball dial on an Elgin movement previously shown, it does appear likely that Moorhouse did some work for Ball for some period of time around 1899-1906 as either a regular employee or a freelancer. I don't have Gerit Nijssen's source handy, but my notes on his findings indicate that Moorhouse returned to Waltham sometime before June 2, 1898. I also suspect that if Moorhouse had been a regular employee of the Ball firm for over six years, we would have known long before now. The scarcity of Ball Moorhouse dials for movements other than those made for Hampden or Howard, for which Moorhouse was definitely known to have worked, suggests to me that Moorhouse probably had a freelance relationship with Ball.

    This is a great thread. It has added to our collective knowledge of Ball and of Josiah Moorhouse.
     
  17. Clint Geller

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    I need to rescind my earlier conclusion that Moorhouse painted the Ball Hampden dials himself. Reviewing my notes on Gerit Nijssen's findings, Moorhouse worked for Hampden in 1885-86, before he arrived at Howard in August of 1886, not after he left Howard. Also, the Ball Hampden dials are more uniform and somewhat simpler than most of Moorhouse's known signed work, which is something that others have noted as well. This fact suggests they could have been made by others from a template designed or influenced by Moorhouse while he was at Hampden, rather than by Moorhouse himself.
     
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  18. Fred Hansen

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    The Moorhouse signed Hampden dial I had a few years back was earlier, with 1883 date on its reverse, so perhaps he was associated with Hampden at several different periods ...

    001a-jpg.jpg

    002a-jpg.jpg

    003a-jpg.jpg

    upload_2019-1-11_18-44-1.jpeg
     
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  19. Jerry Treiman

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    I am not sure what your sources may have been, but I am not at all certain that they are accurate. When I log V&C pocketwatches that I have seen I record the serial numbers and also make note of cases and presentation dates. If I am reasonably comfortable that the case is original I know that the watch cannot have been made later than the presentation. Here are numbers and presentation dates that flank the watch & dial in question:
    271023 - 1892
    300942 - 1896
    307577 - 1900
    310155 - 1899
    313350 - 1904
    314664 - 1902

    Based on the above I would be pretty confidant that the V&C for Ball & Co. was made prior to 1900 and probably circa 1895. Thus he may have painted the V&C dial in the same time period as Fred's Elgin dial.
     
  20. Clint Geller

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    #20 Clint Geller, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    I could cite the V&C sources, but there would be little point, except perhaps to warn others. They were merely the first two to turn up on a Google search. I had assumed the source would have been V&C factory records, but apparently not. I believe your data, Jerry. It may even be that one Internet source copied the other one, since neither gave a source for their data. Other Internet sources date those serial numbers even later than 1905-06. That said, Moorhouse may still have been at Howard in 1895. The latest dated Howard MH dial I have thus far seen has a date of May 7, 1894, but Gerit had information suggesting Moorhouse might have been there as late as 1896. The following is from a note that Gerit sent me:


    He started at E. Howard in Roxbury on March 17, 1887 and remained there until 1895/96.


    Moorhouse was then “loafing” (his own words) for about three years and started back at the American Watch Co. on June 2, 1898


    Waltham Evening News, June 2, 1898 under Watch Jewels: “Josiah Moorhouse is again employed in the dial painting at the American”

    I've seen signed Howard Moorhouse dials dated as early as late 1886, and I'm not sure where Gerit got the "1895/96" date for Moorhouse's departure from Howard, but I assume he had some basis for it. During the period Moorhouse claimed he was "loafing," he may well have been doing some freelance work, as he was presumably supporting himself somehow. I continue to think, however, that if Moorhouse had been regularly employed by Ball for any significant period of time, we would see more Ball dials around with Moorhouse characteristics.
     
  21. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    #21 Clint Geller, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    Yes, I had a picture of that dial too, Fred, but I did not have a movement picture. It is a private label dial for a Hampden private label movement on which the name "Hampden" does not appear, not just a "Hampden dial." As such, one might conclude that that dial is especially likely to have been an aftermarket, freelance piece. Moorhouse testified that he worked for Hampden from November 1885 to November 1886. He did not mention any other period of employment with Hampden in his testimony. Of course, how a Rochester NY retailer would have connected with Moorhouse except through the Hampden company, I do not know. Another mystery.
     

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