Pocket Watches with stories to tell

CZHACK

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I bought the following pocket watch some time ago and spent many hours searching for information on the inscription without success until last weekend when I searched the Ellis Island immigration records. The obvious part is that it is a 20 jewel Vacheron Constantin Chronograph sold to the US Corps of Engineers (No 2182) in WWI. The hard part was to find Douglas Sargent Blais, Bordeaux France, USAC Fred E Richards. I found the ship manifest (and subsequent census records) that disclosed that he was born in Colorado and was an engineer on merchant ships out of New York before departing for France as part of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI. The inscription is for his return to the US from Bordeaux, France in 1919 on the US Army Tug Fred E Richards when he was 26 and the Engineer (the Captain was only 30). I saw a picture of this steam powered tug, and it is hard to believe that anyone could cross the Atlantic on such a small boat. I also found numerous references to the tug in action in Boston and New York rescues. He subsequently shipped out of East and West Coast ports and disappears from records in 1926.
 

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CZHACK

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Share your watches with stories to tell. I am sure many of us will be interested.
 

richiec

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I have a M. I. Tobias, Liverpool (not M.J.) fusee watch that was presented to my great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Capt. A. B. Brinckerhoff, from the First Troop, 7th Regiment, NYNG on Dec. 27, 1847. It was cased by the Benedict Bros. Jewelers, NYC. He was injured at the Astor Place Riots in NYC in 1847 and had to retire from business in 1852 as a result of these injuries. I will try to post my pictures. Presently the watch is out being refurbished as it appeared that it had never been serviced in 160 years.
 

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Ethan Lipsig

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I only have original owner information about several of my many pocket watches.

One is a very thin platinum and diamond Cartier, elegantly monogrammed "AEL" for A.E. Lefcourt, from whose grandson I bought the watch. Lefcourt was a Jewish immigrant who came to this country in the 1890's and grew prosperous in the garment business in New York. From that, he turned to real estate, and became perhaps the greatest real estate tycoon of the 1920's in New York. He built something like 50 skyscrapers, many of which still bear his name, e.g., the Lefcourt National building on 5th Ave. across from the NY Public Library. I have attached a picture of the Lefcourt Colonial Building. Unfortunately, Lefcourt's real estate empire was highly leveraged. It collapsed with the '29 market crash, and he was ruined. Lefcourt died nearly broke in the early '30s. His Cartier pocket watch appears to be one of the few remnants of great wealth he passed to his heirs.

The other watch I have history on is an elegant (but difficult to photograph) onyx, diamond, and white gold IWC, monogrammed "CKB" for C.K. Boettcher. The Boettchers were one of the great pioneer families in Colorado. They gave their mansion to the state, and it still serves as the governor's residence. Among many other properties, Boettcher owned the Brown Palace hotel, where he resided. Indeed, this watch came from a jeweler located in the Brown Palace.
 

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CZHACK

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Iowa - Thanks.

Richiec - Your a lucky man. I would dearly love to have a pocket watch from an ancestor and I am partial to Tobias (Have you seen the excellent articles on the Tobias family in the NAWCC Bulletins of October and December 1992 by Michael Edidin?).

Ethan - Quality pieces and stories of extreme success and failure - they were tough times (I just finished The Worst Hard Time about the 30s out West).

Mike
 

richiec

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CZHACK said:
Iowa - Thanks.

Richiec - Your a lucky man. I would dearly love to have a pocket watch from an ancestor and I am partial to Tobias (Have you seen the excellent articles on the Tobias family in the NAWCC Bulletins of October and December 1992 by Michael Edidin?).

Ethan - Quality pieces and stories of extreme success and failure - they were tough times (I just finished The Worst Hard Time about the 30s out West).

Mike
Maybe I should see If I can get reprints from the archives. That watch was what got me interested in working on watches a couple of years ago. Then I got into Cross and Beguelin Centennials because my ancestor was the founder and partner and I started collecting them and found that parts are only available if you can get another watch with a good part, unfortunately they were all prone to staff failures. Of the 14 I have, only 4 are in working condition and one just broke a mainspring last night while winding it, rats. I am thinking about buying a bundle of Swiss staffs and hoping for the best. Anyhow, I love watches with a story, it kind of brings the watch to life.
 

CZHACK

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Richiec - Tell me the movement number and I will provide information on date etc from the articles. Mike
 

CZHACK

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Richiec,

I highly recommend the articles on the Tobias Family and M. I. Tobias is prominent (approximately 70 pages between the two articles). A graph of production dates would indicate your watch was produced circa 1845 (and from photos the balance cock style and balance seem about right for that date). One photo illustrates the same long spring (ratchet) as yours and calls it a "Liverpool Runner". I am not an expert so please confirm when you get a chance. Enjoy.

Mike
 

richiec

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When I get it back from Ed Ueberall, he is servicing it, I will know better. He told me this watch had a stopwatch feature in it as well. The date period you mention is correct as Mr. Brinckerhoff was in the 7th Regiment from 1841 until 1852 when he retired from business and the regiment due to his injuries in the Astor Place Riots of 1847. I have his spun brass dress epaulets, cloth field epaulets, hat badge, some buttons, etc from the regiment as well. This regiment was called the Silk Stocking Brigade due to the wealth of the members. They went to Washington in April 1861 as the first volunteer militia to show up for the civil war and brought all of their own equipment, tents etc along with plenty of food delicacies, a full band, etc. They paid their own way. they only served about 40 days then went back to NYC where many of the members were recruited as officers in other outfits. They became the 107th regiment during WWI. They paid to have their armory on Park Ave in NYC built themselves. I won't bore you with anymore details. Thanks for the info, I will try to get a hold of those articles.
 

doug sinclair

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Here is one from my wife's family, on her mother's side. It is an 18-size, 3/4 plate Elgin, S#8579963, grade 240, 8th model, 19-jewels, lever set, single roller, B W Raymond. This watch belonged to Joseph Lucas 1835-1908 , my wife's great grandfather, who was a Sergeant in the Union Army during the U S Civil War. After he left the army, he was a Sheriff in Paducah County, Kentucky. After that, he went farming in Kansas by which time he was married, with children. After suffering the ravages of several tornados (Toto, where are you!), his wife was concerned about a lot of things, especally the children. So they pulled up circa 1895, and moved to Spangle, a small town in Washington Territory where they took up farming again. It was a comment of the wife of the town's founder, a fellow named Spangle, that "It really wasn't much of a town to waste all that good farm land on." Joseph was also established in Spangle as a hardware merchant in 1903, at which time he bought the Elgin. The watch is entirely original, and certainly would never have qualified for use on a railroad. Kent Singer informs me that this watch was from the second run of this movement. The Elgin book indicates it was one of 68,000 produced over 62 runs. It is one of the first watches that ladies comment on whenever the watch is exhibited. I wonder if the pink dial with the underglaze silver and gold trim, and the Louis 14th hands have anything to do with that?

Doug
 

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RON in PA

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Doug, your B.W. Raymond would have qualified as a RR watch if it had the appropriate dial and hands and assuming it is lever set.
 

RON in PA

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Looked-up your watch on the Elginwatch.org page and came up with an 1899 manufacture date, first run of the model 240. I think that the double roller requirement came a bit later, toward the end of the first decade of the 20th century. One of Kent's and Ed's RR watch articles has it as 1908.

This is speculation, we know that in that time frame movements and cases were bought separately and married by the watchmaker, is it not possible that when Mr. Lucas purchased the watch he also chose a dial and hands to suit his fancy?
 

Kent

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Actually, the "Veritas Model" aka "1901 Model" aka "eighth Model" was introduced in March 1901. Looking at the description in the Press Release (in the "Articles" section of Waynes website), it can be seen that the 23-jewel Veritas grade No. 214 was fitted with a "... straight line double roller escapement with steel escape wheel: ..." while the 21-jewel Veritas grade No. 239 and the 19-jewel B.W. Raymond grade No. 240 were described as merely haveing a "... straight line escapement with steel escape wheel: ..."

The "Technical Documents" section of Waynes website has scans of production specifications and notes excerpted from the Elgin Mastger Records. Unfortunately, Wayne didn't include those for the grade No. 240, but the Notes for the similar Grade No. 274 (21-jewels, 18-size, 3/4-plate, hunting-case) shows on the third line from the top "10513001 First (No. 274) movement with Double Roller. Although one can't be exact by doing this, one could guess that the grade No. 240 was upgraded to double roller at about the same time. As you go running to look up the date to which serial number 10513001 corresponds, remember that there is a year or two error in the serial number vs. date tables for that period.

Ron is correct that around the 1906-1908 timeframe, the rules started changing such that watches built to be accepted into railroad time service (which the No. 240 certainly was - as was noted in the 1901 press release), had to be fitted with a double roller.


Regarding the dial and hands, Greg Frauenhoff once noted that there was some evidence that watches bearing fancy dials (presumably with the corresponding hands) were being used in railroad time service in the late 19th century.
 

doug sinclair

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Kent & Ron,

Thankyou for your interest in Joseph's Elgin. He would have only used this watch for a short time owing to the fact that he died in 1909. Even so, the case shows some brassing. I would love to know what sort of use it had after his death. Joseph and his wife had many children, approximately six who survived to adulthood. Joseph's wife would have inherited the watch at his death. One of the children, Alice, likely inherited the watch at her mother's death. Alice was married to a fellow named Grant Ellidge. They continued to live in Spangle. It is likely that Alice's husband Grant used the watch for a number of years. My wife's grandfather brought the watch and many other family treasures back from Spangle in 1952. The watch and these treasures were given to my late mother in law at that time, so the watch was not used after 1952. My late mother in law gave it to me in the late '70s for safe keeping, looking to the day that our son would inherit it. That will happen, but it's gonna be a while!

Doug S.
 

CZHACK

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Thought I would share my latest find on this D-Day weekend. As noted at the start of this thread, Douglas Sargent Blais was a young engineer when he returned from WWI on the steam powered Army tug Fred E. Richards (and inscribed details on his watch). Imagine crossing the Atlantic in this tug.
 

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MartyR

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The watch that turned me into a collector was a Penlington & Batty presented to Arthur Appleby in 1898.

Arthur Appleby was born in 1843 in the village of Enfield, Lancashire. the only son of Joseph Appleby who owned a corn mill in the village. He played cricket for Enfiled, and then for Lancashire from 1866 to 1887 (as an amateur, of course!). Finally, he played many times for W G Grace's England team, as their main strike bowler although he was also a very useful batsman - the photo shows Appleby (second from left standing) in the England team in 1887.

The inscription on the watch reads "Arthur Appleby from his friends O.D. & J.B. 1898". The friends are Oswald Dobell (a Director of Appleby's milling company) and John Berry (the man who coached Appleby in his early days at Enfield, or perhaps Berry's son). The watch appears to have been presented on the occasion of Appleby's retirement from his business, becasue in that year of 1898 he departed on a two-year tour of India, returning in 1900.

Sadly, he then died in 1902 at the age of 59. He had been a successful businessman, a County Councillor and Alderman of Lancashire, Chairman of the Lancashire Bench, but above all a famous and much loved cricketer.
 

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doug sinclair

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These two are from my collection. I know nothing about the square private label one with a dial marked Murphy's, Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada). I bought it at auction along with its original sharkskin fitted presentation case with a satin liner in the lid, also marked Murphy's Saskatoon, because my late father was the watchmaker at that store at the time it was sold (some time in the 1930s)! The movement is a 15-jewel Omega which runs, but has had some rather poor repairs done to it (darn). I like the gold filled Art Deco case back which is in wonderful condition. No idea who owned it.

The other one is a virtual NOS Waltham Colonial in a 14 karat case that was presented to a fellow by a Winnipeg (Manitoba) company in 1937, after 25 years with the company. He never used it! It to came to me in its original fitted leatherette Waltham presentation case with a linen sachet with the case maker's trade mark on it (Keystone). It even has its original cardboard outer shell.
 

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Jon Hanson

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Beautiful "fresh" items; thanks for posting.
 

doug sinclair

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This nice GF hunter case by the Montreal Watch Case Co. (25 yr) is engraved on the cuvette G T B C, 1st prize,, Single Canoe 1903, A. W. Bayne. The movement is not original to the case, sadly. Owing to the Canadian origins of this case, I think it is safe to say the the watch was awarded for an event held in Canada. I know of no way to research what the initials stand for, nor any information about A. W. Bayne. What puzzles me is how this wonderful hunter case lost its original movement, and became transplanted to replace the original Elgin case. I guess this story is more of a mystery story. And there are plenty of watches out there that offer clues that tell a partial story, just like this one. It would be great to fill in the blanks on some of these, wouldn't it?
 

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Kent

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Perhaps the case was more important to the owner than the movement. Suppose around WWI the original movement needed serious repair and watchmaker suggested that newer, and perhaps better, movement be purchased instead. At this time there were good deals on quality hunting-case movements.

Here's an Example of some of the thinking at the time.
 

doug sinclair

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Kent,

It occurred to me after I posted that one that Bayne may have been so proud of his prize that he took it with him on a subsequent canoe trip!!!! Ergo! A spill, and a badly rusted watch!
 
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