Some comments on Dial and tablet painters from Erastus Hodges day journals

Discussion in 'Reverse Glass and Dial Painting' started by Jim DuBois, Dec 4, 2017.

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  1. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
    Gibbs Literary Award NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Jun 14, 2008
    Magnolia, TX
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    You may find some of the following to be of interest. Much of this is covered in better detail in Theodore Hodges book about his ancestor Erastus Hodges. While most of this information is tied directly to Torrington CT, not Bristol, they are about 25 miles apart and they shared many materials suppliers. Many day journals exist from Erastus, commencing in 1781 and continuing to 1847. I am not aware of any other such detailed histories available to us today. And I include a lot on dial painters as they and tablet painters were on occasion one and the same... and I trust this information far more than mag articles even if they are in the NAWCC archives....and this book is available cheap from the NAWCC....I highly recommend it....

    Charlotte Colt and Mary Leach of Torringford painted clock faces and clock glass, respectively, working in the shop and boarding at the North residence in 1825-26. Erastus Hodges paid the cost of their board, at the same rate as for male employees. By January 19, 1826, Charlotte Colt had painted 506 clock faces, for which she was paid at the rate of 12½ cents a face for half of them, and 14½ cents for the other half. There is no explanation in the records for the 2-cent difference, nor is there any record of Mary Leach's glass painting production.

    * Norris North, at the time of his bankruptcy, owed $60 to Charlotte Colt, which suggests that she had been employed by him before 1825. Mary Miller, a major creditor ($250), was also probably a painter. A Mary Miller painted clock faces in 1812 for Lamson, Sperry, and Co. of Waterbury. They are probably the same person and may be the same person as Mary Leach?

    Electa Loomis (1807-31), Erastus Hodges's sister-in-law, was also a painter of glass tablets. She wrote to Erastus from Waterbury on July 1, 1825:

    I now write to inform you that I can be spared from Mr. L. 's about the 12th of this month, and if you want me please let me know very soon for I have had other calls and have refused to engage until I heard from you. I should not like at present to agree to do more than two hundred. I suppose that Mary [Leach ?} will have finished at Mr. North's then or before. I am sorry to hear that Laura's health is no better. My love to the family. Yours, etc. Electa Loomis.

    The Mr. L. in the letter probably refers to Mark Leavenworth. Electa returned to Torrington before 1827 and was paid by Erastus at the rate of one shilling (about sixteen cents) per pane for 488 completed clock glasses. She gave up her painting career before 1830 to marry Dr. Asahel Grant and moved with him to Vernon, New York.

    Charlotte Colt and Mary Leach of Torringford painted clock faces and clock glass, respectively, working in the shop and boarding at the North residence in 1825-26. Erastus Hodges paid the cost of their board, at the same rate as for male employees. By January 19, 1826, Charlotte Colt had as tablet painter was taken over by Hannah Beach (1803-80). Erastus Hodges's contract with Hannah Beach and the subsequent accounting's are in the end pages of the day-books for 1827-30 and 1830-32. The agreement of April 8, 1828, was a typical Hodges contract, stipulating that she was to paint 1,000 clock glasses for $130 and be recompensed by seven clocks at nine dollars each, goods at the Hodges store to the value of $33.50, and cash for $33.50. By October 1828, Hodges had received 387 painted panes, 134 of which were the completion of an earlier contract (not preserved). The last of the 1,000 tablets was delivered on October 2, 1829. Six hundred sixty-eight of these had gold leaf borders for which Hannah was paid thirteen cents each, and 344 had bronze borders for which she received nine cents each.

    The terms Like the other clock glass painters, Hannah Beach had a busy artistic career. She began working after her father died in August 1827 and continued after marrying Henry L. Judd on November 10, 1830.35 Henry Judd's clock making activities in Torrington are discussed in the next chapter.

    Hannah Beach's 1828 contract with Erastus Hodges had been an agreement between two individuals, specifying her duties and the terms of payment. Hannah at that time was a single woman. A contract for the services of a married woman was another matter altogether, as seen in the arrangement by which Eliza Cowles became employed as a painter of clock faces. Eliza Talmadge Cowles (1803-after 1877) was a sister of Eliott Talmadge, a Torrington clockmaker. On March 5, 1828, she married Albro W Cowles (1799-1866), the only child of Elijah and Chloe Cowles, a hatter and bonnet-maker respectively, who lived on one corner of Torrington Green. Albro was a woodcutter, carpenter, and joiner, who worked at various times in the clock shop under Norris North and later under Erastus Hodges's management. The Hodges-Cowles contract is on the end pages of the 1827-30 daybook: Cowles is to figure, ornament, and finish complete 1,000 clock faces equally in every respect to the four clock faces now agreed upon by Cowles and Hodges as a pattern, and in addition, every fifth-minute dot is to be gilded.

    The work is to be done by Cowles's wife or some other experienced workman, and none of it is to be done by apprentices and finished as fast as she can do them. Hodges is to find the figure plate, all the gold leaf, and the paints. Cowles is to find all the tools, etc., and take the clock faces at Norris North's shop and return them there when they are finished, and Hodges is to pay him 16 cents each for the same so finished and delivered as follows: $50 in cash, five or six clocks at $9. each, and the rest of what Cowles and his wife owe on the book and in goods from his store. Hodges is discharged from this contract any time the work is not performed as well as the four agreed on as a pattern.

    Poor Mrs. Cowles! Married women simply had no legal right to make contracts. If the tone of the contract sounds picky, it is because clock faces (and the glass tablets below the dial) were key selling points of a clock. Erastus Hodges was concerned not only with the efficient manufacture and assembly of the clock movement but with the appearance of the product. As the seller of clocks, he knew that many of the customers had no idea of how a clock worked, and probably had no need for one, but could be persuaded to buy one if it appealed to them aesthetically.

    Eliza Cowles seems to have completed the 1,000 clock faces within the following two years. Albro Cowles was paid cash at various times in 1830.

    Albro Cowles, whose wife had been painting clock dials on Norris North's clocks since 1829, and who had worked in the clock shop himself, was rehired by Erastus Hodges. According to his contract, he was paid $300 per year and was to board himself and put in "12 hours for a day's work, and if he does all the engine work he is to have one dollar per month more." Cowles was to receive "one-half cash and one-half goods, with what flour his family wants for consumption." Perhaps this meant that the flour was gratis. Mrs. Cowles continued to paint dials, and Albro worked past his contract year.

    Warren Loomis also resumed his function as principal glass setter and was credited with putting the glass into 926 doors between May 1831 and June 1833. In the fall of 1831, he planed 500 clock faces which he delivered to Eliza Cowles for painting and "fitted 1,056 faces." Starting in August 1830, when bronze stenciled clocks were coming into vogue, Warren did the "finishing" of the cases.

    Hopkins and Alfred were making clocks there by June 1831-wooden movement shelf clocks which resembled the Eli Terry model, rather than the Norris North version. Clock making continued until about 1838, a time when the nationwide depression forced many clock-makers out of business. During the relatively short period of clock making at the Harwinton shop, Edward Hopkins walked from his home on the Northfield side of the river and crossed to the factory, where Augustus Alfred met him after a short walk from his home on the Harwinton side. In the clock making years, Augustus Alfred's sisters, Louisa Sperry and Cynthia Gunn, painted the clock dials.
    George Nelson and PatH like this.
  2. PatH

    PatH Registered User
    NAWCC Fellow NAWCC Member

    Dec 5, 2014
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    Great information, Jim! Thanks for sharing. I just ordered the book, and am looking forward to reading more.
  3. David 62

    David 62 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 28, 2004
    Thanks for organizing and transcribing the information from the Hodges book.Too bad records are not extant that list the materials that the painters used as in pigments and mediums.

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