Standard / Standard American Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa. Backround, Dates, Grade descriptions and observations

Rick Hufnagel

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Private label watches are a personal favorite to collect. A while back, a Hampden appeared as well as a couple Illinois with labels from my hometown. It has been a fascination ever since, about 2 years or so... probably longer. Here is an introduction to the Standard (and Standard American) watch co of Pittsburgh Pa.

Backround Information
After a recent discovery thanks to a fellow NAWCC member and a bit of research, we know the proprietor of this fine enterprise. James Hampton (J.H.) Johnston born December 16, 1836 and died June 28, 1917. He grew up in Waynesboro Pa and learned the gunsmith trade from his father. When he moved to Pittsburgh he was made master armorer at the Allegheny Arsenal during the Civil War. Afterwards he opened "The Great Western Gun Works". This was a mail order company that built and sold not only guns, but a wide variety of sporting goods. Included is ammunition, fishing tackle, targets and much more. The firearms collectors have a wealth of information on the subject and if interested, try a couple web searches. Just to show the variety, how about an 1881 add for Swedish Insect Powder. He was obviously willing to expand and try to sell new things.
1881incectpowder.png

The company moved multiple times within the business district of downtown Pittsburgh, but we are going to focus on 169 Smithfield Street. From 1877 to 1889 J.H. Johnston occupied this space. In 1884 Pittsburgh changed the street addresses to reflect cross streets by block, changing 169 Smithfield to 621.

This Map is from 1889, courtesy of Historic Pittsburgh. Notice the black dot in front of the Bailey Farrell & Co, this is 621(169) Smithfield where J.H. Johnston's company was located. Bailey Farrell was a plumbing manufacturer who occupied the space from 1889-1904. Unfortunately this whole block, known at the Lewis Block at the time because of its developer, was demolished in the early 1910's to make way for a department store. The magnificent building is still there today, and is called the "Heinz 57 Building".
jhjmap.png
The next map below is from 1882 and shows the same block. Johnston would again be the third unit in from Strawberry way, only this time if you enlarge the map, you will see the earlier street numbers.
1882 .png


This location is so important because it is the link that connects the dots between The Great Western Gun Works and the Standard American Watch Co. The following advertisement, courtesy of google books, is taken from February 1884 "Express Gazette". It is the first and only I've seen with the street address shown, and it matches The Great Western Gun Works.
feb1884expressgazette.png

Below is the listing for The Great Western Gun Works from an 1884 Pittsburgh directory, courtesy of Donslist.org

Just in case there is still a bit of doubt, the Standard American Watch Company has not appeared in any directory searched from the era. After the street addresses had been renumbered in 1884, 169 Smithfield ceased to exist because the new 100 block only ranged from 100-116, so the watch company cannot be anywhere but with J.H. Johnston. The last bit of further proof leads us into the next segment. Frequently seen together in magazines and newspapers, the Great Western Gun Works and Standard American Watch Company had advertisements all over the country!

Standard American Watch Company
Advertisements, Dating and Name Change


The earliest advertisements seen are from late 1879 and the latest are from mid-1886. Its obviously safe to say that the company existed at least 7 years between those dates. Lets take a look at a few of these ads, talk about the contents and the name changing from "Standard American" to just "Standard".

This Advertisement is one of the earliest found. It is from the October of 1879 issue of American Agriculturist, courtesy of google books. My apologies for blurry images, it's how they appear.
The ad states:
Watches! Ladies', Gents', and Boys. Fine American Watches, $5 to $500. Catalog free. Address Standard American Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa.

Next up is a very common one seen for a year or so around 1880. Notice it is directly attached to the Great Western Gun Works Advertisement. It is from the July 1880 "Littletons Living Age" magazine, courtesy of google books. Take note of the Elgin Watches heading, because we will discuss that in the next section.
1880 living edge.png

Next up is probably the most common advertisement from the company. It is from the March 1885 edition of the "The Bee Keepers Magazine" courtesy of google books again.

Here is where we talk about the name change. The January of 1886 edition of Harpers Weekly shows the same ad as the last, but the name has been shortened to Standard Watch Co.

(courtesy google books)
With this example, and others observed, the name seems to have switched sometime in 1885. Was there overlap...? probably, nothing ever transitions instantly. The evidence supports mid to late 1885.

One last interesting clip from the 1884 express gazette, courtesy google books again.
1884 express gazette 2.png
You, YES YOU can be an agent and sell Standard American watches. Zero money invested and large profits! Get out there and sell these watches today!
I don't know about you all, but I'm sending for my starter kit.

To sum up, the advertisements range from 1879-86. Personally I believe the company was around a little later than 1886, but cannot yet find proof. "Standard American" became "Standard" sometime in the latter half of 1885 and there is quite likely overlap before and after. They advertised that they manufactured their own watches to save the customer money, but in all reality they cased movements and shipped them out. Already having precision tools and the facilities for a mail order gun business, J.H. Johnston would have had no problem expanding to watches.

The Watches (Manufacturers and Grades)

The 1880 advertisement above states ELGIN WATCHES! In my own opinion this is very unlikely, or only a small amount were sold before ENWCo shut that down. There have been no sightings of an Elgin watch labeled for the Standard American Watch Company. Could they exist? Sure! I'm not holding out hope, and here is why. (Please prove me wrong!!!!)

Another article that I've started (but not finished) details the events in 1869-70 that led the National Watch Company to take the Howard Brothers of New York to court. The Howard Brothers are better known for their American Watch Co movements (think nickel model 57 stem-winder). They were a mail order C.O.D. company that had advertised Elgin watches in 1869. Many fakes were circulating at the time and National Watch Co wanted to put a stop to this C.O.D. Shenanigans. Long story short, Elgin took a strong stance against C.O.D. mail order companies, and their ads and cards in period literature reflect that. This is from a "Putnam's Magazine" circa 1870 courtesy of google books.
1870elginCOD.png

So with that out of the way, lets take a quick look at one more company that has been frequently and wrongly associated with the Standard American Watch Co of Pittsburgh, Pa.

There are many, many different jewelers and companies that used "Standard" in their marketing. The Standard Watch Co, New York (Not the U.S. Manufacturer New York Standard) is always lumped into conversations about Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh and with the help of a fellow researcher and all around awesome guy, we finally have the proof needed. This advertisement is for the Standard Watch Co, New York circa 1884. It shows that these Swiss watches are a product of Max Freund & Co! A totally separate venture.
Image Courtesy Of Bila Wirriganwalters.

Finally, we are able to put this to bed and say these are in no way, shape or form related to the Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa.
I actually bought an example just to show for the purposes of this thread and future presentations, so of course your going to have to look at it




These Swiss Standard, New York watches are pretty nifty in their own right, and would make an interesting article, but we are going to finally move on to the fun stuff here.


In Scouring the internet, the NAWCC message board, watching Ebay, rummaging through mart tables and talking with collectors we have observed a handful of watches with the Standard (American) Watch Company Pittsburgh Pa Label. (Not Very Many) These Include Hampden, Illinois, Lancaster and Waltham. Originally I had a page with some watch grades jotted down, trying to figure out the marketing scheme of this label, but a recent find (Thanks to NAWCC member Fred H!) took all of the guessing out of the grading system. We were certainly on the right track, but now it is known for sure what the grades are named, and with a description of each. Below are two actual pamphlets from The Standard American Watch Co!!!
These fantastic images are posted with permission from the "American Pocket Watch 1978 Price Indicator, Identification and Price Guide" by Roy Ehrhardt



You can see on these pages the Illinois and Lancaster movements. The grades given to the watches describe a specific quality of watch, and whatever manufacturers were in stock and being used at the time is what you got! As an example, the Crescent has been seen as a Lancater and Hampden. The Nation has been seen as a Waltham and an Illinois. By the way, that Elgin looking movement under the Triumph grade is a Swiss fake. Barrel bridge gives it away every time.

The earlier sheet named Standard American Watch Co shows a Lancaster movement. It seems when the name changed to Standard Watch Co, they went with mostly Illinois watches.

There has been only one example that has found its way into the collection so far. This is a Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa "Clipper" It is an 11 jewel Illinois grade 2, model 3, serial number 688298.


It is perfectly normal for these watches to have unsigned dials. There has not been one seen yet labeled for the company. The "Clipper" shown is a later watch from the company. Its one of the more common ones, but none of these really show up all that often.

This is where I beg and plead for any fellow collectors to help out with observations! It would be great to collect images of all the grades here and build a list of actual watches and their grades against the Standard Watch Co grades shown in the sheets above. After some observations and additions, we can possibly compile a sheet to show this!

PLEASE PLEASE add any watches to this thread. If you have posted them before please re-post or post a link. Anything you have about the company can help! Watches, parts movements, parts of movements, literature, advertisements, ect. ect. If you have read something here and can prove me wrong, please do! Any of the private label collectors out there have any recorded I would love to know as well. Anything helps the cause. If you don't want to post publicly, send a private message or email.



Thank you so much for reading all of my madness. Apologies for the length of this thread but its been a long time coming and this first part is also going to be a blog post... just wanted to get everything included.

Have a good day! Questions, comments anything at all just give a shout!
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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great, a bunch of pictures didn't work.... sorry... hopefully we can get it fixed up shortly

edit: fixed the pictures, if any do not work please let me know
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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I'll add two more observations that I don't think are owned by members here.

Unfortunately when I switched from a notebook to a computer, I lost a small number of other observations....

Hampden #214853 is marked Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh PA, Crescent and is a 15 jewel, model 2 (stemwind) Lafayette. Nickel

Illinois #829770 is marked Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh PA, Nation and is an IWC grade, 7 jewel model 3 (openfaced stemwind with winding square). Gilt. Unsigned roman SS dial

Edit: a couple more

Hampden 214383 marked Standard Watch Co, Crescent is a 15 jewel Lafayette model 2 Nickel

Illinois 697956 is marked Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh pa, Clipper and is a grade 2, Gilt, 11 jewel model 3 with key square.
 
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PatH

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Great research, Rick (and others), and well written!! Looking forward to findings that might be provided by others.
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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Thanks Pat! This is the perfect example of how great the NAWCC Forums are, along with all the knowledgeable members who contribute.

I went from a handful of notes and some observations accumulated over a couple years, to having a complete background and grade list in a matter of no time!

Thank you to everyone! I'm excited to see where it goes from here.
 
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Bila

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Here is an Advert that I found today, it is for the "Standard Watch Co, New York" not the Pittsburgh, PA., Entity selling American Watches:???:

1936-01-03 Eureka Mirror 'Standard Watch Co New York Selling Illinois, Waltham, Elgin and Dueb...png
 
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Bila

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I am pretty sure that date is correct mate, very possibly taken over by another Entity and trading under the same name or maybe someone else altogether. Also found an employment advert for the "American Standard Watch Co" (exact wording) with a Waltham Address, so I wonder who that is as well:???:
 

Rick Hufnagel

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So the observation spreadsheet has 18 listings.

5 "Nation" grade
3 openfaced Illinois IWC
1 Hunter Illinois IWC
1 Waltham Hunter Sterling

5 "Clipper" grade
4 openfaced grade 2 illinois
1 Keywind grade 2 illinois


3. "Eclipse"
2 openfaced 101 illinois 16J
1 openfaced 102 illinois 16J


3 "Crescent"
2 Hampden hunter Lafayette
1 Lancaster KW


1. "Acme"
Lancaster KW


1. Ungraded
Openfaced Illinois grade 65


Allot of these are scattered around the forums here. Will dig for links at some point.
 

Fred Hansen

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Some from my Illinois private label notes ...

279526 - Standard Watch Co., Triumph
324551 - Standard Watch Co.
503387 - Standard Watch Co.
685663 - Standard Watch Co., Clipper
697494 - Standard Watch Co., Clipper
829633 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
829712 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
829760 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
829811 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
839255 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
839633 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
899234 - Standard Watch Co., Nation
899255 - Standard Watch Co., Nation​
 

Rick Hufnagel

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Thanks Fred, I'll update spreadsheet and post it.

Wow I ran that first one, a 13 (maybe 15?) jewel nickel 5th pinion grade 102! That's gotta be a hard to find bugger! No wonder I had not seen a triumph. Haha. Thankfully it's not a Swiss fake Elgin like in the advertisement above.

One thing about this label, they used quality American watch movements.

Thanks so much! I'm looking forward to going through the rest of them this evening.
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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here is the current observation sheet. It will update every time a watch is added.

With the help of a few members, I tried various ways of posting the spreadsheet and nothing really worked but the link. If it doesn't work or if someone really hates it, just yell and we will just type all the observations out in the thread periodically. Hopefully someone finds this as exciting as I do. Thanks to everyone for helping so far! These watches are few and far between, but if anyone finds one and wants to help the cause, please post them in the thread so that I can add them! If you don't want your SN shared or don"t want to post publicly, please P.M. or Email me if that is acceptable.

To explain the fields:
SA Grade is the grade given on the movement by Standard/Standard American
S/SA denotes the company name on the movement, Standard or Standard American
Manuf is who made the movement
Reg is what regulator it has

i think the rest are easy to understand, any questions just ask!
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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1980 Ehrhardt Price Indicator, page 61

278673 (serial number transcription error in book)
Hampden model 1(KW), grade 71, 11 jewel
Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa, Clipper
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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forgot one, H&A Hampden Book, page 15
Standard Watch Co, Pittsburgh Pa, Acme
81622. 15 jewels, Key wind Hampden

It's a weird grade that I cant 100% identify but have seen a few now. Maybe a late unadjusted Perry with a new style key guard, or just a Lafayette with blue screws. Hard to tell. Chalk it up as a private label.
 

Rick Hufnagel

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In the 1882 J.H. Johnston catalog there is an advertisement for Standard American Watch Co. Same address as the gun company.
20210206_232508.jpg
20210206_232851.jpg

This catalog is a reprint from Cornell Publications LLC, and if you are interested in guns they reprint an incredible amount of material for sale. Nice to work with also. Cornell Publications - World's Largest Old Gun Catalog & Manual Reprinter

In the 1888 catalog there are no watch advertisements.

Likewise, the 1872 catalog doesn't have any watches either. I did not think it would, but got one by mistake... So just wanted to include that info.

Last thing, the observation sheet is now linked to the first post and you can view it without downloading. It will update everytime a watch is added. The link provided a few posts back probably won't work anymore, sorry it's a learning process!

Have a good day everyone! Keep this thread in mind and if anything is spotted, please let me know!
 
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