Stewart Dawson pocket watch given by Ernest Shackleton

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by bz1lvn, Dec 7, 2014.

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  1. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

    Dec 7, 2014
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    Hello,

    I was interested in getting more information about a pocket watch given to my Grandfather by Sir Ernest Shackleton for delivering husky dogs for his ill fated expedition. See attached photos. Thanks. IMG_3021.jpg IMG_3022.jpg IMG_3062.jpg
     
  2. richiec

    richiec Registered User
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    Pictures of the watch movement will be necessary for any information on the watch itself. Stewart Dawson and Co were London gold and silversmiths at 19 Hatton Gardens EC 1(?). They were located in the same spot from at least 1910-1923 according to the London directories.
     
  3. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    Welcome to the board, bz1 :)

    I'll guess that the movement photo will be very interesting!

    Do you know if that engraved inscription is a copy of Shackleton's own handwriting? That would make it doubly important!

    Clearly you have a historically very important piece. I'm sure you have a lot of provenance for the watch already, but do you have a photo of your grandfather wearing the watch? And maybe a photo of him with Shackleton and his huskies? Perhaps that would be too much to wish for :whistle:

    Stewart Dawson & Co's first known address is 2 Ranelagh Place, Liverpool - certainly from 1873 and possibly until 1896 or later. They were shown as watchmakers at that address, They were listed as a watchmaker in an 1891 trade directory at Newgate Street, London; but there is no listing known for their supposed adress at 20 Hatton Garden, nor for their known address in Regent Street. The Regent Street address is engraved on some of their watches and they are believed to have occupied that address from about 1910-1920. I have an imported Swiss watch signed by them on the dial at their Regent St address; the watch interestingly has the words "non pareil" ("without equal") inscribed on the movement.
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Martin,

    It doesn't look quite the same as this one, but the inscription was presumably done "in the field" so to speak, so possibly by another member of the expedition.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  5. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    Good find, Graham :thumb: I am no handwriting expert, but I'd say that both signatures are by the same person! I assume the watch was machine engraved using a pantogram - the quality of the engraving certainly looks like professional work to me.
     
  6. shinytickythings

    shinytickythings Registered User

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    I notice that the lines all appear to have "u" shape troughs, and while there are some nicely done flourishes and tapered lines, the ends, and/or beginnings of many lines are rounded. All of which suggest to me that this was done with a rotary burr, not traditionally engraved. Hard to get a good enough look from these photos to be sure.

    I do agree with you, Marty, about the panto though. The overall neatness and flow of the engraving, line and letter spacing, all seem to me to indicate that or similar method.
     
  7. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    This is really thrilling! Can you share your provenance, please? The story about the dogs is fascinating.
     
  8. Kevin Scott

    Kevin Scott Registered User

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    I don't think the engraving was done by a pantogragh with a rotary bur. If you look at the inside of the cuts, you will see fine lines parallel. A rotary bur will not leave these lines.

    When engraving a shiny surface, especially silver, engravers will purposely leave the graver with a semi rough finish, so that the cuts are not shiny. This makes the engraving easier to read, and a nice contrast against the shiny background.

    Also a rotary bur can not leave lines that taper, like some of these are. And in 1914 pantograghs were not in common usage. I would think especially in England, where they had a long history of high quality engraving, and generally preferred hand work to machine work.

    I think that this was hand done, hand laid out, by a professional engraver. The graver used was not the usual square graver, or a flat also commonly used. I think the engraver used a what is called a round face graver. And was done to copy, sort of, Shackleton's handwriting.
     
  9. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    Very interesting, Kevin - thanks for the teach-in :thumb:

    Personally I would be surprised if an engraver copied Shackleton's signature; that might have been considered forgery especially in those days, and especially given the fact that the watch was being presented by Shackleton himself.
     
  10. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

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    All...thanks so much for the replies to my post. I do not have any information regarding the engraving, but find your input about it fascinating. It is one aspect of the watch that I had not really considered. I am attaching a picture of the watch movement (new term to me), a picture of some of the engravings on the watch and a picture from an english paper that shows one of the "three Canadian dog drivers" at Millwall docks on 14th July 1914. The man is not identified in the picture, but my mother's family say that it is Jon Bjornsson (J.B.) Johnson.

    The background of the watch is very interesting. I will summarize from several sources that I have. Shackleton hired the Hudson's Bay Company to oversee the collection of sled dogs for his Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition. Sandy McNab from the company in Manitoba traveled to Gimli to secure the dogs. McNab sought the advice from a hostelry man named Jack Casselman who in turn contacted Sigurjon Isfeld and J.B. Johnson. Sigurjon and J.B. were both Icelandic Canadians, Sigurjon being a farmer, fisherman and trapper and J.B. was primarily a fisherman. They traveled the western shore of Lake Winnipeg and purchased 100 of the best available dogs from locals. The dogs were individually crated and shipped by rail to Montreal along with the four men. They left for London on 22 June 1914 on the ship Montcalm. They were greeted by large crowds curious to see the Canadians and the dogs. The men were treated to 10 days of great accommodations, food and sight seeing all paid for by Shackleton. J.B. and Sigurjon were both asked to join the expedition to oversee the dogs, but both declined due to being recently married and having their first child on the way. On the day of their departure, Shackleton presented the men with engraved gold watches (by one account, however, a 2nd account states that McNab received a gold watch and the others silver). The men returned to Canada via the Empress of Britain just a few days before WWI broke out.

    I am honored to have J.B. pass the watch down to me, as he had 9 children and 22 grandchildren. He was very proud of the watch and would pull it out of his drawer and show it to me on our annual trip to Gimli

    Any additional information regarding any aspect of the watch would be greatly appreciated. Very interested as to the meaning of the markings on the inside of the back cover (lion, cats head, P, R&S, 982, 1). Also interested on any advice for care of the watch. Thanks....

    20141231_125819.jpg 20141231_130358.jpg
     
  11. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

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    MartyR,

    I replied to all of the wonderful responses that I received. Appears that I exceeded my size limit when attaching the pictures. So here is the picture of J.B. Johnson with the dogs in London. Thanks dogs millwall july 1914.JPG
     
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  12. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    What a fabulous piece of history ... with incredible detailed background :eek:

    Your latest watch photos show a full set of British hallmarks for Sterling (92.5%) silver, assayed in London in 1910, and showing that the case was made by Rotherham & Son of 27 Spon Street, Coventry. The "982" is the unique serial number of the case, and that is a very low number suggesting it was made in the early years of Rotherham's casemaking history. The "1" is a code number for the jointer, the person who assembled the case by fitting the hinges and springs - only the case maker would know which jointer the code referred to.

    That may give a big clue as to the identity of the watchmaker, because Rotherham & Son also made pocket watches in addition to cases, and created what I think was the first watchmaking factory in Britain. So the watch may have been made by them. We have some members who know a lot more about Rotherham than I do, and maybe they will be able to make a positive identification ... or not!

    On the subject of caring for the watch, my first suggestion is that you find a velvet lined pocket watch box (easy to find and cheap to buy) and put the watch in the box with a sachet of silica gel - which removes moisture from the atmosphere and will prevent the steel parts of the movement getting rusted. The sachet should be replaced maybe every year or so. That will keep the watch secure and dry. If you have any intention of running the watch, you should have it serviced (movement cleaned and oiled) perhaps every 3 - 5 years, depending on whether you keep it running a lot or a little. Your photo shows that the regulator needle is pushed right over to the "S" side of the index; this indicates that when last used the watch was running very slow (losing time) which in turn suggests that the movement wheels might be clogged up with old, dirty oil - that is best removed and replaced with nice, clean oil in a service :)

    With that sort of care, the watch should run well for another 100 years .... and then another after that.
     
  13. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi bz1,

    First of all I'd like to add my thanks to all the others here for showing us this historically important watch.

    To answer your question on the hallmarks, they show that the case was hallmarked in the London Assay Office in 1910 and was made by Rotherham & Sons at 27 Spon Street in Coventry. As this company also made watch movements, it seems most probable that they made this one, and the signature on the top plate is that of the retailer.

    The number 982 was just to identify the case during manufacture, and the 1 identified the specialist craftsman who made the hinges and assembled the case.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  14. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Snap Martin!

    I think you meant to say that the watch was running too fast, and the regulator was moved to "slow" to compensate . . .

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  15. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    Possibly I did mean that .... and possibly I failed to grasp the essentials of the "Regulator Needle Adjustment" course ... :D

    Happy new year, Graham, and everyone else here Nutjob
     
  16. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    This is such a treat to read as a Canadian and fan of polar exploration. Shakleton, and Scott before, established our image of heroic failure. I'm sure you know much about the fate of those dogs following the destruction of the ship Endurance in the ice, but for others...initially a few were shot outright as too young to participate in the forced-march of some 300 miles to a known supply depot. After three weeks of toil another 27 dogs were shot to reduce their demand on the food supplies, leaving only two teams. On March 30, less than 3 months after abandoning their ship, the last dogs were killed. It was only at this point, hovering near starvation, that they actually ate dog meat!

    Amundsen, who successfully reached the South Pole some three years earlier, was more pragmatic about his dogs and factored them into his supplies as a source of meat for both men and other dogs. He even brought two teams back alive. Scott, OTOH, made his final push to the pole with manpower alone, and we know the result.

    Your watch is a poignant reminder of the essential role that dogs played in this so-called human drama, thank-you very much for sharing :)
     
  17. paulabc

    paulabc Registered User

    Sep 28, 2009
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    Hi Kevin, this is a great story. Please ensure you record all the provenance, so that it is not lost to later generations.
    This is a typical Rotherham watch of 1910. It should have the Rotherham trademark on the dial plate of a serpent wrapped round a trident forming an R on a four pointed star, on the dial plate. If you have it serviced, try and arrange photos of the dial plate while it is dismantled.
    In 1910 Rotherhams was run by three brothers Hugh (1861 to 1939) Kevitt (1864 to 1950) and Euan (1877 to 1950), sons of John Rotherham (1838 to 1905). Their watches usually have the retailers name on the movement.
    Paul
     
  18. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

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    MartyR

    Thanks again for the additional information about the watch and the tips for care. I will seek out a good service shop in the southeastern Michigan area and follow your advice.
     
  19. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

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    More than happy to share the watch and story. I was quite happy to receive all of the background on the watch itself. Although a bit off topic of the watch, I attached a scan of a correspondance from the Hudson's Bay Company showing the names of the owners and the price that was paid for the dogs.

    Thanks again

    Dog owner and price list.jpg
     
  20. bz1lvn

    bz1lvn Registered User

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    Thanks Paul....I shall follow you advice and get pictures of the dial plate during service.
     

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