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Leonard Watch Co.

Origins

Per H.C. Brearley’s Time Telling through the Ages, the Leonard Watch Company of Boston, Massachusetts, was incorporated in 1911 for the purpose of selling and distributing watches (Appendix C, p. 249). The Leonard Watch Company watches seen to date have been products of the New Haven Clock Co. The Leonard Watch Co. may have been a subsidiary of New Haven, but certainly it could be called a private label.

Much of what follows comes from the March 1939 edition of the Orleans County (VT) Monitor (see Appendix A) and the Winter 1998 edition of Glover History, a publication of the Glover [VT] Historical Society. Other references are cited separately.

Willard C. Leonard and C. Hayden Whitney, who were cousins originally from Glover, VT purchased the Friend Soap Company, a mail order business which gave premiums for buying large quantities. Watches were in great demand as premiums, and Leonard designed one to outsell the Ingersoll watch which sold for one dollar. The Leonard Watch sold for 98 cents. The New Haven Clock Company made the watch. Thus, the Leonard Watch Co. was started with the collaboration of Leonard and Whitney, and Willard C. Leonard undoubtedly gave his name to the company. It is not entirely clear what exact role New Haven may have played in the operations of the Leonard Watch Company.

A letter dated April 25, 1913, to the H. H. Norris Hardware Co. of Childress, TX, lists on the letterhead C. Hayden Whitney as President and Willard C. Leonard as Treasurer of the Leonard Watch Company. The letter suggests that the Norris Hardware Co. ought to try selling Leonard watches. The address on the letterhead is 1 Washington St., Boston. The letter carries the signature of W. C. Leonard. (A copy of the letter is unavailable for reproduction.)

On November 6, 1914 , The Leonard Watch Co. filed an application to register a trademark. The Trademark was registered March 30, 1915. A copy of the trademark document is in APPENDIX A below. The 1914 trademark document was signed by the same C. Hayden Whitney, President of the Leonard Watch Co. whose name appears on the 1913 letter. Whitney apparently was a prominent citizen of Concord Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Year Book and City and Town Register, Issues 9-10, 1908, a C. Hayden Whitney was listed as a director of the Concord (MA) National Bank (p. 54), and as a Selectman of that city (p. 117). There seems to be no reason to doubt that this is the same man. C. Hayden Whitney is likely the Charles Hayden Whitney, Sr. mentioned here.

Chicago

While the Leonard Watch Co. apparently had its first office in Boston, in 1913 The New Haven Clock Co. persuaded Willard Leonard to assume management of its western territory, in addition to his own company. APPENDIX B below shows an invoice dated January 20, 1919. The invoice carries the 1 Washington St. address in Boston and an address of 219 W. Randolph St. in Chicago. Note the invoice is to the same H. H. Norris Hardware Co. of Childress, TX, to whom the 1913 letter was addressed. Apparently the hardware company took the Leonard Watch Co. up on their suggestion.

The EMF Electrical Yearbook, 1921, vol. 1, p. 431 indicates that the Leonard Watch Co. was operating in Chicago. It lists C. Hayden Whitney as President and Willard C. Leonard as Treasurer. The yearbook indicates that the company's Main Office was at 10 S. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL, and a Branch Office was at 1 Washington St., Boston. Note the description of the company as a “Manufacturer of luminous attachments for switch buttons, etc.” The statement that the Chicago office was the main office is a curious statement; the invoice in APPENDIX B lists the 1 Washington St. address first, as if it were the main office address.

Products

Leonard Pocket Watches were products of the New Haven Clock Co. The movements in the Leonard watches have been those depicted in Plate 57 and Plate 64, as found in the New Haven section of George E. Townsend’s book, The Watch that Made the Dollar Famous. Plate 57 watches are push to set; Plate 64 watches are pull to set. The movements are unsigned but carry patent dates attributable to New Haven. Cases on the Leonard watches can be plain or somewhat “ornate.” The dials carry the Leonard name and sometimes a model name. The words “Made in USA” are found, as well. Some of the watches have their original guarantee papers. Examples may be seen in APPENDIX C below. (Note the guarantee paper showing the so far unexplained company name "Leonard, Brown & Co.")

Closure

Certain information (listed below) lends support to a belief that the Leonard Watch Co. was closed in the early to mid-1920's, and that the New Haven Clock Co. began offering the "Leonard" brand under the New Haven label.

1. In 1922, the Leonard Watch Co. apparently withdrew from doing business in Illinois. When a corporation decides to no longer do business as a foreign entity in a particular state, it must "withdraw" its registration. This means that the corporation intends to stop doing business as a foreign entity, but it plans to continue operations in its home state. See p. 472 of The National Corporation Reporter, Vol. 64 (February 2, 1922, to July 27, 1922).

2. Willard Leonard apparently sold his business interests in July 1923 and returned to Glover. It is assumed that by "his interests," it is meant his interests in the Leonard Watch Co. The 1939 Monitor article in Appendix A states that Leonard and Whitney sold their business to the "Weston Clock Co." (Perhaps an error for Western Clock Co.?)

3. A 1924 advertisement of the Fort Dearborn Watch and Clock Co. shows a selection of pocket watches said to be "pocket timepieces of the New Haven Clock Company." Included are four Leonard Watches, one of them a Leonard Radium Wrist Watch. There is no mention of the Leonard Watch Co., and it may be assumed that the Leonard watches illustrated in the advertisement are New Haven products. A copy of the advertisement may be found in APPENDIX D below.

4. APPENDIX D also contains photos of a New Haven pocket watch called The Leonard Watch. The dial and box display the Leonard logo registered in 1915. The interior of the watch box bears the date October 14, 1925.

The Leonard Watch Co. was the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Cosmopolitan Trust Co. which was attempting to recover on a note for $15,000, dated February 16, 1920. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, rendered a verdict May 19, 1924, after reviewing a lower court's ruling on the matter. The Cosmopolitan Trust Co. closed September 25, 1920, due to heavy withdrawals of deposits. It is not now known when the lawsuit against Leonard was filed, but the matter may have gone on 3-4 years before the Supreme Judicial Court delivered its decision.

This lawsuit may well have played a role in a decision to close down the Leonard Watch Co. If New Haven was a major player in the Leonard Watch Co., perhaps after Supreme Judicial Court decision in 1924, New Haven deemed it prudent to cut its losses.

New Haven faced financial difficulties in the 1920's, due to over expansion in the periods before and immediately after WWI. The work of Richard Henry Whitehead, whose services to the company began in 1922, eventually helped the company regain better financial footing. Perhaps Whitehead himself played a role in what led to the closure of the Leonard Watch Co.

Much of this discussion and additional attachments may be found in this thread in the Message Board's American Pocket Watch forum.

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  1. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    APPENDIX A

    March 1939 Monitor Article

    Leonard Bio1.jpg Leonard Bio2.jpg


    Trademark Document

    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    APPENDIX B


    1919 Norris Hardware Invoice


    Norris Invoice.jpg



     
  3. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    APPENDIX C


    Typical Features of Leonard Watch Co. Watches


    Movements


    Plate 57

    Plate57.JPG

    Plate 64

    Plate64.JPG

    Dials

    Dial1.JPG Dial2.JPG Dial3.JPG

    Case Backs

    Case Back1.JPG Case Back2.JPG

    Guarantee Papers

    Guarantee Paper1.JPG Guarantee Paper2.JPG Guarantee Paper3.JPG

    Watches in the Glover (VT) Historical Society

    GHS Watches.jpg
     
  4. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    APPENDIX D

    1924 Fort Dearborn Watch and Clock Co. Advertisement


    NH Leonard Ad.jpg

    New Haven Leonard Pocket Watch

    Dial2.JPG Back Cover.JPG Movement.JPG Box Cover.JPG Box Date.JPG Box Inside.JPG