Read CHAPTER III of History of the American Clock Business for the Past Sixty Years‚ and Life of Chauncey Jerome, free online book, by Chauncey Jerome, on

I must now go back and give a history of myself, from the winter of 1816, to this time (1825.) As I said before, I went to work for Mr. Terry, making the Patent Shelf Clock in the winter of 1816.  Mr. Thomas had been making them for about two years, doing nearly all of the labor on the case by hand.  Mr. Terry in the mean time being a great mechanic had made many improvements in the way of making the cases.  Under his directions I worked a long time at putting up machinery and benches.  We had a circular saw, the first one in the town, and which was considered a great curiosity.  In the course of the winter he drew another plan of the Pillar Scroll Top Case with great improvements over the one which Thomas was then making.  I made the first one of the new style that was ever produced in that factory, which became so celebrated for making the patent case for more than ten years after.

When my time was out in the spring, I bought some parts of clocks, mahogany, veneers, etc., and commenced in a small shop, business for myself.  I made the case, and bought the movements, dials and glass, finishing a few at a time.  I found a ready sale for them.  I went on in this small way for a few years, feeling greatly animated with my prosperity, occasionally making a payment on my little house.  I heard one day of a man in Bristol, who did business in South Carolina, who wanted to buy a few clocks to take to that market with him.  I started at once over to see him, and soon made a bargain with him to deliver twelve wood clocks at twelve dollars apiece.  I returned home greatly encouraged by the large order, and went right to work on them.  I had them finished and boxed ready for shipping in a short time.  I had agreed to deliver them on a certain day and was to receive $144 in cash.  I hired an old horse and lumber wagon of one of my neighbors, loaded the boxes and took an early start for Bristol.  I was thinking all the way there of the large sum that I was to receive, and was fearful that something might happen to disappoint me.  I arrived at Bristol early in the forenoon and hurried to the house of my customer, and told him I had brought the the clocks as agreed.  He said nothing but went into another room with his son.  I thought surely that something was wrong and that I should not get the wished-for money, but after a while the old gentleman came back and sat down by the table.  “Here,” he says, “is your money, and a heap of it, too.”  It did look to me like a large sum, and took us a long time to count it.  This was more than forty years ago, and money was very scarce.  I took it with a trembling hand, and securing it safely in my pocket, started immediately for home.  This was a larger sum than I had ever had at one time, and I was much alarmed for fear that I should be robbed of my treasure before I got home.  I thought perhaps it might be known that I was to receive a large sum for clocks, and that some robbers might be watching in a lonely part of the road and take it from me, but not meeting any, I arrived safely home, feeling greatly encouraged and happy.  I told my wife that I would make another payment on our house, which I did with a great deal of satisfaction.  After this I was so anxious to get along with my work that I did not so much as go out into the street for a week at a time.  I would not go out of the gate from the time I returned from church one Sunday till the next.  I loved to work as well as I did to eat.  I remember once, when at school, of chopping a whole load of wood, for a great lazy boy, for one penny, and I used to chop all the wood I could get from the families in the neighborhood, moonlight nights, for very small sums.  The winter after I made this large sale, I took about one dozen of the Pillar Scroll Top Clocks, and went to the town of Wethersfield to sell them.  I hired a man to carry me over there with a lumber wagon, who returned home.  I would take one of these clocks under each arm and go from house to house and offer them for sale.  The people seemed to be well pleased with them, and I sold them for eighteen dollars apiece.  This was good luck for me.  I sold my last one on Saturday afternoon.  There had been a fall of snow the night before of about eight or ten inches which ended in a rain, and made very bad walking.  Here I was, twenty-five miles from home, my wife was expecting me, and I felt that I could not stay over Sunday.  I was anxious to tell my family of my good luck that we might rejoice together.  I started to walk the whole distance, but it proved to be the hardest physical undertaking that I ever experienced.  It was bedtime when I reached Farmington, only one-third the distance, wallowing in snow porridge all the way.  I did not reach home till near Sunday morning, more dead than alive.  I did not go to church that day, which made many wonder what had become of me, for I was always expected to be in the singers’ seat on Sunday.  I did not recover from the effects of that night-journey for a long time.  Soon after this occurrence, I began to increase my little business, and and employed my old joiner “boss” and one of his apprentices; bought my mahogany in the plank and sawed my own vaneers [sic] with a hand-saw.  I engaged a man with a one horse wagon to go to New York after a load of mahogany, and went with him to select it.  The roads were very muddy, and we were obliged to walk the whole distance home by the side of the wagon.  I worked along in this small way until the year 1821, when I sold my house and lot, which I had almost worshipped, to Mr. Terry; it was worth six hundred dollars.  He paid me one hundred wood clock movements, with the dials, tablets, glass and weights.  I went over to Bristol to see a man by the name of George Mitchell, who owned a large two story house, with a barn and seventeen acres of good land in the southern part of the town, which he said he would sell and take his pay in clocks.  I asked him how many of the Terry Patent Clocks he would sell it for; he said two hundred and fourteen.  I told him I would give it, and closed the bargain at once.  I finished up the hundred parts which I had got from Mr. Terry, exchanged cases with him for more, obtained some credit, and in this way made out the quantity for Mitchell.

The next summer I lost seven hundred and forty dollars by Moses Galpin of Bethlem.  Five or six others with myself trusted this man Galpin with a large quantity of clocks, and he took them to Louisiana to sell in the fall of 1821.  In the course of the winter he was taken sick and died there.  One of his pedlars came home the next spring without one dollar in money; the creditors were called together to see what had better be done.  The note that he had given me the fall before was due in July, and I as much expected it as I did the sun to rise and set.  Here was trouble indeed; it was a great sum of money to lose, and what to do I didn’t know.  The creditors had several meetings and finally concluded to send out a man to look after the property that was scattered through the state.  He could not go without money.  We thought if we furnished him with means to go and finish up the business, we should certainly get enough to pay the original debt.  It was agreed that we should raise a certain sum, and that each one should pay in proportion to the amount of his claim.  My part was one hundred dollars, and it was a hard job for me to raise so large a sum after my great loss.  When it came fall and time for him to start, I managed in some way to have it ready.  This man’s name was Isaac Turner, about fifty years old, and said to be very respectable.  He started out and traveled all over the state, but found every thing in the worst kind of shape.  The men to whom Galpin had sold would not pay when they heard that he was dead.  Mr. Turner was gone from home ten months, but instead of his returning with money for us, we were obliged to pay money that he had borrowed to get home with, besides his expenses for the ten months that he was gone.  This was harder for me than any of the others, and was indeed a bitter pill.  As it was my first heavy loss I could not help feeling very bad.

In the winter and spring of 1822, I built a small shop in Bristol, for making the cases only, as all of the others made the movements.  The first circular saw ever used there was put up by myself in 1822, and this was the commencement of making cases by machinery in that town, which has since been so renowned for its clock productions.  I went on making cases in a small way for a year or two, sometimes putting in a few movements and selling them, but not making much money.  The clocks of Terry and Thomas sold first rate, and it was quite difficult to buy any of the movements, as no others were making the Patent Clock at that time.  I was determined to have some movements to case, and went to Chauncey Boardman, who had formerly made the old fashioned hang-up movements, and told him I wanted him to make me two hundred of his kind with such alterations as I should suggest.  He said he would make them for me.  I had them altered and made so as to take a case about four feet long, which I made out of pine, richly stained and varnished.  This made a good clock for time and suited farmers first rate.

In the spring of 1824, I went into company with two men by the name of Peck, from Bristol.  We took two hundred of these movements and a few tools in two one horse wagons and started East, intending to stop in the vicinity of Boston.  We stopped at a place about fifteen miles from there called East Randolph; after looking about a little, we concluded to start our business there and hired a joiners’ shop of John Adams, a cousin of J.Q.  Adams.  We then went to Boston and bought a load of lumber, and commenced operations.  I was the case-maker of our concern, and ‘pitched into’ the pine lumber in good earnest.  I began four cases at a time and worked like putting out fire on them.  My partners were waiting for some to be finished so that they could go out and sell.  In two or three days I had got them finished and they started with them, and I began four more.  In a day or two they returned home having sold them at sixteen dollars each.  This good fortune animated me very much.  I worked about fourteen or fifteen hours per day, and could make about four cases and put in the glass, movements and dials.  We worked on in this way until we had finished up the two hundred, and sold them at an average of sixteen dollars apiece.  We had done well and returned home with joyful hearts in the latter part of June.  On arriving home I found my little daughter about five years old quite sick.  In a week after she died.  I deeply felt the loss of my little daughter, and every 7th of July it comes fresh into my mind.

In the fall of 1824, I formed a company with my brother, Noble Jerome, and Elijah Darrow, for the manufacturing of clocks, and began making a movement that required a case about six or eight inches longer than the Terry Patent.  We did very well at this for a year or two, during which time I invented the Bronze Looking Glass Clock, which soon revolutionized the whole business.  As I have said before, it could be made for one dollar less and sold for two dollars more than the Patent Case; they were very showy and a little longer.  With the introduction of this clock in the year 1825, closed the second chapter of the history of the Yankee Clock business.