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

In the winter of 1844, I moved to the city of New Haven with the expectation of making my cases there.  I had fitted up two large factories in Bristol for making brass movements only the year before, and had spared no pains to have them just right.  My factory in New Haven was fitted up expressly for making the cases and boxing the finished clocks; the movements were packed, one hundred in a box, and sent to New Haven where they were cased and shipped.  Business moved on very prosperously for about one year.  On the 23d of April 1845, about the middle of the afternoon one of my factories in Bristol took fire, as it was supposed by some boys playing with matches at the back side of the building, which set fire to some shavings under the floor.  It seemed impossible to put it out and it proved to be the most disastrous fire that ever occurred in a country town.  There were seven or eight buildings destroyed, together with all the machinery for making clocks, which was very costly and extensive.  There were somewhere between fifty and seventy-five thousand brass movements in the works, a large number of them finished, and worth one dollar apiece.  The loss was about fifty thousand dollars and the insurance only ten thousand.  This was another dark day for me.  I had been very sick all winter with the Typhus fever, and from Christmas to April had not been able to go to Bristol.  On the same night of the fire, a man came to tell me of the great loss.  I was in another part of the house when he arrived with the message, but my wife did not think it prudent to inform me then, but in the latter part of the night she introduced a conversation that was calculated to prepare my mind for the sad news, and in a cautious manner informed me.  I was at that time in the midst of my troubles with Frank Merrills, had been sick for a long time, and at one time was not expected to recover.  I was not then able to attend to business and felt much depressed on that account.  It was hard indeed to grapple with so much in one year, but I tried to make the best of it and to feel that these trials, troubles and disappointments sent upon us in this world, are blessings in disguise.  Oh! if we could really feel this to be so in all of our troubles, it would be well for us in this world and better in the next.  I never have seen the real total depravity of the human heart show itself more plainly or clearly than it did when my factories were destroyed by fire.  An envious feeling had always been exhibited by others in the same business towards me, and those who had made the most out of my improvements and had injured my reputation by making an inferior article, were the very ones who rejoiced the most then.  Not a single man of them ever did or could look me in the face and say that I had ever injured him.  This feeling towards me was all because I was in their way and my clocks at that time were preferred before any others.  They really thought I never could start again, and many said that Jerome would never make any more clocks.  I learned this maxim long ago, that when a man injures another unreasonably, to act out human nature he has got to keep on misrepresenting and abusing him to make himself appear right in the sight of the world.  Soon after the fire in Bristol I had gained my strength sufficiently to go ahead again, and commenced to make additions to my case factory in New Haven (to make the movements,) and by the last of June was ready to commence operations on the brass movements.  I then brought my men from Bristol the movement makers and a noble set of men as ever came into New Haven at one time.  Look at John Woodruff; he was a young man then of nineteen.  When he first came to work for me at the age of fifteen, I believed that he was destined to be a leading man.  He is now in Congress (elected for the second time,) honest, kind, gentlemanly, and respected in Congress and out of Congress.  Look at him, young men, and pattern after him, you can see in his case what honesty, industry and perseverance will accomplish.

There was great competition in the business for several years after I moved to New Haven, and a great many poor clocks made.  The business of selling greatly increased in New York, and within three or four years after I introduced the one day brass clock, several companies in Bristol and Plymouth commenced making them.  Most of them manufactured an inferior article of movement, but found sale for great numbers of them to parties that were casing clocks in New York.  This way of managing proved to be a great damage to the Connecticut clock makers.  The New York men would buy the very poorest movements and put them into cheap O.G. cases and undersell us.  Merchants from the country, about this time, began to buy clocks with their other goods.  They had heard about Jerome’s clocks which had been retailed about the country, and that they were good time-keepers, and would enquire for my clocks.  These New York men would say that they were agents for Jerome and that they would have a plenty in a few days, and make a sale to these merchants of Jerome clocks.  They would then go to the Printers and have a lot of labels struck off and put into their cheap clocks, and palm them off as mine.  This fraud was carried on for several years.  I finally sued some of these blackleg parties, Samuels & Dunn, and Sperry & Shaw, and found out to my satisfaction that they had used more than two hundred thousand of my labels.  They had probably sent about one hundred thousand to Europe.  I sued Samuels & Dunn for twenty thousand dollars and when it came to trial I proved it on them clearly.  I should have got for damages fifteen thousand dollars, had it not been for one of the jury.  One was for giving me twenty thousand, another Eighteen, and the others down to seven thousand five hundred.  This one man whom I speak of, was opposed to giving me anything, but to settle it, went as high as two thousand three hundred.  The jury thought that I had a great deal of trouble with this case and rather than have it go to another court, had to come to this man’s terms.  The foreman told me afterwards that he had no doubt but this man was bought.  New York is a hard place to have a law suit in.  This cheat had been carried on for years, both in this country and in Europe, using my labels and selling poor articles, and in this way robbing me of my reputation by the basest means.  After this Sperry, who was in company with Shaw, had been dead a short time, a statement was published in the New York papers that this Henry Sperry was a wonderful man, and that he was the first man who went to England with Yankee clocks.  After I had sent over my two men and had got my clocks well introduced, and had them there more than a year, Sperry & Shaw, hearing that we were doing well and selling a good many, thought they would take a trip to Europe, and took along perhaps fifty boxes of clocks.  I have since heard that their conduct was very bad while there, and this is all they did towards introducing clocks.  There is no one who can claim any credit of introducing American clocks into that country excepting myself.  After I had opened a store in New York, we did, in a measure, stop these men from using my labels.

I have said that when I got up this one day brass clock in 1838, that the fourth chapter in the Yankee clock business had commenced.  Perhaps Seth Thomas hated as bad as any one did to change his whole business of clock making for the second time, and adopt the same thing that I had introduced.  He never invented any thing new, and would now probably have been making the same old hang-up wood clocks of fifty years ago, had it not been for others and their improvements.  He was highly incensed at me because I was the means of his having to change.  He hired a man to go around to my customers and offer his clocks at fifty and seventy-five cents less than I was selling.  A man by the name of J.C.  Brown carried on the business in Bristol a long time, and made a good many fine clocks, but finally gave up the business.  Elisha Monross, Smith & Goodrich, Brewster & Ingraham were all in the same business, but have given it up, and the clock making of Connecticut is now mostly done in five large factories in different parts of the State, about which I shall speak hereafter.