Saturday, February 06, 2010

Watch Papers

I have written about watch papers in the past. Among other things, they are  circular jewelers advertisements, dust protectors, and  written records  of when a pocket watch was last oiled and cleaned.The same 18th century engravers who did bookplates (Paul Revere ,Peter Maverick etc.) also did watch papers.Finding  other watch paper collectors is always challenging so I was delighted to receive this email from Richard Newman:

 "I've been interested in watch papers for many years and cataloging all examples that I find.  I would appreciate your readers emailing pictures of their watch papers to to further this work.  There were literally thousands of fancy goods and jewelry stores that performed watch repair services in the last two hundred years, most if not all used watch papers to advertise their services.  Its nice to realize that repairers usually put their paper at the top of the stack without discarding those of others.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone and the internet/Ebay has motivated people to remove papers from old pocket watches for personal gain thereby losing a piece of history forever.  I've also seen many examples where dates have been fabricated on the reverse to enhance the appeal of the sale. 
I am not aware of any watch paper collections on display in museums or historical societies, however, many collections exist.  There has not been a comprehensive publication of watch papers since Dorothea Spear's book "American Watch Papers" published in 1952.  There have been a few articles on papers including 1) The Magazine SILVER, November - December 1980 on New England papers, 2) The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, July 1956 on Connecticut Papers, 3) Antique Collecting, Antique Collectors' Club April 2001,  and 4)  Magazine Clocks, September 2001 both of these last two are good articles on collecting watch papers.  Lastly, there are many watch paper pictures and associated small articles in the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Bulletin (see for membership information). 
Likely the earliest surviving American watch paper is contained in a pocket watch sold by Samuel Bagnall of Boston in 1740-1741.  Samuel, a listed watchmaker, worked from 1740 to 1760 and the paper could have been placed into the watch by him when sold or perhaps when it was brought to him for subsequent cleaning or repairs.  The scene in the middle displays a dog, a laborer pulling a sled of goods (perhaps hides), sundials, a tall case clock and two men in period dress.  Around the circumference is an equation of time table that the watch owner would use to set or compare the timepiece to the local sundial.

  The numbers on the rim of the paper would allow the watch owner to set or compare the time against the local sun dial.  The "instructions" are just fantastic and read: Set W (watch) Slower then y Sun, Set Wat (watch) Fafter y (then) y Sun.  ..... etc."

1 comment:

peacay said...

Your correspondent writes:
"..I am not aware of any watch paper collections on display in museums or historical societies.."

That may be true for physical repositories but the British Museum Prints Database has a large collection available online.

I posted a selection here last year.