Origins

Mozart Watch Co. - New York Watch Co. - New York Watch Manufacturing Co. - Hampden Watch Co.

It is necessary to start in 1864 to discover the origin of the Hampden Watch Co. The seed was sown by a man who would, in the end, not have any actual association with Hampden; Donald Joaquin Mozart. Mozart was born in Italy in 1818 and emigrated to the US with his parents at the age of three.

 

According to Mozart specialist Jon Hanson, his father was a watchmaker in Italy before emigrating to the US, whereupon he carried on his trade in Boston, Mass. Six years after arriving in Boston, Donald was enticed, by the promises of some bright shells, on board a vessel lying at Boston harbor. For the next seven years he was forced to sail around the world until he eventually managed to escape and return home to Boston. When he did get back no trace of his family could be found and despite many efforts to find them all proved futile.

 

It is said that he had an aptitude for mechanics and that he made a living as an itinerant watchmaker. By the age of 36 he had found his way to Xenia, Ohio where in September 1855 he married Anna Maria Huntington and set up a jewellery business. By 1860 three children had been born to the couple, who lived in Yellow

Springs just north of Xenia, their names were Donna, Estella and Florence. A fourth daughter Anna would be born in 1862 in New York. Don was by all accounts a little temperamental, somewhat unstable and difficult to live with, nevertheless he and Anna Maria remained married until his death.

 

Don spent much of his time experimenting, developing and inventing watches. Sometime between the birth of Florence and Anna he abandoned his jewellery business and moved to New York City and then to Bristol, Connecticut. Here he planned to manufacture a clock of his own invention, a complicated clock on which he held several patents. This enterprise ended in failure due to manufacturing difficulties and the family moved back to New York. He had however attracted the attention of some backers and in the spring of 1864 the Mozart Watch Co. was organised in Providence, Rhode Island, the incorporators being mostly wholesale and manufacturing jewellers. The company was founded on the basis of a Mozart designed, 18 size, three wheel watch which would become known as the "Three-Wheeled Mozart".

From the outset progress was slow and there appeared little prospect of Mozart being capable of turning his design into a viable product. The stockholders finally decided that Mozart's watch would never be a success and that the sooner they abandoned it, the better off they would be. In the summer of 1866 Donald Mozart was dismissed from the company that bore his name. L. W. Cushing, of The Waltham Watch Co., was placed in Mozart's position, with instructions to construct the necessary machinery to build a regular 18 size three quarter plate lever movement.

With Mozart gone the company changed its name, in 1867, to the New York Watch Company and moved to Springfield Massachusetts where it purchased two buildings into which it moved the machinery. The site was between modern-day Van Horn Park and Wait Street on the north side of Armory Road. The buildings consisted of a large boarding house and a large building which had previously been occupied as a machine shop. Along with the name change the company was reorganised and the capital increased to $300,000. The former president and secretary retained their offices; George Walker was elected as Treasurer and O. P. Rice became business manager. The General Manager was John C. Perry and Henry J. Cain was Manufacturing Superintendent. The ability of last two men to work well together had much to do with the initial success.

The factory was destroyed by fire on April 25th 1870, but many of the machines and much of the materials were saved. The company cleared away the debris and moved the boarding house into the position previously occupied by the factory. It was re-modelled and after about three months was in operation again. The first movements placed on the market were known as "The Springfield", "John L. King," "Homer Foot,” "No. 5," “J. A. Briggs,” ”H. G. Norton," and "Albert Clark", many of these names being company officers. In 1871 the company placed a size-18 full plate movement on the market.

The factory did well until the year of the economic panic of 1873 when they began to fall behind. They finally pulled through 1873-74 by reducing the number of employees but in 1875 they decided to close the factory.

 

The stockholders reorganized under the name of the New York Watch Manufacturing Company but this did not last long, for within eight months the factory was again closed.

Left & Top Right: Letters to L. W. Cushing regarding material supplies. Lower: New York Watch Co., watch and a  'Homer Foote' movement.

Above is my oldest Hampden watch dating to 1877 the year of incorporation.

In the Spring of 1877 the stock and bond holders once again reorganized, this time under a new name the Hampden Watch Company. Using fresh capital, they purchased the machinery from the old New York Watch Manufacturing Company. In effect the Hampden Watch Co., virtually succeeded the New York Watch Manufacturing Company.

 

Homer Foote remained from the New York Watch Manufacturing Company and became the first Hampden President. Charles D. Rood became the Treasurer and Business Manager. Rood was born in Ludlow  Massachusetts on December 31st 1840. After school went to work for the New York jewelry firm of Warren & Spadone, eventually becoming a managing partner. The firms name was changed to Spadone, Rood & Company and became very successful in the manufacture and importing of diamonds and some of the finest watches available from Europe. He sold his interest in Spadone & Rood and re-invested in the Hampden Watch Company, in which he became the driving force.

 

Henry J. Cain was made superintendent,having previously held that position in the New York Watch Company. The old movement of the New York Company was re-modelled by Cain and the factory opened in the summer of 1877. In 1881 a new brick building was erected, 40 x 100 feet, with three stories a basement and a central tower. The factory's power was generated by a ninety-horse power steam engine, situated in a building at the rear of the main structure. The company turned out fourteen grades of movements, all full-plate with the exception of the " State Street" which was a size-16 three-quarter plate with gilded steel. The capacity of the factory was 400 movements per day and 400 people were employed.

 

For the first time since 1872 Charles Rood and this new management team allowed the company to prosper and by 1885 it was paying a 10% dividend and had accumulated a cash reserve of some $100,000. That year one of it’s case supplier, Mr John C. Dueber, of the “Dueber Watch Case Company” of Newport Kentucky, bought a controlling share. Cain and Rood remained in place and continued to manage the watch works for a further six years, first in Springfield and then later in Canton, Ohio.

Right: Newspaper clipping of Charles D. Rood. Six years after the Dueber take over, and the factory’s move to Canton, Cain and Rood would move-on and contribute towards founding the Hamilton Watch Company. Rood made a fortune as it's President from 1891 to 1896 and from 1900 to 1910 but lost it trying to manufacture recording equipment.

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