Leslie & Price
One of the more colorful clock and watchmakers in Philadelphia was Robert Leslie. He patented timekeeping inventions for clocks and watches in 1789 and 1793, apparently the first in America. However, his self-promotion apparently did not sit well with the local guild, the Philadelphia Company of Clock and Watch Makers and he was blacklisted. The quarrel between Leslie and the guild is well documented in a series of editorials in local Philadelphia newspapers. In 1792, Leslie formed a partnership with Isaac Price and went into business as clock & watch material dealers in direct competition with John Wood Jr. In April of 1793, Leslie moved to London to better manage the transatlantic business and supervise production. By all accounts, Leslie and Price were quite successful and when Wood passed away in 1793 they were left as the major clock and watch material dealer in the second largest city in America.

The public spat between Leslie and the Philadelphia Company of Clock and Watch Makers that made headlines in the local Philadelphia newspaper is extremely important because it is one of the few references of a clock and watchmaking guild anywhere in America. Historically, the English guilds protected the reputation of a city by having enforcement powers to uphold certain quality and education (e.g. apprenticeship) standards, that also served to advantage local makers from foreign competition. The English education/apprenticeship traditions carried over to America; however, it is apparent that little else did. The Philadelphia Company likely operated as a buying consortium and fellowship organization, although certainly could have supported locally fabricated parts and services such as case making and gilding. There is only one other guild reference that I know of and it evidences that the same Company of Clock and Watch Makers marched in a 1788 parade celebrating the Federal Constitution. At its head was John Wood with 23 members. Their arms and motto, "Time Rules All Things" was painted on their silk parade flag (Harris, 699). I wonder if Isaac Price or Robert Leslie were in the stands!   

Leslie & Price were in business together from 1792 until Price's death in 1798, likely from yellow fever. They must have had quite a large and diverse clientele as watches of varying quality are known. Robert Leslie and Isaac Price also form a partnership with Abraham Patton in Baltimore in 1795 under the firm Robert Leslie & Co. In 1796, Leslie divested his share and Patton and Price add partner Samuel Jones (S.G. Jones), renaming the firm Patton, Jones & Company. Both firms, Leslie & Price and Patton Jones & Company, are dissolved upon the death of Price. However, Abraham Patton and S. G. Jones remain together forming the new firm Patton & Jones (1798-1814) with interests in both Philadelphia and Baltimore (Spittler).

** Research is being conducted on Leslie Price and his firms in America and London. Please contact me if you have information to share!

 
Leslie and Price Watch
 
Leslie and Price Watch
 
Leslie and Price Watch
 
Leslie and Price Watch

Maker:
Number:
City:
Date:
Leslie & Price
1040 (left) | 10741 (right)
Philadelphia
1794 (left) | 1793 (right)
Description: Both examples are fusee movements with verge escapements, round pillars, white enamel dials and gold hands. Leslie & Price #1040 is pictured in James Whisker's book, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts, 1990, p. 235

Watch Number 1040 has average quality finishing. Notice the simple and poorly engraved balance table. The watch has matching silver pair cases with London assay date mark for 1794 and maker's mark "IT" on the inner and "IT" with a pellet between on the outer, likely for John Taylor, London. The pair cases have a King George III export duty mark that was used from 1786 to 1798 and indicates that the tax was paid on the silver case.

Leslie and Price Watch

Number 10741 has higher quality finishing and matching gilt pair cases (gold on silver) with London assay date mark for 1793 and the same maker's mark "IT" with a pellet between, likely for John Taylor, London, as well as the King George III export duty mark. Few gilt cased watches survive. Watch paper by Johnston & Crowley, Drawbridge, Philadelphia with repair date of May 14, 1828 located within the case. 

Leslie and Price Watch


Two movement examples signed Leslie & Price, numbers 4166 (left) and 1540 (right). Their cases of gold or silver were scrapped for cash sometime in the last 100 years and this is all that survives.
 
Leslie and Price Watch
 
Leslie and Price Watch


References and recommended reading:
  • James Gibbs, Pennsylvania Clocks and Watches, The Pennsylvania State University, 1984
  • Carter Harris, A Philadelphia Clockmakers Company: Some Documentary Evidence, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 233 (December, 1984), pp. 698-702
  • Catherine Hollan, Philadelphia Silversmiths and Related Artisans to 1861, Hollan Press, Missouri, 2013
  • James WhiskerPennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts, 1990