Thomas Harland emigrated from England to America in 1773 and established his shop the same year in Norwich, Connecticut where he remained until his death in 1807. He is best known for his clocks, perhaps the finest made in Connecticut. Harland was very successful and his business grew rapidly. He employed an unusually large number of journeymen and apprentices, including Daniel Burnap, Benjamin Hanks, William Cleveland, Nathaniel Shipman, Ezra Dodge and Jedediah Baldwin. While watchmaking research has not taken place for Harland's apprentices, Jedediah Baldwin and Nathaniel Shipman signed watches are recorded.

Harland advertised his clocks, watches and bespoke (made to order) parts regularly as in this example (Harris, 199): 
Thomas Harland, Watch & clock Maker, From London, Begs leave to acquaint the public, that he has opened a shop near the store of Christopher Leffingwell, Esq; in Norwich; where he makes, in the neatest manner, and on the most improved principles, horizontal, repeating, and plain watches, in gold, silver, metal, or covered cases. Spring, musical, and plain clocks; church clocks, regulators, &c. He also cleans and repairs watches and clocks with the greatest care and dispatch, and upon the most reasonable terms. N. B. Clock faces engraved and finished for the trade. Watch wheels and fuzees [sic]of all sorts and dimensions cut and finished upon the shortest notice, neat as in London, and at the same price.* (The Norwich Packet, December 9, 1773)

At the time of his death, the Connecticut Gazette announced: Died at Norwich, Mr. Thomas Harland, aged 72, Goldsmith; he is said to have made the first watch ever manufactured in America (Hoopes, 87).

 
Thomas Harland Watch
 
Thomas Harland Watch

Maker:
Number:
City:
Date:
Thomas Harland
776
Norwich, Conn.
1793-94 est.

Description: Fusee movement with a verge escapement and three-arm uncut steel balance. Movement is signed "Thomas Harland" without a city name. Unusual cast balance table and other features evidence manufacture and finishing in Harland's Norwich, Connecticut shop. Enamel dial replaced. "D" on back plate beneath the balance foot for the (unidentified) movement frame maker as shown in the photograph below with the balance table removed from the watch.

Thomas Harland Watch


Counselor silver case with interesting hallmarks punched multiple times and no date mark. While hallmarks were trade information and not understood by the public, consumers were well aware that they were important and evidenced precious metal content. It appears in this example that the case maker provided an abundance of marks to appeal to this public perception. The Maker mark "AN" is not listed. Possibly Andrew Norton of Goshen Connecticut (1765-1838).

 
Thomas Harland Watch
 
Thomas Harland Watch


Few surviving Thomas Harland watches are known. One is in the Winterthur Museum, another was in the Time Museum and sold when the collection was liquidated in 2004, and a third example was found in 2013 in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada and displayed above. It is difficult to reconcile the small number of surviving watches given some accounts that put Harland's watch production at 200 per year (Willard, 192), although I rather suspect that the original source of the estimate included both Harland made and imported watch sales which would be a more reasonable interpretation. Rare watch repair notebooks from Jedediah Baldwin survive from 1793 to 1810 when Baldwin was working in the trade in New Hampshire (Oechsle) and provide strong evidence, based upon serviced Harland watches, that Harland sequentially numbered his watches, and it appears that he made on average about 50 per year (an educated guess). It is clear that Harland sold watches that ranged widely in quality, and this example is definitely toward the lower end. 

The dating of this watch is an estimate; however, Baldwin's shop records document that Harland's #712, #719 and #799 watches were first serviced by him in 1794 and 1795. Cleaning and oiling would be performed every year or two and we can therefore estimate with a reasonable degree of certainty that watches within this serial number range were minimally made a year or two before being bought into Baldwin's shop for servicing.


References and recommended reading:
  • Carter J. Harris, The Clock and Watch makers American Advertiser, Antiquarian Horological Society, Great Britain. 2003, p. 335
  • Penrose Hoopes, Connecticut Clockmakers of the Eighteenth Century,Charles Tuttle Company, Vermont, 1986
  • Russ Oechsle, North American Watches Repaired by Jedediah Baldwin 1793-1804, NAWCC Bulletin, No. 245 (December 1986), pp. 488-489 and No. 261 (August 1989), pp. 346-347
  • William Willard, Thomas Harland, Clockmaker, Watchmaker and Entrepreneur, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 295, (April, 1995), pp. 185-196

* Notes: Horizontal means a watch with a cylinder escapement; Plain with a verge escapement; Capt indicates a dust cap