Thomas Parker apprenticed for eminent makers David Rittenhouse and John Wood and therefore was trained by two of the best clock and watchmakers of the time. His working dates are recorded as 1783 to 1817 and he had his own shop in Philadelphia by 1783 at 13 South 3rd Street. Given his watch #3 below, we know that his working dates are earlier, at least to 1777.  

Parker’s reputation as a clockmaker and his participation in important community activities are well documented. He was the president of the Mechanics Bank, president of the Board of Managers of the Almhouse, and member of The Select and The Common Council. Parker maintained the State House clock and his regulator was regarded as the standard precision timekeeper of the time (Gibbs, 61). His shop must have been impressive; when Meriwether Lewis outfitted the instruments for the Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1803 (the Lewis and Clark expedition commissioned by President Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase), he was able to buy a John Arnold gold-cased chronometer that Parker had in stock for $250.00, plus seventy-five cents for the winding key 
(Bedini)!
 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch

Maker:
Number:
City:
Date:
Thomas Parker
3 (left) | 77 (right)
Philadelphia
1777 (left) | 1794 (right)
Description: Both Parker examples shown above have nicely finished fusee movements with verge escapements and round pillars, and white enamel dials. While tenuous, the low serial number for Parker #3 in particular is suggestive of local assembly or finishing in Philadelphia; however, analysis of this watch has yet to be performed.

Number 3 is a particularly interesting Revolutionary War watch and additional photographs are below. It is small, measuring 48mm across the outer case. The watch is missing its dust cap and has replaced hands and dial. The matching silver pair cases have Chester assay date mark for 1777 and maker's mark "IW" with a pellet between and "TG" underneath for John Wyke & Thomas Green, Liverpool (Priestley, 188). Wyke and Green were prominent tool suppliers to the trade. Few watch cases are known perhaps reflecting a conflict of interest with their watchmaking clients. The silver shutter over the winding hole on the inner case is designed to keep out moisture and dust. It is very possible that Thomas Parker ordered this watch through Wyke & Green. Watch paper by Thomas Voigt located within the case.
 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch

More on Number 3: This watch was made during the Revolutionary War and that raises interesting questions regarding the extent of importation and smuggling that was taking place from England at the time. It is also certainly possible that the watch was shipped to Parker later. Non-importation boycotts leading up to the war had a devastating impact on English exports of all kinds and no doubt made it difficult for colonial watchmakers to import watches and supplies; however, it also provided an opportunity for American watchmakers to promote their own signed watches in newspaper advertisements to appeal to the patriotic public (Newman, 697). 

John Wyke & Thomas Green were one of the foremost watch toolmakers in England and Wyke's Catalogue of Tools for Watch and Clock Makers, dated to 1758, is apparently the earliest surviving example of a horological tools catalog known. Liverpool watches signed by Wyke are also known suggesting that he retailed some watches in competition with the trade (Crom, 122). Wyke's operation was in Prescot in S.W. Lancashire, the very center of movement making in England at the time this watch was made. Wyke's business was established by 1746 and in about 1770 the partnership with his brother-in-law, Thomas Green, was formed (Crom, 101). Thomas Green was a prominent clock and watchmaker and apparently designed some of the horological tools in their catalog; however, neither men personally made them. They were merchants / middlemen who organized and often funded the craftsmen working in the tools cottage industry.  

Number 77 is larger than #3 measuring 52mm across the outer case. It has a signed and numbered dust cap and the pair cases are gilt over silver. Notice that the second seven in the serial number on the movement was engraved over another number prior to gilding. The inner case has Birmingham assay date mark for 1794 and maker's mark "HH" likely for Henry Harding, with a King George III export duty mark. The outer, a replacement for the lost or worn out original, also of gilt silver, has a London assay date mark for 1804 and maker mark "IR" likely for James Richards. Few gilt pair cases survive. Watch paper by George Soliday located within the case.

 
Thomas Parker Watch
 
Thomas Parker Watch

Thomas Parker's (partial) watch paper: Tho. Parker Clock & Watch Maker, No. 13 South Third St. Philad. 

Thomas Parker Watch


References and recommended reading: 
  • Silvio Bedini, The Scientific Instruments of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Great Plains Quarterly, V.1 (1984), P. 54-6; http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/read/?_xmlsrc=lc.bedini.01#nlc.bedini.0135. Source reference comes from an invoice, Thomas Parker, 19 May 1803, Jackson Letters, 1:88
  • Theodore Crom, Trade Catalogues 1542 to 1842, Storter Printing, Florida, 1989 
  • James Gibbs, Pennsylvania Clocks and Watches, The Pennsylvania State University, 1984
  • Richard Newman, Colonial and Early American Watchmakers, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 389 (December, 2010), pp. 692-706 
  • Philip Priestley, Watch Case Makers of England, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin Supplement No. 20 (1994)
  • John Wyke, A Catalogue of Tools for Watch and Clock Makers by John Wyke, Winterthur Museum Library publication in 1978; this is a reprint of an 18th century catalog with modern commentary