Thomas Parker Pocket Watch

Thomas Parker Pocket Watch

Thomas Parker apprenticed to David Rittenhouse and John Wood and therefore was trained by two of the best Philadelphia clock and watchmakers of the time. Parker's working dates are recorded as 1783 to 1817. His Philadelphia shop was at 13 South 3rd Street. Given his watch, serial number #3 below, we know that his working dates are earlier, closer to 1777.

This Revolutionary War watch is small, measuring 48mm across the outer case. It's missing its dust cap and the hands and dial were modernized in the early 19th century. The verge and fusee movement is signed "Thos Parker No. 3 Philada." and is nicely finished. While tenuous, the low #3 serial number in particular is suggestive of local assembly or finishing in Philadelphia. Note the repair on the balance table (the two pins on the balance table to attach or stabilize the foot).

Early American Pocket Watches
Revolutionary War Pocket Watches

Revolutionary War Watch

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. His shop must have been impressive; President Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis to Parker to buy a John Arnold gold-cased chronometer for $250.00 (plus seventy-five cents for the winding key) for the 1803 Lewis and Clark expedition (Bedini).

John Wyke Hallmark

Wyke & Green Casemaker

The matching silver pair cases have Chester assay date letter for 1777-78 and maker's mark "IW" with a pellet between and "TG" for John Wyke & Thomas Green, Liverpool. Wyke and Green were prominent tool suppliers to the trade. Very few of their watch cases are known reflecting perhaps an avoidance of a conflict of interest with their home-market wholesale clients. There is a silver shutter over the winding hole on the inner case designed to keep out moisture and dust (not shown). It is very possible that Wyke & Green acted as Thomas Parker's agent in England for importing watches and tooling.

American Watch Papers
Early American Watch Papers

Watch paper by Thomas Voigt located within the case. Thomas Parker's (partial) watch paper is displayed for reference. It reads "Tho. Parker Clock & Watch Maker, No. 13 South Third St. Philad."

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Silvio Bedini, The Scientific Instruments of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Great Plains Quarterly, V.1 (1984), P. 54-6; 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

  • 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