George Nichols Movement
Early Southern American Watchmakers
Few watch examples from southern states are known. Also shown on this website are Kentucky examples by Evans Beard of Louisville and George Nichols of Lexington; Virginia examples by Mordecai Miller of Alexandria and William Mitchell of Richmond that has its original American gold case; and Walter Ramsay of Raleigh North Carolina.
This unusual movement is signed "MADE BY G. Nichols Kentucky" on the balance table / back plate. The engraved words "MADE BY" is highly uncommon and gives evidence that he was involved in watchmaking and/or finishing. Notice that the cut off ratchet located adjacent to the balance is a highly unusual and somewhat impractical design that would make setup of the mainspring challenging. This is a high-quality jeweled movement with an over-sprung duplex capped escapement, fusee and two arm split balance with timing screws. The movement is serial number 1845 which may be its date of manufacture. The original case, likely made of gold, is missing and was most likely scrapped for cash sometime in the last 150 years.
George Nichols was listed as a watchmaker, age 28, in the 1850 census for Lexington, Fayette County, and a surviving deposition evidences that he was in Lexington by 1845 (Boultinghouse, 52). He moved to Danville and was listed as a silversmith in the census of 1860, and then appeared in the Louisville census of 1870 as a jeweler. George and wife Mary Jane had four children. Wish we knew more.
Additional References and recommended reading:
Marquis Boultinghouse, Silversmiths, Jewelers, Clock and Watch Makers of Kentucky, 1785-1900, Boultinghouse, 1980