Mordecai Miller was a fourth generation, Pennsylvania Quaker born in 1764. He likely apprenticed with clock maker and silversmith Elisha Kirk, a cousin, in Warrington, Pennsylvania. By 1786, he partnered with Caleb Bentley and worked in Leesburg, Virginia and by 1788 he established his own silversmith business in Alexandria, Virginia which by all accounts was quite successful. He advertised clocks, watches and an assortment of other items. Miller was listed as a watchmaker (1796) and silversmith (1797) in the Alexandria Census.
Miller's reputation was outstanding and his clients included George Washington. He left the business in 1800 to pursue other business ventures. Few of his watches survive. Catherine Hollan has extensive information on Miller (Hollan, 528-532).
Mordecai Miller Pocket Watch
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 watch, serial number 332, was restored by David Cooper who observed that the English frame (also called an ébauche) for this watch was intended to be a regulator dial watch with a center minute hand and separate hour subsidiary dial. Regulator dial center sweep watches normally have the center wheel offset to the 12 position of the dial with the hour and minute hand running directly from the center wheel and the sweep second hand running off of the contrate wheel at the center of the movement. A second type of regulator dial is where the hour hand would only be shown in the subsidiary dial and run by means of a minute wheel between the cannon pinion and the hour wheel; the minute hand at the center of the dial would still be mounted on the center wheel arbor.
For reasons unknown, Morechai Miller decided to not have a regulator dial and the movement was changed to be somewhat of a hybrid between two types of regulator movements described. The minute wheel is run off the fusee arbor by means of a friction pinion and minute wheel to the center idler pinion, all of which was likely made by Miller including a modification of the second and third wheel bridge holding the idler pinion in place on the pillar plate.
TC Case Maker's Mark for Thomas Carpenter
The silver pair cases have London assay date mark for 1794-95 and case maker mark "TC" likely Thomas Carpenter of London. The cases also 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 cases.
Additional References and recommended reading:
Catherine Hollan, Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Clock- and Watchmakers, 1607-1860, Their Lives and Marks, Hollan Press, Missouri, 2010