Nathaniel Shipman Pocket Watch

Nathaniel Shipman was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1764 and apprenticed to the distinguished clock and watchmaker, Thomas Harland, until establishing himself as a clock maker and silversmith in about 1785. He continued working in Norwich until 1796 and again for a brief time around 1820 (in partnership with his son, Thomas). In between he successfully speculated in the West Indian trade and farmed.

Voss states that his account books are part of the collection of Society of Founders of Norwich and show that he made dials, pewter, glasses, watch keys, etc., for Thomas Harland. He also made jewelry and watches, table silverware, warming pans, and did a thriving business in clocks.

Nathaniel Shipman Pocket Watch

Nathaniel Shipman Pocket Watch

Nathaniel Shipman Clock

Nathaniel Shipman Watch

The movement is engraved "Nathnl Shipman Norwich No 15", with fusee and verge escapement, round pillars, pierced balance table, white enamel dial, and beetle and poker hands.

The date of this watch is estimated to be between 1785 and 1790 based upon the style of the movement, Shipman's working dates in Norwich, the low serial number. However, it could have been sold by Shipman anytime between 1785 and 1796. Watches signed by Nathaniel Shipman with serial numbers of #169 and #176 are recorded in 18th century repair records (Hoopes, 71 and Oechsle, 488).

Both the outer and inner silver pair cases are unmarked which may indicate local manufacture.

The watch contains two early 18th century watch papers; one is Shipman's own that may have been put into the watch case when it was originally sold or subsequently brought back in for cleaning or repairs. The second watch paper is from Eleazer Cary also of Norwich and has repair dates of 1795, 1797 and 1799 written on the back. American watch papers from the 18th century are rare.

American Watch Papers
Eleazer Cary
Early American Watch Papers

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Penrose Hoopes, Shop Records of Daniel Burnap Clockmaker, Connecticut Historical Society, 1958

  • Russ Oechsle, North American Watches Repaired by Jedediah Baldwin 1793-1804, NAWCC Bulletin, No. 245 (December 1986)

  • William Erik Voss,