John Harper Pocket Watch

Makers were perfectly willing to engrave any name that the client wanted on a watch to make a sale and this watch seems to be one such example. It is engraved John Harper No. 1 in outward facing script and the absence of a city name additionally supports the assumption that John Harper was the first owner.

Colonel John Harper

It is quite possible that this watch was owned by Colonel John Harper of Revolutionary War fame but impossible to know for sure. The hypothesis is additionally supported by the existence of watch service papers from Ohio with dates 1810, 1813 and 1828, and a particularly heavy and sub-standard silver case that would be better suited for an owner living on the frontier. Colonel Harper helped establish the Harpersfield, New York settlement prior to the Revolutionary War, and other family members also established a town by the same name in Ashtabula County, Ohio in 1793. After the Colonel’s death in 1810, his sons left New York and settled in Harpersfield, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Perhaps this watch traveled with them and was cleaned on-route - - the Cadiz, Ohio watch paper has a service date of 1810 written on it.

Revolutionary War Pocket Watch
American Colonial Pocket Watch

Circa 1795 - 1800, gilt-brass verge and fusee movement of good quality with intricate pierced and engraved folate, flowers and a ribbon balance table with solid foot. Round baluster pillars and decorative fusee stop-work foot. Enamel dial with Roman hours and Arabic 5-minute index. Hands replaced. Plain and extremely heavy silver pair case both only with makers’ initials “ST” with a pellet between and a leaf above (Stephen Tillinghast, Liverpool). The absence of sterling standard marks on an English-made case gives evidence that the silver alloy is likely below the sterling standard of 92.5% purity. Inner case has a 7-knuckle hinge, outer case a 5-knuckle hinge.

Revolutionary War Watch
American Watch Paper
Early American Watch Paper

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Brian Loomes, Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World, N.A.G. Press, 2006

  • Philip Priestley, British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970, National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 2018

  • Rootsweb,, last accessed November 27, 2020

  • Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site,, last accessed November 27, 2020