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Brief History: E. Howard Watch Company
Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts
December 11, 1858 - 1903
Edward Howard, undoubtedly one of the most respected names
in the history of American horology, started the Howard Watch Company after
the failure of the Boston Watch Company (1853-1857). His goal was to produce
watches of the highest quality using interchangeable machine-made parts. With
his financial partner, Charles Rice, Howard moved the tools, machinery and
watches "in progress" from the defunct Boston Watch Company to their
Roxbury factory in late 1857. During their first year of operation, the
machinery was retooled for the production of a new watch of Howard's design,
and the remaining Boston Watch Company movements were completed. These
movements were signed "E. Howard & Co." on the dials and
"Howard & Rice" on the movements.
By the summer of 1858, Edward Howard produced the first
watch of his own design, a watch that was entirely different from previous
watches. The top plate was made in two sections and had six pillars instead of
the usual four found in a full-plate watch. This watch also introduced the
more accurate quick-train to the American market. Balances were gold or steel
at first, and later bi-metallic compensating balances with gold screws were
used. Reed's patented barrel was used on early watches, but by 1868, Howard
patented a new steel motor barrel which replaced the Reed's barrels in Howard
watches. Howard also introduced the first stem-winding watch in 1868, and was
probably the first to market such a watch in the USA. The manufacture of
key-wind movmeents was discontinued altogether by 1878. Howard was first to
use the Reed patented micrometer regulator, and was the first to offer watches
adjusted to six positions.
Sizes of Howard watches were designated using the Dennison
system of measurement (see table below). By 1869, Howard had progressed from
the "N" size movements (approximately 18-size) to the smaller
"L" size movements (approximately 16-size). Howard dials were always
made of hard enamel, and bore the name " E. Howard & Co.,
Edward Howard retired in 1882, but his company continued
to sell watch movements in grades and styles established by Howard until 1903.
In 1902, the company transferred all rights to the "Edward Howard"
brand name to the Keystone Watch Case Company (see below). Keystone
manufactured a line of watches signed "E. Howard Watch Co., Boston,
U.S.A." on the movement.
Howard Watch Company
Approximate Serial Numbers and Dates
Be sure to use the serial number on the movement of the
Do not use the serial number from the case.
E. Howard Watch Company (Keystone)
The Howard name was purchased by the Keystone Watch Case
Company in 1902. There were no patent rights transferred, just the Howard
name. The watches of the Keystone era are typically marked "E. Howard
Watch Co. Boston U.S.A" and were sold as complete watches only
i.e. they were cased and timed at the factory. These watches, dubbed
"Keystone Howards" by collectors, are not as highly prized by
collectors as the original E. Howard watches, though many were fine watches
in their own right.
Keystone Howard (1902 - 1930)
Approximate Serial Numbers and Dates
E. Howard & Co. was famous for high grade watches, regulators, and marine clocks. The E. Howard Watch & Clock Company was formed as a joint stock corporation on December 1, 1881 to succeed an earlier firm of similar name founded by Edward Howard (1813–1904). Howard, a
clock making apprentice of Aaron Willard, Jr. had commenced business with David P. Davis, manufacturing high-grade wall clocks under the name of Howard & Davis in 1842. They also became known for their manufacture of sewing machines, fire engines and precision balances. About 1843, with a third partner, Luther Stephenson, they began to also manufacture tower clocks.
In 1857, David P. Davis left the firm and Howard & Davis was dissolved and was succeeded by E. Howard & Company. Both Howard and Davis had also been involved in watch manufacturing, somewhat unsuccessfully, since 1850, In 1857-8, Edward Howard finished and sold left over "Model 1857" material from the Boston Watch Co. under the name "Howard & Rice." In December 1858, Howard finally bought out Rice's interest and began manufacturing watches of a new design, signed "E. Howard & Co." While the company name changed several times during the firm's
watch making history, all watches it made continued to be signed "E. Howard & Co." throughout, with only minor exceptions. The Howard firm established itself as perhaps the premier American manufacturer of luxury watches from 1858 into the 1890s.
On March 24, 1861 the clock and watch businesses were combined into one joint stock corporation, the Howard Clock & Watch Company, which failed in 1863. Thereafter, Howard formed a new company called the Howard Watch & Clock Company (transposing clock & watch) on October 1, 1863, which was successful for some years but was reorganized in 1881 after financial setbacks of a few years previous.
In 1881, Edward Howard sold out his personal interests and retired, leaving the firm to new management. This firm continued the manufacture of many clock styles, primarily weight driven wall timepieces and regulators of fine quality. Only two common wall models, #5 and # 10, were produced as stock items, all others being manufactured by special order.
Regular watch making operations ceased in 1903, when the Howard name in association with watches was sold to the Keystone Watch Case Co. Keystone purchased the defunct US Watch Co. factory building in Waltham Mass. (The US Watch Co. of Waltham is not to be confused with an earlier company of the same name in Marion, NJ.) There Keystone manufactured watches signed "E. Howard Watch Co." These watches were of new designs and unlike those of the original Howard company. Clocks were manufactured at Roxbury, a part of Boston, but in the early 1930s the operation was moved to Waltham, MA. A very small number of pre-existing Howard watches were finished in the Howard clock factory between 1903 and 1927.
A new firm known as Howard Clock Products was formed November 5, 1934 to succeed the earlier firm. Clock production was on the wane, but precision gear cutting business kept the firm profitable, particularly from government contract work. Production of smaller clocks ceased in 1957 or 1958 and the last tower clock was produced in 1964.
However, in 1975, Dana J. Blackwell, as a new Vice President of the firm, revived clock production, reintroducing several of the more popular models to the market. Movements in these later clocks maintained the high standards the Howard firm had become famous for and cases were made to very strict specifications.
Sadly, the older owners of the firm sold the business to a young seemingly successful businessman in August 1977. He eventually fired most of the firm's knowledgeable management and proceeded to drain it financially. By 1980, when the firm was at the verge of bankruptcy, the new manager was caught attempting to burn down the factory building. After a lengthy trial he was convicted, though never served any time in jail.
At the time of the arrest, the Federal Government stepped in and the Howard firm was placed under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. A manager was brought in by the bankruptcy court and after creditors were satisfied, the firm sold the
clock making portion of the business to private investors who continue to offer Howard clocks.