Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Blogger: Alan Garratt shares about Hampden Origins


Our guest blogger this month is Alan Garratt from England.  


About Alan Garratt... I’m an Englishman living about 75 miles north of London. For many years I worked for a UK company called Hampden (no connection to the watch concern) and was involved in the Rubber Industry. This inevitably led me to Ohio, the centre of the US Rubber Industry, where I often visited the Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Cincinnati area. At this time I was unaware of Hampden watches, but then one day, whilst visiting India I had cause to put Hampden into Google; the results opened up a fascinating and completely new world to me. Now that I have more time on my hands I am enjoying gathering as much information as I can and forming a small collection of Hampden watches from the Dueber, Clinton and Russian era’s. I am an avid reader of Lee’s Blog, which continues to provide new and exciting information about Canton’s contribution to the history of the Hampden Watch Co.

1820 – 1877 HAMPDEN ORIGINS 

We have to go back in time to 1820 to discover the origin of Hampden watches. A man who, in the end, would not have any actual association with Hampden sowed the seeds; his name was Donald J. Mozart.

According to Mozart enthusiast Jon Hanson, Mozart’s father was an Italian watchmaker who immigrated with his family to Boston MA in 1823 where he continued with his trade. Donald Mozart had been born in 1820 and was three years old at the time his family went to America.

Hanson says, young Donald was mysteriously kidnapped to sea at the very early age of nine and spent three years aboard ship before he finally escaped. After four years he eventually found his way back to the US. He never located his parents after searching the eastern US states and Italy.

Little was recorded about his life between the ages of sixteen and thirty-four, but we know he married in 1854 and settled in Xenia OH where he established a jewellery business. Mozart obviously inherited a genius for fixing watches and gained a very good reputation. A decade later he surfaces in Bristol CT with a plan to manufacture a clock of his own invention. This turned out to be a failure but he managed to attract the backing of George Rice and some New York businessmen and jewellers. He modified his clock design into a three-wheel watch and that paved the way, in 1864, for the formation of the Mozart Watch Co., in Providence RI.

The watch was touted as a mechanical marvel. To quote a contemporary report ‘with its self-compensating level, the watch had no stopping place, thus once wound up, it is bound to run until it runs down... Screw the same (watch) to the side of a locomotive, and it will run with the most perfect regularity’.

Things didn’t work out for him personally and in 1866, after just two years, there was a falling out and Donald left the Mozart Watch Company by mutual consent.

He moved to Ann Arbor MI and set up another Mozart watch company but it failed and eventually ceased operation when the factory was destroyed by fire in October 1875. In the end the company’s failure also brought down the Rock Island Watch Co. and the Freeport Watch Company.











Shortly after the demise of his company Mozart was committed to the county mental hospital in Kalamazoo MI. He had had a breakdown from which he was deemed incurable.

Finally he was moved to the state hospital where he died in 1877, ironically the same year the Hampden Watch Co., was formed in Springfield MA (Springfield is situated in Hampden County) from the remnants of the original Mozart Watch Company.

Mozart watch made in Ann Arbor used with  permission of Jon Hanson


Special Thanks:  Thanks Alan for sharing with us about the Hampden origins.  If you would like to read more about Alan’s writings, stop by his blog:  http://hampdenwatches.blogspot.com/