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|IHC Member 1291|
This is a brief and interesting history of The Fashion Clock Co. It sort of got started with The Ball Watch Co, who sold stoves among their watches !
Fashion Clock History
The year is 1874, and the three Culver brothers have rendezvoused in Charlotte, North Carolina to discuss the mounting customer complaints against their “Farmer” cook stove. Numerous assurances by their supplier, Ball & Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, that improved casting techniques would produce a stronger and more durable stove, had proven to be false. Breakage of lids, legs, doors and front plates had plagued the company for more than four years, and their competitors had taken every opportunity to bring it to the public’s attention. Resor & Company and their “Fashion” stove, had publicly challenged the firm of Culver Brothers to test their “Farmer” against the leading square top stove on the market, the “Fashion”.
Designed and patented by Henry Culver in 1870, the “Farmer” was an elevated cooking stove, where the oven was above the cooking surface. The theory behind its design was that the heat from the firebox would rise and warm the oven. In reality, it overcooked or burned the bottom of foods and left them uncooked on the top. Despite the stoves shortcomings, the Culver Brothers estimated that they sold close to 50,000 stoves of similar construction between 1864 and 1874.
The decision was made to dissolve the firm of Culver Brothers. William and Henry Culver would return to Kansas City, where Henry still owned property, while Lucius decided that he would take the patterns for the stove to the Richmond Stove Works in Richmond, Virginia and continue selling stoves under his own name. A number of seasoned traveling salesmen went with Lucius, but a large number were left unemployed. Lucius and his new company headquartered in Lynchburg, Virginia and remained there for almost a year.
William and Henry did not return to farming as some website blogs have suggested. They were both very wealthy after the dissolution of Culver Brothers. Not as fortunate, however, were some of their former employees who approached them with regard to employment. It may have even been their idea to sell calendar clocks.
Beginning in mid 1874, William and Henry made a number of trips to St. Louis, sometimes accompanied by their wives and on other occasions, with a realtor Culver Residences - Fashion Clock Collectors Associationby the name of Sylvester J. Fisher. Fisher, like the Culver brothers, was looking to expand his business , and believed that Kansas City would be too confining. With Fisher’s assistance, William and Henry purchased property next door to one another and also purchased a lot for Lucius across the street. Building permits were secured and construction of their new ten room residences was begun almost immediately. Even by today’s standard, the homes were extremely elegant.
In all probability, the trips to St. Louis included visits to L. Baughman & Company, the largest Seth Thomas dealer west of New York with annual sales of 50,000 clocks and 16,000 watches. Baughman was a member of the American Clock Company, a protective organization founded in 1864 by Seth E. Thomas and Ethel C. Hine. Members included the New Haven Clock Company, E. N. Welch Manufacturing Company, Welch Spring & Company, Gilbert Clock Company, Seth Thomas’ Sons Clock Company and the Seth Thomas Clock Company. Hines staunchly supported his dealers and it would not be surprising if the Culver brothers had to initially buy their clocks through Baughman.
On February 26, 1875, just 12 days after arriving in St. Louis with their families, the Culver brothers filed their Articles of Association calling for the creation of a corporation under the name of the Southern Calendar Clock Company for the purpose of buying and selling clocks. Each brother held $25,000 worth of capital stock and Henry Culver was elected president. By April of that same year, testimonials to the celebrated calendar clock “Fashion” were already arriving. The protection of their trade-mark “Fashion” was not filed until August 20, 1875 and was issued on October 11, 1875.
In an interview with Bertram B. Culver, Jr., it was stated that the carriage house of the Henry Culver residence served as the first warehouse for the company. Based upon the address printed on early sales receipts, they also used the office of Sylvester J. Fisher at 714 Chestnut Street.
Almost immediately after their arrival in St. Louis, the brothers began buying land along the Washington Avenue corridor. They were successful in acquiring adjacent properties fronting on Washington Avenue and running through to St. Charles Street. Based on a five year lease agreement with Crow Hargadine & Company, a large dry goods firm, they began the construction of a five story building on the corner of 8th Street and Washington Avenue. They reserved a small office for themselves at 802 Washington Avenue. They never manufactured clock cases at this address, or any other. They bought their clocks complete from the Seth Thomas Clock Company.
Sales crews consisted of eight to ten men and a superintendent. It was the superintendent’s responsibility to coordinate lodging, stabling and to establish public relations by presenting testimonials from previous canvasses to local newspaper editors or gifting a calendar clock to a church, school or the town newspaper in return for press coverage. The company salesmen were above reproach with regard to their integrity, honesty and sobriety. They were mostly southern men, veterans of the Civil War, both officer and enlisted. In some cases, the crews were augmented with local hires, primarily from prominent and well known families to give the operation more credibility. The crews often spent months canvassing from the same headquarters city. They attended civic events, local churches and social gatherings. They became respected members of the community and treated as such.
The wagons used by the sales crew were known as express wagons, and were originally intended to carry freight to and from the local depot. Each wagon was fitted with a compartment that held eight “Fashion” clocks. The name of the company was painted on both sides and they were normally drawn by mules, although some accounts refer to horses. The only surviving photograph of a sales crew in Stanford, Kentucky, shows the wagons being drawn by mules.
The brothers were usually the ones that selected the location for the crew’s temporary headquarters, although sometimes that responsibility was given to the superintendent. Towns serving as headquarters for the company had to have a rail head and depot so that clocks could be received and warehoused. Wives and children of the brothers accompanied them on long canvasses and generally took up lodging in the larger cities where there were more amenities. In cases where the crews would remain in the same vicinity for months at a time, the families rented homes instead of boarding. The wagons, mules, salesmen and family members were moved by rail from one headquarters to another.
The route of the sales crew closely followed the routes taken by Culver Brothers when they were marketing stoves four years earlier. They were familiar with the people and the locale. The 1875 sales crew canvassed northern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, Tennessee and on to the Carolinas. In 1877, they followed a southern route through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and into Louisiana by late 1878. During this time they promoted the Southern Calendar Clock “Fashion” Models 1 and 2. Traveling into Texas in early 1879 brought about the design of the Southern Calendar Clock “Fashion” Model Number 3 and its “Star of Texas” pendulum.Newspaper Ad - Fashion Clock Collectors Association
As the popularity of the clocks grew, so too did the number of superintendents and salesmen. Due in part to the Homestead Act, a new class of consumer was created; one who thought nothing of borrowing against the future value of his crops. Notes issued by the company from early winter to late summer were due and payable in the fall, when crops were harvested. Increases in the default rate required company collectors to maintain receivables. At one point, William Culver and eleven company collectors descended on South Carolina to collect past due notes.
1881 signaled a turning point in the company’s direction. In January, the three brothers incorporated the Wrought Iron Range Company, and by November, salesmen were being pulled from the ranks of the Southern Calendar Clock Company to begin promoting the “Iron Mountain” cooking range . Henry Culver developed health issues and spent several years traveling in Mexico and southern California in hopes of regaining his health. Unsuccessful, he sold his interest in the company to his brothers.
With the lack of supervision and beyond the watchful eye of the brothers, a superintendent by the name of Henry C. Lynch and his brother, John, joined forces with the Ithaca Clock Company and went into business for themselves. Operating under the names of Lynch Brothers and the Index Calendar Clock Company, they went into competition with the “Fashion”. Joined later by Elbert L. McGee, they formed the Lynch Brothers & McGee Calendar Clock Company and marketed the “Favorite” calendar clock ( L. B. & McG.).
In an attempt to regain market share, the company introduced a new model “Fashion”, one with a more pleasing or European sound. It was called the Cathedral Bell and it relied on the combination of a gong and inverted bell resonating off of the backboard instead of the glass. To modulate the speed of the strike, an outside fly fan was used. This model was marketed primarily in northern Arkansas and Texas and was the last model sold by the Southern Calendar Clock Company.
Great history! Thanks for posting.
|IHC Member 1393|
Thank you for the interesting information regarding the History of the Fashion Clock.
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