Watches do tell stories!

Perhaps it is just a romantic notion, or maybe the need to ground an inanimate object in the context of real people, but I just cannot resist following up a good watch story.  So while snooping around the website of J&P Fossner jewelers, I took notice of a very interesting watch inscription.

Since the piece is a pocket watch of limited interest here ( Patek), let me just share the cuvette inscription:

Watches do tell stories!

Its a bit awkward to read so I'll spell it out:
Presented to F.L. Carlisle by the Directors of the
Northern New York Trust Company, June 21, 1922

Having previously ranted about the Great Depression in an earlier post V&C and The Great Depression, my interest was stimulated by the date of 1922 and the mention of a Trust Company, which were the financial instruments that precipitated the economic calamity of that era.

So, who the heck was F.L. Carlisle?  To the rescue came the Biographical dictionary of American business leaders, by John Ingham and courtesy of Google Books.

Floyd Leslie Carlisle was born in Watertown, New York, on March 5, 1881.  He was educated in the public schools and graduated from Cornell University in 1903. He then read law and was admitted to the New York bar in 1905. 

Carlisle practiced law with his brother for five years and in 1910 merged two Watertown banks to form the Northern New York Trust Company. He served as its president until 1922, hence the watch most probably marked his retirement from that post.

In 1916 he organized a syndicate of local businessmen to purchase the St. Regis Paper Company, and was president of that from 1916 to 1934.

Since St. Regis used waterpower, Carlisle began to acquire water power sites and small electrical companies, and in 1920 these were consolidated as the Northern New York Utilities Corporation.

He formed his own investment house, F.L. Carlisle and Company, and for a time was associated with the maverick utility financier, Howard Hopson.

After 1927 he broke with Hopson and joined forces with J.P. Morgan Jr. His own holdings were merged with those of others in 1929 to form the Niagara Hudson Power Company, of which he was board chairman.

He was also made president of Consolidated Gas Company, which held together a sprawling network of electric utilities in and around New York City. These were brought together as Consolidated Edison.

During the depression of the 1930s, Carlisle became a reformer and advised the New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt in its crusade against the power industry. He was instrumental in the organization of the Edison Electric Institute in 1933, whose purpose was to reform the industry from within.  But all holding companies were banned in the industry in 1935 and the concentrated power of the House of Morgan was broken by the reformation of the bank acts.

St. Regis Paper prospered, however. It became one of the largest producers of paper in the United States, while Niagara Hudson Power at the same time became the largest producer of power in the country.

Carlisle married Edna May Rogers in 1912. They had four children.  He died November 9th, 1942.

His one-time partner, Howard C. Hopson, began a more questionable carrer also as a lawyer and member of the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington D.C., according to The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography by John S. Bowman.

In 1915, he set up his own company to serve as a consultant to public utilities and, in 1921 he acquired the holding company, Associated Gas and Electric.  It was likely this endeavor that brought him into partnership with Carlisle.  By 1925, Hopson had at least 250 utilities under his worldwide umbrella.  His fortunes were ended by the stock market crash of 1929, the Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935, and the suit for fraud brought against him by Associated Gas & Electric stockholders after the company filed bankruptcy in 1941. Found guilty of defrauding stockholders of $20 million, he was sentenced to prison.

The Edison Electric Institute continues to this day.  According to their website, they are an association of American shareholder-owned electric companies and represent 70 percent of the U.S. electric power industry.  Their mission is to serve the power industry special interests; "advocating equitable policies in legislative and regulatory arenas" according to the company blurb. 

So, my dear readers, does this brief story enhance the timepiece?  If you answer "yes" then you, my friend, are a vintage watch person Watches do tell stories!.
count me in! Your avatar could not be more deserved :-) (nt)
04/14/2010 - 11:20
New vintage?
04/20/2010 - 23:44
Alex, do you have a new-to-you vintage piece planned to fill the void after your purge in finished?
it will all depend on the opportunities. My vintage Grail is the
04/21/2010 - 02:56
6087 Cowhorn lugs chrono but a Batman CR woudn't be that bad either
One Wonders --
04/14/2010 - 15:29
I have wondered why these enscripted watches end up in auction/ for sale; why an heir would not be delighted with a piece of family history but decide to sell.  In my family,  current generation collectors all, the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are delighted to get a family relic from the past - - nothing nearly as nice as that PW.  Robert
Me too, Robert
04/14/2010 - 23:43
It seems common with family heirlooms that interest often skips a generation so the grandchildren are more interested in the history of their grandparents.  So sad that many articles may not survive to reach that next generation.  I have very little left from my grandparents .
yes, it does enhance. for me, it is the researching on the watch....
04/15/2010 - 02:28
that is so fulfilling and rewarding, sometimes even more that the watch itself, of course i won't mind owning it either. alex is so right about u, mr holmes . a story from such a short inscription
I wonder...
04/16/2010 - 19:59
Aaron, I wonder what stories will be told about "our" watches.  Will they become a family treasure brought out once a year to illustrate a story told to grandchildren? The value of the top brands can, unfortunatley, pulls many pieces out of family collections and into the auction houses, where you see the same "investment" watches appearing over and over again, minus their stories.
Great post Dean!
04/16/2010 - 09:39
I'm not a vintage guy, but you're converting me Thanks for the interestign article! CHeers, Francois
I'll keep trying to convert you Francois....(nt)
04/16/2010 - 20:00
Dean, you have hit upon the essence
04/17/2010 - 15:43
of collecting. There is so much more to vintage timepieces then just the watch itself. Though that is a big part of it. You have the history of the previous owners which you illustrate so well on this posting. You also have the hunt. Looking for a specific model and once you find it looking for the perfect example. In my experience the hunt is a major part of the enjoyment, not to mention all the wonderful people you meet during the journey. Thanks for the great post and keep them coming. John
The hunter-gatherer in all of us...
04/17/2010 - 18:13
So true John, there is still a vestige of our basic instincts as hunter-gatherers.  You put your finger on it exactly