J.P. Stevens Pocket Watches

1882-1887


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Josiah Percy Stevens was born March 23, 1852 at his father's plantation near Savannah, Georgia. At the age of 17 he moved to Macon, Georgia, and went to work for a prominent jeweler. At the age of 20 he moved to Atlanta and secured a position of watchmaker in the largest jewelry store in Atlanta. Four years later, he rented a room above the jewelry store and commenced a watchmaking shop of his own. When the jewelry store failed a year later, a number of Stevens friends backed him in purchasing the business. The business was reorganized under the name of J. P. Stevens & Company in 1877. At the age of 25 Stevens was now the the head of the largest jewelry store in Atlanta. The new firm prospered and so in 1882, Stevens traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and purchased the Bowman watch factory and watch materials. He also purchased part of the Springfield Watch Company of Mass. During the trip he also hired a number of skilled workmen. The new factory started in the second story of the building occupied by his jewelry store; later the third story was also used. Mr. Todd was made superintendent and both he and Mr. Stevens designed the new watch. The Bowman watch served as the prototype of the Stevens watch. Both the Bowman and Stevens watches were 16-size, with damaskeened plates and stem set. The Bowman watch was fully jeweled, while the Stevens watch had only the plate jeweled. However, the Stevens watch was well made, and found a ready market. The key employees of the factory were all from the North. They had no problem working in Atlanta in the winter, but with the heat of the summer they all returned north. This brought production to a halt, so, in the spring of 1885, after fighting this problem for three years, Stevens closed the factory. During this period of time only 174 genuine Stevens watches were produced; however, many watches of other makes were sold carrying the names J. P. StevensWatch Company, Atlanta, Georgia, or J. P. Stevens Company, or J. P. Stevens and Bro.

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