lange and großmann
info on these guys has been culled from multiple sources, starting with ermert's fantastic (even if in german) 454-page präzisionspendeluhren in deutschland von 1730 bis 1940 volume 3...
ferdinand adolph lange
adolph lange was born in dresden, saxony in 1815, only 30km away from the future watchmaking hub of glashütte. as a young man he was enrolled at the technical education institute in dresden, founded in 1829. there, he met royal watchmaker johann christian friedrich gutkaes and became his apprentice at 15. under gutkaes' tutelage, lange learned the art of watchmaking as well as the fundamentals of the industry he found himself in... a far cry from his father's gunsmithing trade. adolph then travled to france to study under josef thaddäus winnerl, the former apprentice of abraham-louis breguet (!). during that time he attended lectures by arago, learning physics and improving his theoretical knowledge. adolph realized that a problem with french design was that it relied heavily upon trial and error, which had a subsequent effect on the quality of the timepiece and in some cases the profitability of the enterprise.
upon his return to his native dresden in 1842, he became a partner in his former mentor’s workshop and married gutkaes’ daughter. in 1845, he received a loan (after talks of about two years) from the government of saxony and established ‘a. lange’. thanks to lange’s ambition, glashütte became the epicentre of german watchmaking. lange reinvigorated life in the area, created an industry and jobs, and developed what was once a poverty-stricken mining town into a thriving hub of horology; he also served as mayor of glashütte for eighteen years.
lange was an innovator and used his years in various countries and learnings from different master watchmakers around europe to stay ahead of the competition. in particular he was noted for combining strong points of both english and swiss watchmaking and made a swiss cylinder watch with english lever escapement (the escapement invented by thomas mudge in 1755). in 1864, lange started using a three-quarter plate in his timepieces – improving the stability of the movements. in 1867 he produced a pocket watch with a jumping-seconds mechanism that was later patented by his sons.
großmann (grossmann for the u.s. market) was a member of lange's inner circle and a founder of the german school of watchmaking (in 1878). he was born in dresden in 1826. his father was a mail sorter at the royal court post office there. while moritz grew up under modest circumstances his teachers quickly recognised his eagerness to learn and realised he had an extraordinary aptitude.
just like ferdinand adolph lange before, he spent two years studying at dresden’s technische bildungsanstalt, the precursor of what is now the technical university, completing his training much faster than the norm, he apparently also studied english, french, and italian in his spare time (!). during this period, he became friends with lange, who was 11 years his senior.
großmannn crafted precision tools, escapement models, fine pocket watches, and precision pendulum clocks (his pendulums are immediately recognizable) as well as lever chronometers and marine chronometers. he developed the glashütte lathe for watchmakers and later concentrated on lever escapements and the optimisation of pivoted detents for chronometers. the varied projects to which großmannn was committed could not have been pursued without highly qualified staff members and he succeeded in enlisting a team of specialists that included school director georg heinrich lindemann, who was succeeded by ludwig strasser in 1885.in 1866, großmannn submitted an essay in london with the title “on the detached lever escapement” and became the first german contestant to win a competition tendered by the british horological institute.
also in 1866, großmannn succeeded ferdinand adolph lange as the mayor of glashütte, serving for 12 years. while he was mayor, glashütte was honoured by a visit from the king of saxony, an earnest patron of the industrial arts. as a result of their meeting the government of saxony granted 2,200 marks towards the expenses of watchmaking school , 2,000 marks for the purchase of tools and machinery, and a loan for the construction of a suitable building. the programme of the school was comprehensive, to say the least: the theoretical and scientific section included algebra, geometry, trigonometry, applied physics and mechanics, drawing, bookkeeping, and french and english' languages. every subject was dealt with in its special relation to horology. among the practical work taught was "the completion of tools, construction of models of balances, of apparatus for demonstrating the various actions in watch and clock work, of astronomical clocks, marine chronometers; also regulating, repairing, etc."
according to watch--wiki.org:
"in großmann volunteered for the german army, returning to glashütte after the end of the schleswig-holstein uprising (peace of malmö, august 1848) and worked for 7 months at lange. in 1849 the may uprising broke out in dresden and großmann was drafted back into the army. his military service ended in 1852. he then worked in london and traveled to france, spain, belgium and sweden to train as a watchmaker. in 1854 großmann founded his watch factory, which he ran until his death." the case on this one was clearly built for the großmann pendulum. the lange/großmannn collaboration spanned a very short seven months from september 1848 to march 1849, implying a build date of early 1849.
NOTE: while this style of pendulum became known as the 'großmannn pendulum', it was in fact used way earlier. grossmann didn't really invent the 5-rod gridiron 'zinc' pendulum, but refined work done previously by gutkaes, lange, krille (with whom he worked and studied 'the construction of astronomical clocks according to kessels') and tiede. tiede built at least one clock with a similar pendulum in 1850; (josef) thaddäus winnerl, who lange studied with in france before returning to work with gutkaes, was making "very fine pendulum clocks in a fallen construction with a gravity inhibition" (how the german for an upside down escapement and verge with no crutch)... and in march of 1841 lange wrote to gutkaes from paris that he had come up with a new pendulum setup for winnerl that used "an ordinary graham hook, but without a shaft and without a fork." lange returned to dresden in june 1841, where (according to his son, richard) he built 'several such watches'.
can't tell the players without a program...
after considerable research i can offer some interesting history about the clock and it's (probable) owners over time.
j. c. pascoe - we know pascoe owned the clock at some point because of 'the note'. according to a miniscule note found in the winding barrel (that survived at least one pass we know of through an ultrasonic), the clock was loaned by pascoe to the playground cafe in golden gate park (and serviced 3/29/1930, as written on the back of the note). pascoe was a watchmaker in san franciso in 1906. interestingly enough, there were 32 watchmakers listed as such in san francisco in 1906.
louis weule co. - the clock was picked up by representatives of the louis weule co. in 1910 and became their shop regulator. the company was founded in 1862 by charles pace of london and taken over by louis weule in 1892, they were known to shipping lines and shipping people the world over for their nautical instruments and supplies, including compasses, binnacles, ship's clocks and logs, binoculars, barometers, chart-room equipment, and repairs of high-grade clocks. the company was liquidated in 1950, at which time the clock was sold to fred b. marr, of san francisco. when marr sent a thank you note to the surviving weules, ernest replied that all they knew was that it was "a lange... and a duplicate (!) of the one owned by prof. george davidson and used in his observatory on ocatavia street hill in san francisco" (more on that below). in the upper right of the louis weule company letterhead you can see the name 'harold l. weule' (ernest's brother). harold's wife, irma mae weule was believed to be the oldest living survivor of the 1906 earthquake at the time of her death in 2008. NOTE: the 1879-1920 records of the louis weule co. are apparently stored at the san francisco maritime national historical park in san francisco and i have requested access... we'll see if they get back to me. it would be great to find records of the purchase and/or sale of the clock, shop photos, information on the pricing code 'LFK.AL', etc.
davidson enters the picture based on a mention in the letter sent by ernest weule to the collector who purchased the clock from louis weule company in 1950 (more on this to come).
davidson turns out to have been a major historical figure. originally from nottingham, england, davidson was from 1846 to 1850 occupied in geodetic field work and astronomy, serving in the different states on the east coast of the united states. in 1850, he went to california under the auspices of the coast survey, and was for several years engaged in the determination of the latitude and longitude of prominent capes, bays, etc., and of the magnetic elements of the pacific coast, reporting also upon the proper locations for lighthouses. his work included a survey of washington and puget sounds, and he had charge of the main triangulation of the coast in the region of san francisco. in january 1867 he was engineer of a party sent to the isthmus of panama to search for the best location for a ship canal and then appointed to make a special examination and report upon the geography and resources of alaska, pending its purchase; his published report and conferences with congressional committees influenced the passage of the bill.
davidson built the west coast’s first astronomical observatory, in san francisco’s lafayette park in 1879, and is credited for making california home to some of the finest observatories in existence today. it was through this telescope that his friend, james lick, got his first close-up look at the sky, which would fascinate him for the rest of his life. a piano maker from pennsylvania, lick amassed a $4,000,000 fortune in real estate and would leave $700,000 for the founding of the world’s largest observatory of its time on the bay area’s highest peak, mt. hamilton. after the 1906 earthquake davidson turned his observatory site into a refuge for people that had lost their homes. in 1910 the sierra club asked that san francisco’s highest hill be named "mount davidson".
davidson was president of the california academy of sciences from 1871 to 1887. other positions held by davidson include president of the california academy of sciences from 1871 to 1887, honorary professor of geodesy and astronomy and regent of the university of california from 1877 to 1885. in 1895, davidson retired from what by then had been renamed the 'united states coast and geodetic survey', after 50 years of service. after his retirement he became the first professor of geography at the university of california, berkeley and chaired that department from 1898 until his retirement in 1905; he remained an emeritus professor until his death.
but, wait... there's more. 8-)
the senator and the playground
turns out the playground at golden gate park was also a big deal. built in 1887, it was the first public playground in the united states. and, the main benefactor was the notoriously selfish, obscenely rich and do-nothing politician (hmm... sounds familiar 8-) ), senator william sharon. sharon inexplicably left a large bequest to establish the playground, with an out-of-character "you can't take it with you when you go". here is a link to a fascinating article on how all of this came about (my favorite part: "william sharon’s record as a u.s. senator "is one of the worst in the history of that legislative body; his record of inaction is unbelievable" wrote russell elliott in “history of nevada.” sharon was absent for entire sessions of congress, introduced next to no legislation and almost never voted."):
the playground building was damaged during the 1906 earthquake but restored. after the earthquake and resulting fires, twenty-six official homeless encampments were constructed in the park and nearby for those who had no other options... including at the site of davidson's observatory (more on this to come). the camps in the park were primarily used as interim locations while the ingleside horse stables were renovated to house refugees. over the months following the quake and fires, “earthquake shacks” to house people who had lost their homes popped up all throughout the undeveloped “outside lands” (as the sand dunes of western san francisco were known at that time). 'outside lands' is a popular concert series that happens in today's golden gate park.
history and provenance...
known milestones include:
- early 1800s... lange and großmannn working together
- 1910... hanging in the playground cafe at golden gate park, san francisco, on loan from watchmaker j.c. pascoe. apparently sold to louis weule co., who picked it up from the cafe in 1910
- 1910 to 1949... shop regulator for louis weule co.
- january, 1950... louis weule co. is liquidating and the clock is sold to an oakland clock collector, fred. b. marr... who was apparently as thrilled as i now am 8-) )
- 1983... marr dies, and the clock is sold two years later to an antique shop in berkeley, ca.
- 1985... within two weeks after the clock lands at the antique store it is purchased by al roach, a collector and well-know clock repair guy and member of NAWCC chapter 5... my clock mentor's chapter; apparently roach had relationships with all the local stores and they would call him when they got clocks in. al invited my clock mentor over to see the clock two days after he got it, and my mentor purchased on the spot.
- end of 2022... to me
after purchasing the clock from the louis weule company in 1950, the buyer (fred b. marr) sends ernest weule a thank you letter and asks if the weules can provide any more information about the clock. in his reply of jan 12, 1950, ernest says:
"it is regrettable that i am not able to give you any definite details regarding the clock or where it originated; only know that it is a lange regulator, a duplicate of one that prof. george davidson used in his observatory on octavia street hill in san francisco."
it seems extremely unlikely that there were two of these clocks. i believe this was in fact davidson's clock, maintained and eventually acquired by j.c. pascoe, who then sold it to the louis weule company.
here's my thinking:
- ernest weule acknowledges he can not offer 'definite' details regarding the clock. while we know the weules had the clock from 1910-1950, louis weule died in 1927; it is far more likely that the oral history of the clock got garbled by the family over the forty years it was in their possession, and the 23 years following louis's passing.
- lange and großmannn were THE guys in germany at the time, building state-of-the-art precision regulators by hand; they were certainly not mass-producing them. even one clock would have been prohibitively expensive, time-consuming to produce, and appreciated only by a geographer/astronomer/scientist of davidson's caliber (or very sophisticated collectors (like us! 8-) ). the audience for this quality of clock would have been very small, with the odds of someone placing an order for two extremely low. and, while perfectly fine for davidson's small observatory, larger and more connected observatories needed sidereal clocks with electrical connections (more on this to follow).
- for all of his skills and abilities, davidson would have wanted a professional watchmaker on hand for help setting up and servicing the clock... enter j.c. pascoe. we know that davidson and pascoe crossed paths at some point since pascoe ended up with the clock. it is safe to assume that davidson was the kind of guy who would wear a higher-end pocket watch and have an expert watchmaker on hand (so to speak) to maintain it.
the timing works:
- lange and großmannn are building regulators together in the early 1800s.
- davidson builds his observatory in 1879, and gives it up in the early 1900s when his eyesight starts to go... seems like that's when it is acquired by j.c. pascoe. if it was already on loan to the playground cafe (again, by j.c. pascoe) in 1906, it's a miracle it made it through unscathed, based on the photos of the damage posted above.
- after the quake davidson turns the observatory site into a refuge for people who had lost their homes; he's already given up the observatory (and retired) by then because of his vision issues so it makes sense that pascoe is caring for it... as davidson's watchmaker or the clock's new owner.
- the clock is hanging in the (restored) playground cafe in 1910, courtesy of pascoe, when it is acquired by louis weule.
- letters confirm the sale of the clock in january of 1950, by louis weule company to fred b. marr.
as further evidence that there can be only one, it's interesting that everything that happened after the clock arrived in the u.s. appears to have happened within a 23 mile radius... from davidson, pascoe, the weules and the cafe in san francisco (all within three miles of each other) to marr, my clock mentor and now, me, in oakland (within eight and a half miles of each other)