The American Antiquarian Society holds a collection of more than 600 American watch papers ranging in dates from the 1790s to 1910. These ephemeral items were inserted into watch cases to protect the delicate mechanisms from dust and debris. These papers often included advertisements for the watch maker or jeweler and were frequently used over the life of a watch to record repairs, with manuscript notes and dates of oiling, spring replacement and cleaning made on the back of the small round disc of paper. Many also include decorative images showing elaborate time pieces, allegorical women, Father Time, or even the shopfront or factory where the watch was made.
Most of the watch papers in this collection are engraved on paper, though some are printed with letterpress, some are hand-drawn, and a few are printed on textiles. While many of the engraved papers are not signed, a few are, including some by notable engravers of the time like Peter Maverick and William Rollinson.
Three watch papers are engraved by Paul Revere, and are housed within the Society's collection of Paul Revere engravings.
In 1951, Dorothea Spear compiled a list of all of the watch papers in the AAS collections at that time, which was published in the Society's Proceedings for that year. Over sixty years later, in 2011, Spear's list was used to organize the collection and all additions to that time were incorporated into an electronic file by AAS intern Dominique Ledoux. During this process, each watch paper was also photographed, front and back. Now, the entire collection has been organized here and is available to researchers as a searchable digital resource.
This inventory seeks to make searchable watch papers through subject matter, name and geographic location. Finding watch papers with a common image (Father Time), or locating all of the watch papers made in Philadelphia may be done using the search features at top. More search tips and keywords may be found in the "Search the Collection" page.