Arthur French Poole’s Relationship With Westinghouse & New Haven Clock Company

by Elizabeth Denny

Arthur French Poole was granted his first patent in 1899, for an electric clock, and over his lifetime he received about 140 patents for clocks, clock systems, meters, timers, speedometer and odometers, party-line telephone systems, calculating machines, typewriters and “algebraic totalizers” (gadgets attached to typewriters that enabled users to solve intricate accounting equations), among other inventions. In 1912 Poole moved his family to Kenilworth, Illinois (near Chicago) where Poole took a job as engineer for the Wahl Company, which at that time made fountain pens and mechanical pencils. Wahl was later purchased by Remington Typewriter.

In 1920 Poole was granted patent #1,338,328 on behalf of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing, for an “improvement in clock systems” employed in connection with commercial alternating-current distribution systems—in other words, electric light and power companies. I think he was trying to improve the accuracy of clock systems that relied on alternating current regulated by a master clock and sent through the power grid to businesses and people’s homes. The alternating current operates the secondary clocks, and I think he was frustrated by these systems’ inability to keep time during power outages, which were common in the 1920s and 1930s. I believe Poole was thinking about these clock systems as early as 1917, as he discusses his ideas in detail in one of his notebooks (owned by my family).

This is the only patent he received specifically on behalf of Westinghouse, but Westinghouse’s electric clocks (including those associated with New Haven Clock Company) consistently list five other patents granted to Poole for improvements in master/slave systems associated with electric light and power companies:

Patent Number
Year Granted
Description of Invention
1310372
1919
Electric clock system whereby the generating apparatus of a central station can be used “not only to distribute light and power through the territory served by the central station, but this current may also be used to distribute time.”
1310373
1919
Electric clock system whereby the master clock is located at any convenient location (not necessarily at a central station) so that the connection between the master clock and the alternating-current generator is a purely electrical connection—he wanted ordinary clocks to be used as master clocks, located outside a central station, thus not subject to vibrations and other noise, so the master clock will run more accurately
1310374
1919
Electric clock system permitting the attaching of secondary clocks to circuits normally used for the distribution of electric light and power—this invention was associated with the following one, but I'm not sure what the difference was
1310375
1919
Electric clock system permitting the attaching of secondary clocks to circuits normally used for the distribution of electric light and power
1328247
1920
Electric clock system with a central station in which a generator of alternating current is synchronized with a master clock so it will send out exactly sixty cycles per second (in the long run). The patent describes an improved means of determining the error of the generator as compared with the master clock (e.g., if current is interrupted for some reason), thus allowing the secondary clocks to continue running and keeping accurate time.

How Arthur Poole came to be associated with Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing is a matter of speculation, but he may have met the inventor George Westinghouse while working for John Brashear in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from about 1896 to 1900. Brashear was one of those fascinating industrialists of the late 19th century who had little formal education but became a highly successful producer of telescopes and other scientific instruments, some of which are still used today. Brashear was friends with Westinghouse and other “captains of industry,” including Andrew Carnegie. From what I know of Arthur Poole, my great-grandfather was highly curious, very bright, eager to succeed, and extremely interested in electricity, so meeting with George Westinghouse would have been an exciting opportunity for him.

Arthur Poole does not appear to have had any direct relationship with New Haven Clock Company, and I’m not sure how New Haven Clock Company became associated with Westinghouse. The other patents associated with Westinghouse/New Haven electric clocks were granted to a certain Wilson E. Porter, about whom I have found nothing. These patents all have to do with improvements in chime-clocks.

In 1924, Poole moved to Westport, Connecticut to start his own clock company, which he named Poole Manufacturing. Frank L. Morse of Morse Chain Company, Ithaca, New York and H. Herman Westinghouse (George Westinghouse’s younger brother) were interested in Poole’s clocks and they persuaded him to move to Ithaca, and invested in his company. Morse Chain actually owned Poole Manufacturing until roughly 1930, when Poole again struck out on his own as a clock manufacturer. Poole died of complications of tuberculosis in 1934 and his patents were sold to John H. Barr, who he met while working for Remington Typewriter. At the time of Poole’s death, Barr was working for Morse Chain. Barr started a factory in Weedsport, New York, which continued to make “Poole” electric clocks under the “Barr” trademark.

Note from the author:

My great-grandfather Arthur F. Poole, was a very interesting gentleman as was his father, Arthur A. Poole (a watchmaker who served as a Union soldier in the Civil War) and his oldest son, my grandfather Arthur B. Poole, who was also an inventor and was granted patents on behalf of, among others, the electric clock divisions of William L. Gilbert Clock Company, H.C. Thompson Clock Company, General Time Corporation, and E. Ingraham. The son (Arthur B. Poole) was mainly interested in synchronous motors used in electric clocks and timers, and until his death in 1974 was the only person who remembered how to fashion "a little doo-dad" that his father added on to the earlier models of Poole Electric Clocks that kept the Hipp toggle from wearing out. I knew my grandfather and clearly remember him fussing with one of these "Executive" model clocks and complaining that his father (Arthur F. Poole) never really finished the job of creating the "best electric clock in the world." He grumbled endlessly about his father being both brilliant and scatter-brained.

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Elizabeth Denny

 

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