January 1966, Volume III, Number 6



San Francisco

Visitors to the San Francisco Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park may see on display there, in the timepiece section, a watch dial made by the English watch dial painters John and George Webb, who migrated to this country in the late 1850's.

This dial, which bears the inscription: "made for Paul Morphy by the American Watch Co.," is from the beautiful presentation watch given to Morphy by the Brooklyn Chess Club at a testimonial arranged by Frederick Perrin on May 25, 1859.

Mr. P. W. Sargeant in his book Morphy Gleanings* (page 23) describes the watch thus: "the watch had a stem surmounted by a coronet, studded with diamonds, and the places of the numerals were taken by representations of chess pieces in red and black. On the case were the initials "P. M.," the arms of the United States, and the inscription: "to Paul Morphy from the Testimonial Committee of the New York Chess Club as their tribute to his genius and worth, May 1859."

Morphy pawned this watch while engaged in some expensive legal matters.** The watch was seen later by Mr. W. J. A. Fuller, who says it was shown to him by Arnous de Riviere at the Café de la Regence in the summer of 1885. Fuller says Riviere "loaned Morphy a large sum of upon it" and that "the pledge was never redeemed." A. W. Mondgredien (son of Augustus) saw the watch again in Paris, 1921, and was offered it for 6,000 francs. It was then the property of the heirs of Arnous de Riviere. ***

What became of the watch since then and how the dial came to the Academy of Sciences are interesting questions which some reader may be able to answer. I am informed that Mr. Bruce O. Koch at the Hamilton Jewelers (980 Market Street, San Francisco) may know the answer to the first question, but have not been able to contact him.

* David McKay Co., 1931
** Against his brother-in-law Sybrant, who was administrator of his father's estate.
*** For this history of the watch I am indebted to P. W. Sargeant.

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