Heywood Wakefield Time Recorder of Gardner, MA. An early example made circa 1895. The SIMPLEX. Push-button attendance recorder. Serial Number 00. Model No. 1.

This is a very early Heywood Brothers Time Recorder. It is called the “Simplex.” This cast iron cased clock was made by the Heywood Brothers Furniture Manufacturing Company in Gardner, MA. In the late 1800’s, their furniture business was experiencing a period of strong growth and as a result, they were expanding their plant size in order to keep up with orders. With growth came the need for more employees. This complicated the process of tracking their working hours. Edward Watkins was the head mechanical engineer of this growing furniture manufacturing company and was asked to research or to investigate a more efficient manner in which to track the companies employees and their hours. Watkins was a graduate of Worcester Plolytech. His mechanical background was well suited for the assignment. It is said that for several years he tried to implement several of the existing time recorders in company’s buildings but was not satisfied with the results. Over a period of six years, he designed and constructed his first version of this type of recorder when he patented it in 1894. He called this clock the “Simplex” because it was simple to use. An improvement was made and patented the following year. This clock represents the second patent. This is a rare model and arguably one of the hardest to find. It is stamped with the serial number “00” and is set up to keep track of 50 employees. As a result, it is the model No. 1 and it originally sold for $50. Three models were offered at the tme. The model No. 0 tracked 30 workers and cost $35.00. The thrid model was called the No. 2 and tracked 100 workers and sold for $75. To my knowledge, only four other examples are known. A No. 1 is stamped number 75. This clock is also set up to track as many as 50 employees. The keys are marked 156 through 200. This suggests that two other clocks were owned by the same company and those clocks tracked the first 100 employees. Example number 75 also shares the same, very unusual, paper dial. That clock is currently in a private collection. A third clock is in the Gardner museum in Gardner, MA. A fourth clock, also a No. 1 model is in the Narragansett Historical Society in Templeton, MA. This clock is serial number 81 and also shares this very unusual dial. A fifth clock is at the NAWCC museum. This example is a later model in that the Heywood Bros reference cast around the dial has been replaced with the wording “SIMPLEX TIME RECORDING CO.” That clock is set up for 30 employees. This time clock design requires each employee to be assigned a number. This number corresponds to the keys on the lower section of the clock case. This model has 50 keys so it can tract as many as 50 employees. The keys operated much like those found in a typewriter of the period. Except that when a key is pushed on this clock, the end of the lever is fitted with a pin at the end instead of a letter of the alphabet. This pin would strike and perforate a paper role each time it was depressed. The paper was attached to the vertically positioned drum in the time recording section of the case. The paper was formatted with a grid. The grid would record the time and the number of the key pressed. A bell would also ring indicating to the employee that that they had competed the process. It was an audible confirmation that they had punched in and punched out. This mounting drum was made of a hard rubber like material and is formatted with 50 cylindrical carved grooves. This corresponds to the number of employees that this instrument tracked. This was powered by the Seth Thomas 30-hour spring driven movement. The balance wheel escapement is a robust design and not as susceptible to vibration as compared to a pendulum model. This early example was also fitted with a dial at the top of the case. This dial would of course display the current time. The case is well made of cast iron. It is very heavy weighing approximate 40 pounds. The company name is cast into the surround located at the top of the case. It reads, “TIME RECORDER. / MADE BY HEYWOOD BROS. & CO. GARDNER MASS.” A brass French sash and bezel frames and protects the paper dial. The Seth Thomas made movement is mounted behind this and is a reliable runner. The front of the cast iron case is decorated with floral themes in various locations. The 50 teletypewriter style keys are well organized. Odd numbers on the left and even numbers are positioned on the right. The center section is a convex form allowing room for the recording cylinder behind it. This also acts as an access door. It is locked at the top with a key. When one unlocks it, this column falls forward on a hinge mounted at the bottom in order to access the paper roll. Both the original lock and key still work flawlessly. This clock originally sold for $35.00.
Approximate dimensions: 22 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 7 inches deep. At one time, The Heywood-Wakefield Co. was the oldest furniture factory in America. It first began in 1826 when the five sons of Benjamin Heywood opened their chair-making shop in a barn adjacent to their father’s farmhouse. This was located on the corner of Elm and Central streets in Gardner. Over the years, the name Heywood would become one of the most recognizable in Gardner. The family was actively involved in the Henry Heywood Memorial Hospital, the Levi Heywood Memorial Library and the Greenwood Memorial Pool. In addition, the Mount Wachusett Community College campus was built on the former Heywood Farm. An event worth noting occurred in 1886 when Edward Goodrich Watkins joined Heywood Brothers and Co. to work in the department headed by his father, Gardner Watkins. Together they developed many new machines, including a “time clock” to record the hours and minutes worked by employees. By the turn of the 20th century, the Watkins family would incorporate the Simplex Time Recorder Co., which would eventually join Heywood-Wakefield among Gardner’s largest employers.


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