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Aaron Dennison Collection

Identifier: MG-321
This collection includes articles, correspondence, and genealogy related to Aaron Dennison.


  • 1849-2007
  • Majority of material found within [ 1849-1883]
  • Majority of material found within [ 1950-1958]

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

These records are open to researchers for personal or scholarly research. Most of the records in the collection are available for photocopy, depending on the preservation needs of the material as well as other variables not specified here. Researchers, however, are responsible for obtaining copyright permission to use materials and documents. These records are part of the permanent collection in the archives of the Library & Research Center of the National Watch and Clock Museum and researchers are required to comply with the Archive Rules when using the collection.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Biographical / Historical

Aaron Lufkin Dennison was born March 6, 1812, in Freeport, Maine. His father, Andrew, was a cobbler and music teacher and as a child Dennison assisted in his father’s business.

In 1830 Dennison was apprenticed to watchmaker James Cary. In 1833 he moved to Boston to work with the jewelers Currier & Trott. The next year he started his own business but abandoned it in 1836 and began working under master watchmaker Tubal Howe. In 1839 he moved to New York City to learn Swiss watchmaking techniques before moving back to Boston and opening a watch sales and repair shop. At this time he also created the Dennison Combined Gauge, which measured mainsprings and other watch parts.

During the 1830s Dennison was also involved in a few business ventures with his younger brother, Eliphalet Whorf Dennison. After a few failed ideas, the brothers began manufacturing paper boxes for jewelry and watches. This company, led by Eliphalet, eventually grew into the Dennison Manufacturing Company, which merged with another company and became the Avery Dennison Corporation in 1990.

By about 1840 Aaron Dennison had begun considering the practicability of mass manufacturing watch parts for use in repair and the creation of new watches. In 1849, Dennison approached Edward Howard, partner in the company Howard & Davis with his plan. In 1850 they began, but encountered many problems. In 1854 the company moved to Boston and renamed itself to Boston Watch Company, but it went bankrupt in 1857.

In the aftermath the company divided in two. Howard took one half, with most of the machinery and watches, and founded Howard Watch Company with them. The building and machinery were auctioned off and bought by Royal Robbins, who restarted manufacture as Tracy Baker & Co. Dennison became a superintendent under Robbins, but was fired in 1861.

In 1864 Dennison and A. O. Bigelow started the Tremont Watch Company in Boston. It assembled watches using both Swiss and American made parts. Dennison worked in Switzerland at this time, but in 1866, without Dennison’s support, the company moved, renamed itself to the Melrose Watch Company, and began making complete watches. Dennison withdrew, and it failed in 1870.

Dennison moved to England from Switzerland in 1871. He helped found the Anglo-American Watch Company (later the English Watch Manufacturing Company). He left this company in approximately 1874 to start making watch cases for the London office of the Waltham Watch Company. In 1879 this business became the firm Dennison, Wigley, and Co., which became Dennison Watch Case Co. in 1905. Dennison Watch Case survived until 1967.

Aaron Dennison himself died January 9, 1895. He was survived by his wife, Charlotte Ware Foster Dennison, and their children, Charlotte Elizabeth, Alice, Edward Boardman, Ethie Gilbert, and Franklin (who became a partner in Dennison, Wigley, and Co. upon his father’s death).

Related Materials

Franklin Dennison Collection, 1866-1992. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Library and Research Center, National Watch & Clock Museum, NAWCC.


Unknown Creator
Kate Van Riper; Archivist. Container list & biographical sketch by Morgan Flood (June 2016)
Fall 2017
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the NAWCC Library and Research Center Archives Repository

514 Poplar St
Columbia PA 17512