William H Thompson and the Thompson Electric Clock Company
The Thompson Electric Clock Company appears to be the earliest company to develop a business for the exclusive purpose of manufacturing electric automobile clocks. It was incorporated in Tennessee on April 21, 1912 for the purpose listed of “…engaging in the business of merchants, and especially in the business of buying, selling, manufacturing, and dealing in electric Clocks.” The capital stock at incorporation was $1,000 divided into ten (10) shares of one Hundred ($100.00) each. The President was Julius Goodman whose family had been in the jewelry business in Memphis since 1862. William Thompson was listed as Vice President. Thompson was issued seven patents from 1912 to 1915 covering the design and packaging of electrically wound automobile clocks and all were assigned to the Thompson Electric Clock Co. The clock movement as described in the patents used a simple electromechanical means to periodically rewind a spring that drove the clockworks. Thompson adds that his design provides sustaining power during the rewind process and has a resistive shunt to provide some arc-suppression to protect the contacts. Thompson also addressed issues of packaging and develop a design to dampen vibrations and provide for electrical interface to the clock that would seal out water as most of the cars then were of an open touring style design.
Ad from Motor Age, Aug. 1915
By 1916 the Memphis City Directory listed their address on the 11th floor of the Lotus Building, 161-165 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis. Also located on the 11th floor were the Prepay Electric Clock Co., William Thompson, President, and the offices of Teter S. Frank who signed as witness on some of Thompson’s patent drawings. Thompson’s advertisements state that movements were made by Seth Thomas. Incidentally, William Thompson was also issued a patent in 1913, US Pat No. 1,060,380, for an electrically wound movement which was manufactured by Seth Thomas as their electrically self-winding movement No. 89AF.
The Thompson Electric Clock Co advertised for after-market clocks that were self-winding in Chilton’s Automotive Directory from 1916 thru 1920. However, William Thompson died unexpectedly in January of 1917 at the age of 38 and as the source of design development severely impacted the company’s future. However, the company continued to file annual reports and in 1922 the location was given as 4 South Front St. in Memphis. Julius Goodman was listed as president and other board members were his brothers Ben and Abe who were listed as running a loan and pawn shop in Memphis. In 1923 until the last report in 1927 their address was 82 Madison Avenue. These clocks are seldom seen but are the earliest successful self-winding electrics clocks made exclusively for automobiles.