Cumberland Times-News

February 1, 2013

War buddies helped keep Cumberland on time

James Rada Jr., Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Samuel T. Little had kept Arthur Poole alive during the Civil War. After the war, he gave him a livelihood.

“During the Civil War, Samuel Little befriended the much-younger Arthur A. Poole and offered him an apprenticeship should they both survive their enlistments. Poole began his apprenticeship as a silversmith at S.T. Little Jewelers in October of 1865,” according to Poole’s great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth Denny.

Although he was born in Bedford County, Pa., Poole spent most of his childhood in Cumberland. He began his work life as a clerk in a shoe store in Cumberland at the age of 13.

“Shortly before his 19th birthday in October of 1861, Arthur enlisted as a private in the Maryland 2nd Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, Company H, as a musician. He played the fife,” Denny said.

Little had opened his jewelry store in 1851 and it quickly became known for its quality products. As promised, he began teaching Poole about the business. Poole discovered that even the top-of-the-line jewelry that S.T. Little sold was still lacking something. He continued to refine his ideas about jewelry, watches and clocks as he served as a journeyman jeweler at various locations around Cumberland.

He found a kindred spirit about jewelry in Page Smith. Smith was a native of Vermont, but he had come to Cumberland as a soldier with the 106th New York Volunteer Infantry. He stayed after the war ended and opened up his own jewelry store on Baltimore Street. In 1871, the state gazette and merchants and farmers' directory for Maryland and District of Columbia listed Smith as a “watchmaker, jeweller and fancy goods.”

In 1873, Smith and Poole went into business together on the second floor of the Kearney Building on Baltimore Street. They employed several workmen. From their workshop, they began to create original jewelry pieces for the residents of Cumberland.

The Cumberland Daily Times visited Smith & Poole’s after it opened and said that it “will convince the most skeptical that the manufacture of jewelry right here at home has ceased to be an experiment, but has developed into a fact.”

It was noted that the workshop contained much in the way of fine jewels and gold and silver coins that were apparently melted to supply material for the jewelry. Because of the value of even the waste materials, the floors were carefully swept and the workmen washed their hands in basins. The water was then filtered to catch gold and silver dust. The Daily Times noted that while much of the sweepings were rubbish, a barrel of the sweepings was valued at between $75 and $100 ($1,425 to $1,927 in today’s dollars) and the filtered water would “yield a correspondingly greater return.”

Smith & Poole’s attention to detail and original design created unique pieces that were relatively inexpensively priced since they were created in-house.

“We noticed in their show case yesterday an elegantly mounted vest chain made for Thomas Venners, Esq., and a handsome set ring, just finished, that are alone proofs convincing of the excellence of their work,” the newspaper reported.

The partnership lasted until 1878 when Poole moved to Washington, Pa., and opened his own jewelry store there. He became a successful businessman and added his son Arthur F. Poole to the business in 1892, following the son’s graduation from Washington and Jefferson College.

However, the Pooles’ interest became more and more focused on timepieces as the years went by. Arthur F. Poole, who had been born in Cumberland, went on to become an inventor of electric clocks. He was the creator of the Poole Electric Clocks.

“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,” Denny wrote in an article, “Arthur French Poole’s Relationship With Westinghouse & New Haven Clock Company.”

He died around 1920 in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he had moved in order to recover from tuberculosis.

Page Smith remained in Cumberland and continued operating his own business, the P. J. Smith Co. By 1909, he was not only billing himself as a jeweler but also as an optician.

In January 1918, Smith was 80 years old. While at his daughter’s home in Narrows Park, his kidneys failed and he died.

James Rada is an author and historian who is a regular contributor to the Times-News.