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Laurent Clerc's Watch

Given to him by Jean Massieu, Laurent Clerc's watch is a beautiful reminder of a strong friendship and mentorship. Housed at the Heritage & Cogswell House Museum at the American School for the Deaf this watch can be seen today! Come visit.

Laurent Clerc Holt 4x Great Grandson
Heritage & Cogswell House Museum, November 2022

The Watch's Story

Laurent Clerc’s pocket watch was gifted to the American School for the Deaf in 1922, and it remains prominently displayed in the school’s museum.  The silver pocket watch is of English make with the typical early feature of having no minute hand.  The name “Clerc” is engraved on the back.  Provenance is as follows:


A label for the watch states that it was presented to Clerc by friends (date unknown), but it is believed to have been a gift from Jean Massieu to Clerc upon Clerc’s departure for America in 1816.


When Laurent Clerc died in 1869, his wife Eliza gave it to Thomas Brown of Henniker, NH.  Mr. Brown had been a pupil at the American School for the Deaf from 1822-1827 and Laurent Clerc was his instructor.  The two became lifelong friends.  The watch descended to Mr. Brown’s only son who was, for many years, an instructor at the Michigan School for the Deaf.  After he died, another teacher at the Michigan School, Mr. Willis Hubbard, approached Mrs. Thomas Brown and suggested that she present the watch to the Hartford school.  She evidently forgot the matter so that, after her death, the watch was in danger of going to strangers – or worse – the scrap heap.


The executor of Mrs. Brown’s estate willingly gave the watch to Mr. Hubbard who immediately presented it to the American School for the Deaf just in time for it to be placed on exhibit for the convention of the New England Gallaudet Association in 1922.


This watch is a treasured artifact in ASD’s historical collection – all thanks to the foresight and efforts of Mr. Willis Hubbard who saved it for posterity.

Courtesy of: The Heritage & Cogswell House Museum at ASD

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