The popularity of his shelf clocks kept Leavenworth and his associates in the clock business for 25 years.Waterbury’s early clock industry, begun by James Harrison in 1790, was intricately connected to clockmaking in Bristol and Terryville.
Their initial goal was to produce buttons and clocks to be sold by peddlers as an alternative to farming, which was a limited success in Waterbury.
It has been stated many times that Waterbury turned to manufacturing because the quality of the soil here was too poor to sustain farming.
Peddlers were just as important in Waterbury as in other manufacturing communities.
Waterbury’s Mark Leavenworth, whose activities have been very well documented, began his manufacturing career making small steel products, including axes and bayonets, which he peddled in Georgia, setting off on his first trip there in 1801.
Those two modest cottage industries would prove to be the roots of the massive brass industry that dominated Waterbury a century later.
When Connecticut was an English colony, the production of finished goods was not permitted.
It is sometimes assumed that the brass industry flourished here because there were natural resources that lent themselves to brass production. During the 18th century, when Waterbury was a small farm town, much of the world’s brass was being produced in England and Wales, where mining and smelting operations flourished.
The Welsh town of Swansea had been a major supplier of brass since the Renaissance, as the region had an abundance of the natural resources required: copper, tin, zinc, and coal, which was essential for industrial-scale metalworking.
England preferred the colonies to remain a source of raw material and a market for finished products manufactured in England.
Following the War of Independence, the former colonists, including Waterbury’s residents, were free to compete with England in the production of finished goods.
Leavenworth entered into the clock business in 1810, establishing his shop on Bucks Hill Road, but later relocating to Great Brook, near Cherry Street.