Who was Willard Legrand Bundy?

Willard Legrand Bundy
Willard Legrand Bundy

Willard Legrand Bundy was a prolific New York inventor, who obtained patents for many mechanical devices. His first patent from 1880 is for calendar-clock movement (US patent Nr. 225968). He was a holder of many patents for cash registers (see electric-cash register of Bundy) and calculating machines. However, the invention which made him famous, was his time recorder, a mechanical device that recorded when workers clocked in and out of work.

Early life

Willard Legrand Bundy was born on 8 December 1845, in Otego, New York. He was the first-born of Willard Douglas Bundy (9 Nov. 1815–22 Dec. 1889), and Elizabeth R. Bundy, née Gillespie (29 May 1817–2 Apr. 1894). Willard Legrand had two brothers: J. Leland (Lee) (1847-1910) and Harlow Elisha (1856-1916), and a sister—Prudence Maria (1849-1924).

His family relocated to Auburn, Cayuga County, New York, in 1849. After relocating to Auburn, he joined the feed and flour business and later started his restaurant. When the war emerged, Willard Douglas Bundy ventured into the grocery business. It took him seven years to do this grocery business. Later, he started fishing, general provision, and an oyster business and had a great passion for construction.

Willard Legrand Bundy studied at Auburn. He learned about trading while working at a jewellery store. In 1868, he had already gained experience and started his jewellery shop.

In 1871, he decided to start a new chapter in his life. He was married to Esther Decatur “Etta” Sweet (born on October 12, 1851, and died on September 10, 1931). Esther Decatur was the loving daughter of Royal D. Sweet, who was from Manlius, Onondaga County, New York. 

Together, they were blessed with two lovely sons: Royal Douglas Bundy (born in 1875 and died in 1940) and Willard Haywood Bundy (born in 1872 and died in 1941).

In the 1880s, Willard Bundy built the Thousand Year Clock. This was a wonderfully designed 3100-piece clock. The focus of this clock was to entertain and draw the attention of customers shopping at his jewellery shop. This clock was later moved to a museum in Auburn, the Cayuga Museum.

Willard Legrand Bundy and his Thousand Year Clock
Willard Legrand Bundy and his Thousand Year Clock.

On January 19, 1907, Willard Legrand died in Syracuse, New York, after suffering from Pneumonia. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Even after his death, Willard Legrand Bundy’s inventions continued to impact different workplaces. His concept of using a device to clock in and out is still used by other businesses globally.


After completing his studies, Willard Legrand Bundy worked in a jewellery store, gaining experience in the business. In 1868, he started his jewellery store. He built a clock known as the Thousand Year Clock to attract his customers’ attention and entertain them.

Willard Legrand Bundy had established his profile as an inventor. He had many patents for different mechanical devices. In 1880, he invented his first patent, a calendar-clock movement. Willard Legrand Bundy was a bearer of many patents for calculating machines and cash registers, like the electric cash register. His time recorder was his invention that made him known. This was a mechanical device used to keep track of workers’ times they clocked in and out of jobs.

Bundy Time Clock from 1889
Bundy Time Clock from 1889

He devised his time-recorder during the 1880s. In 1887, Willard Legrand Bundy applied to be granted a patent, and in 1888, he was granted one (US patent 393205). Harlow Elisha, his brother and a business-minded one, encouraged Willard Legrand Bundy to start a business with him.  On September 30, 1889, they established the Bundy Manufacturing Recording Company, Binghamton, together with his brother. This company was to manufacture Willard’s Workman’s Time Recorder invention.

With only a starting capital of $150,000 and only eight employees, the Bundy Manufacturing Company was started. But this company needed investors to grow. People like George Winthrop Fairchild and Austin Ward Ford started investing small capital in this company. Harlow was then appointed general manager of the company, while his brother, Willard Legrand Bundy, worked as a superintendent and managed the technical part.

Within a short period, this company grew rapidly and became one of the major industries and most successful in Binghamton. In the late 1890s, this company hired more than 140 employees with high skills and started different offices in most principal cities in the United States.

By 1898, Bundy Manufacturing Company had already manufactured about 9000-time recorders. It also advised the Bundy Time Recorder as a means of solving “some of the vexatious questions used to keep track of the employees’ time”. 

The general manager of this company, Harlow, created different accounts with the United States post office and the Western Railroad, Delaware, and Lackawanna. Businesses could keep track of their employees with their time clock, thus establishing an international revolution.

Bundy Manufacturing Company decided to merge with other companies dealing with time records in 1900, resulting in the International Time Recorder Company (ITR). ITR later, in 1911, merged with another company, Tabulating Machine Co., Hollerith, with a different company. 

This New York incorporation formed the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, a forerunner of the International Business Machines Corporation, one of the world’s most famous.

In 1900, there was tension between Willard Legrand Bundy and his brother Willard Harlow. 

This was caused after Harlow dismissed Willard Legrand’s elder son (Willard H.) from the company due to some puzzling circumstances. After his dismissal, Willard H. was given a new patent for a contemporary designed time recorder and merged into a competing company with 

Bundy Time Recorder Company. His mother, Esther Sweet, and younger brother, Royal.

Willard Legrand Bundy was also dismissed by his brother, Harlow. Harlow claims that Willard Legrand was the actual inventor of the new patent and not his son. According to Harlow, this violated Willard Legrand’s contract with the Bundy Company. Willard Legrand denied these allegations unshakably. 

He claimed that he didn’t break any of the agreements and was innocent. According to one of the local newspapers, Willard Legrand expected to have his salary until the signed contract with the Bundy Company. This meant that he had to take the next step and collect it from the court.

In 1903, he decided to cut off his connection with the Bundy Company.  Together with their families, they relocated to Syracuse, New York. They immediately started producing for the Bundy Time Recording Company, which later changed its name to the W. H. Bundy Recording Company. The company’s success began when it was started. The company enlarged and went beyond manufacturing time recorders. It started producing and marketing a new product in 1904 (the automatic calculating machine). By 1906, it had already formed the Columbia Calculating Machine and immediately started production. 

Willard Legrand Bundy (left) and Harlow Elsiha Bundy (right) before the scandalous split
Willard Legrand Bundy (left) and Harlow Elisha Bundy (right) before the scandalous split in 1902

This device was designed to perform tasks like multiplication, addition, subtraction, and other functions like printing words according to the requirements of an individual. In 1906, this company enlarged, and it rapidly increased to 500,000 USD in capital stock. It started with different branches in other cities. One local newspaper stated that Syracuse created half-time recorders in the world. It also acknowledged W. H. Bundy Recording Company among the manufacturers in the Syracuse area.

The Bundy Manufacturing Company continued to sue W. H. Bundy Recording Company. From the years 1903 to 1907, the two brothers and their companies faced an endless battle against each other due to the patent rights involving Bundy Time Recorders, the manufacturing and selling of the Time Recording Clocks using the Bundy name, and Willard Legrand Bundy’s violation of the original company contract. W. H. Recording Company was found guilty of patent infringement in 1907, but it continued to operate until 1915, when it refused to be bought out by its rival.

Bundy Manufacturing Company

His brother, Harlow Elisha, a business-minded man, advised him to venture into business together with him. With $150,000 in capital and a total number of eight employees, they started the Bundy Manufacturing Recording Company in Binghamton. 

The Bundy Manufacturing Company factory on 183-185 Water Street in Binghamton, N.Y., end of 19th century
The Bundy Manufacturing Company’s factory on 183-185 Water Street in downtown Binghamton, New York, at the end of 19th century

This company manufactured Willard’s invention (the Time Recorder). It got two investors who invested in it, thus increasing their revenue to run the company. The company’s management was Harlow Elisha, who served as the general manager, and Willard Legrand, who worked as a superintendent, made up the company’s management. 

W. H. Bundy Recording Company

Although the first company was successful, the two brothers started having differences after the dismissal of Willard H. (Willard Legrand’s first son). Willard Legrand Bundy decided to relocate with his family to Syracuse. Willard Legrand Bundy started the W.H. Bundy Recording Company. 

They began to manufacture clocks that resembled the ones manufactured by ITR. Willard Legrand decided to expand his business by adding a new mechanical device. He introduced the manufacturing of the automatic, calculating machine. This could help users solve specific calculating tasks like subtraction, multiplication, and additions. 

The rivalry between the two brothers and their companies continued, pushing the original Bundy Company to seek a lawsuit. This kept going on for four years (1903–1907). The charges pressed against Willard Legrand and his company was: violation of Willard Legrand Bundy’s terms of his contract with the Bundy Company; the new Bundy Company selling its products using the Bundy name; and the patent rights for the Bundy Time Recorders.

Willard Legrand Bundy’s company was found at fault for the patent infringement, but it continued running till 1915, after which it was denied giving its ownership to its rival.

What did Willard Legrand Bundy invent?

Thousand-Year Clock

In the 1880s, Willard Legrand Bundy needed to attract and entertain customers at his venture. He went ahead and designed a 3100-clock known as the Thousand Year Clock. Later, this clock was transferred to the Cayuga Museum in Auburn. The same year, Willard Legrand Bundy invented a calendar-clock movement, his first patent. He had many different patents for calculating machines and cash registers, such as the electric cash register. His new invention that made Willard Legrand Bundy famous was the time recorder. It was a mechanical device designed to record workers once they clocked in and out of a job. He invented his time-recorder for the first time in the 1880s. Willard Legrand Bundy went ahead and requested a patent in 1887, and in 1888, he got the patent (US patent 393205). 

Willard Legrand Bundy: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal life

Net worth

There is no information available about Willard Legrand’s net worth.


In 1871, Willard Legrand Bundy married to Esther Decatur “Etta” Sweet (12 Oct. 1851–10 Sep. 1931), daughter of Royal D. Sweet from Manlius, Onondaga County, New York. They had two sons.


Willard Legrand died while he was still married.


Willard Legrand Bundy and Esther Decatur were blessed with two sons: Willard H. (1872-1941) and Royal D. (1875-1940).


On January 19, 1907, Willard Legrand Bundy died of pneumonia.

Willard Legrand Bundy – Complete Biography, History and Inventions FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who was Willard Legrand Bundy?

Willard Legrand Bundy was a prolific New York inventor who owned patents for different mechanical devices. After his family relocated to Auburn, Willard Legrand Bundy attended school there, where he completed his studies. He started working at a jewellery store, where he gained exposure and experience in that business, and he was able to start his jewellery venture.

What did Willard Legrand Bundy do?

Willard Legrand Bundy invented patents for mechanical devices like the time-recording clock and the automatic calculating machine. 

Why did Willard Legrand Bundy build the mechanical time clock?

He invented this device to draw attention and entertain his customers at his jewellery shop.

When was Willard Legrand Bundy born?

 He was born on December 8, 1845, in Otego, New York.

When did Willard Legrand die?

On January 19, 1907, Willard Legrand Bundy died of Pneumonia.

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