Modern collectors and researchers have argued whether the “6” hour figure must appear on a marginal figure dial to be classified as a “true” Montgomery dial.
This conundrum appears to have stemmed from an account given by Miss Ethel L. May, a former employee at the Montgomery Safety Dial Company. In an article published in the February 1976 issue of the NAWCC Bulletin, author Larry Treiman relays the information provided by Miss May indicating that all Montgomery dials must feature the “6” hourly figure.
While this account is rather compelling, other comments by Miss May have since been found to be erroneous. For example, May also reported that Henry S. Montgomery received a patent for his original 1899 dial design. However, no patent was ever issued for the design. Since May began working for Montgomery in 1917, nearly two decades after Montgomery first designed the familiar dial, it is understandable that some of her recollections may be incorrect.
There is some truth to be extracted from May’s statements, however. In a 1920 letter responding to an attack by Webb C. Ball, Montgomery counterattacked Ball for his omission of the “6” figure on his dials after Ball stated that all dials should have “12 plain upright Arabic figures” when his dials only featured 11.
While Mr. Montgomery certainly preferred his dials to feature the “6” hour figure, he did not consider it to be a defining characteristic of the design. This is supported by an advertisement published in the April 21, 1920 issue of The Topeka State Journal, where Montgomery clearly states what defines a Montgomery Dial:
“Any dial with upright MINUTE figures is a “Montgomery Dial.” The MINUTES are the important factors, and they are shown at a glance on this new and best design of the famous SAFETY DIAL.”April 21, 1920 issue of The Topeka State Journal
According to Montgomery’s own account, we can conclude that the primary defining characteristic of the Montgomery Dial is the upright marginal minute figures. All other features are supplemental, including the “6” hour figure. Further evidence of Montgomery’s claim has been found on dials marked “Montgomery’s Standard Numerical Dial” that omit the “6” hour figure.