Elgin National Watch Company Circa 1886
The great Elgin National Watch Company had its birth in 1864, at the time of the US Civil War. It was the largest watch company in terms of production, well topping its closet competitor, the American Waltham Watch Company (1851-1957) of Massachuetts.
One of the company's original backers was J.C. Adams who, after a trip to Waltham, came to Chicago and approached former mayor Benjamin W. Raymond about investing start-up money in the proposed new company. Adams and Raymond were also successful in getting others, some former executives of Waltham, in contributing to getting the company started. The National Watch Company (Elgin) was formed in August of 1864. With the help of Illinois govenor Altgeldt, the city of Elgin donated 35 acres of land on the Fox River and by 1866 the factory was completed.
The first movement was named the B.W. Raymond and the first watch was sold on April 1, 1867 for $115. This very same watch (Raymond # 101) was sold at auction in 1988 for $12,000 and no doubt would bring much more if brought out on the market today.
By 1898 Elgin was cranking out 2,500 watches per day and moving full speed ahead.
In 1874 the company offically changed its name to the Elgin National Watch Company. In 1910 it made its first wrist watch.
Employees at Elgin National Watch circa 1890's
Work at the turn of the century was hard and disciplined and conditions at Elgin were no different than most other companies at the time. The standard work week there was six, ten hour days. Workers weren't allowed to engare in conversation, and if idled by a lag in the production process, the had to remain seated at their stations without even being able to read.
REGULATIONS AT ELGIN NATIONAL WATCH IN THE 1890'S
1. The regular work hours in thsi factory will be from 7 AM to 12 PM and from 1PM to 5 PM.
2. The factory bell will ring at ten minutes, and toll at one minute before the time to work.
3. The engine will start promptly at the time named, and all operatives not beginning work at that time will suffer a deduction of not less then 15 minutes from their time.
4. The factory door will be locked at 5 minutes part of 7 am and 5 minutes past 1 pm, and all operatives arriving after that hour will be refused admission until quarter time.
5. Employees will not be allowed to leave off work, or make preparation to do so, either at noon or night, until the bell rings.
6. Quiet and orderly deployment will be insisted upon in all parts of the factory, and at all times.
7. Reading will not be allowed during working hours.
8. Smoking is not allowed in any part of the factory or on its grounds.
9. No work, outside of the Company's, will be allowed in the factory.
10. Employees will not, under any circumstances, admit persons not in the employ of the Company, to any part of the factory.
11. Employees are not to throw water, paper, or any kind of rubbish out the windows.
12. All communicatiosn between departments must be on the business of the Company, and transacted with the foreman or his representative. Visiting, either in the departments or corridors of the factory, will not be tolerated.
Elgin At The World's Fair
Some Unique Elgins
The Last Seconds
The Elgin Site Today