Saturday, March 13, 2010

Researching Canton and the beginnings of the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works

It has been an interesting week- busy, but productive.

I was able to interview George Wagner. George's grandfather, John Henry, and his two great uncles, Joseph Frank Wagner and George Peter Wagner were all employed by the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works in Canton. George said they were employed in the watch portion of the plant. He also found that his grandfather migrated to Canton from Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing is home to Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing pottery.

George believes that his grandfather found out about working for Dueber-Hampden Watch Works from flyers that may have been placed around Red Wing looking for skilled watchmakers, or persons wanting to become watchmakers.

A newspaper article tells that John Henry Wagner was working in Canton at the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works and returned to Red Wing, Minnesota in 1903 to marry his sweetheart. After the wedding, he returned to Canton, where he and his two brothers continued to work at Dueber-Hampden Watch Works. George said his grandfather and two great Uncles then found employment repairing watches for the George Deuble Jewelry Store, Canton, Ohio. George said that "Grandfather," John Henry Wagner even repaired watches at his home.

This photo believed to have been taken around 1920s at the George Deuble Jewelry Store, shows second from left, John Henry Wagner, and at far right Joseph Frank Wagner. Both, had been employed at the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works, Canton, Ohio.

In my interview with Mr. Wagner, he tells of a cross-country trip that he made in 1950, with his father, mother, and grandfather, to visit his two great uncles living in California. Quite a trip for a fifteen year old, and one George delighted in telling me. George shared some of his watches from his collection. One watch in particular, was engraved especially for George's father.

After George and I looked over his watches, and then speaking to Edward Thouvenin, a local watch collector, I learned that each Dueber case has a serial number. In some watches we found there are other numbers scratched numbers in the case. If you open the back of your watch case and look inside, in addition to the case serial number, you may find small scratched coded numbers by watch makers who serviced the watch that should tell you if your watch was into the repair shop and the date it was repaired.

Edward Thouvenin, said if a watch maker is a member of the American Watch Makers Institute, they receive a mark that will identify them or their shop. Some states require a jeweler to be licensed, although Ohio is not a state that does require this. These marks in your watch would show a date and coded jeweler's mark. This was especially beneficial if your watch was lost, or stolen, because by looking at the marks, the watch could be traced back to its owner, by identifying the jeweler mark that would tell where and when a watch was repaired.

Besides the serial number on the case, you may find the case trademarks. Dueber-Hampden's slogan was "By Their Marks Shall They Be Known." According to The Pulse of Time, Dueber-Hampden Watches used these trademarks, registered with the United States Government, to protect watch customers from buying imitations, or fraudulent products.

More of my interview with George Wagner will be forthcoming. In addition, I was also able to interview (pictured in photograph) Ralph Goodenberger,(left) whose grandfather led the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works move from Canton to Russia, and Richard Haldi, who is a local historian steeped in Dueber-Hampden history.

"Red Wing, Minnesota."Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 07 Jan 2010 .Web. 10 Mar 2010. .

The Pulse of Time--Dueber-Hampden Watch Works. Canton: The Northern Engraving Company, n.d. 6. Print.

Thouvenin, Edward, Personal Interview. 9 Mar. 2010.

Wagner, George. Personal interview. 8 Mar. 2010.

Images (clock and inside Deuble's jewelry store) used with permission of George Wagner Collection

Trademark from The Pulse of Time--Dueber-Hampden Watch Works. Canton: The Northern Engraving Company, n.d. 6. Print.


  1. I just returned from vacation and wanted to see how the research is coming. I love to read and hear personal comments about the history of our area and about Deuber Hamptem. I will be following as you add new parts to this research. Thanks for your interesting interviews and the personal information shared. Marge