Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tradition includes Dueber-Hampden Watch Works

A Snowy night outside the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works
An older Canton man reminiscing his childhood trips to Canton with his mother recalled one event in these words.  "Only the sound from the horse's  hoofs on the old road could be heard as the great Watch Works rose in front of my mother's wagon.  Against the dark night, the Works  looked almost fairylike with the flicker from the gas lights for the workers crafting watches."  This scene described Dueber-Hampden Watch Works when the great watch and case factory ran a second shift to make some of the best watches in Canton, Ohio. 

This copy of the original painting by Tom Franta, was commissioned by the Canton Rotary Club of Canton to be placed on Christmas cards.  The painting shows the Dueber Watch Case building of the Dueber Hampden Watch Company circa 1925. The great Watch Works was sold to Russia and the buildings were torn down.  The clock from the clock tower can be seen in operation at the McKinley Museum in Canton. 

John Dueber used the Christmas season to sell and promote his watches and cases as illustrated in this early trade card.

Conley Family includes Dueber-Hamdpen Watches in  Family Christmas Tradition
Giving Dueber-Hampden watches as Christmas gifts is a nice tradition and one that has been enjoyed by the Conley Family for many years and several generations.  I had the opportunity to speak with Beth Heinicke recently about her father who was the late James Albert Conley.  Mr. Conley loved collecting antiques and toys, especially anything with a tie to Canton and its history.  But the interesting part in talking with Beth is that her father loved Dueber-Hampden watches and the history of the Watch Works.    
Beth's dad introduced his children to Dueber-Hampden watches and his love of Canton.  He began a tradition of giving his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren watches--always around Christmas.  It was never really every year,  said Beth.  "But it was when Mom and Dad found the right watch with the right serial number."  The serial numbers had to be from the time period when his mother, Flora Belle Melchior Conley worked for the Watch Works.  Although Beth said she wasn't sure how long her Grandmother Flora worked for Dueber-Hampden helping to make watches. Beth said her grandmother continued to work at the Watch Works even after having her children.  Flora married Michael Conley who started the M. Conley Company in Canton. 

The M. Conley Family
The M. Conley Family.  Top clockwise Grandmother, Flora Belle Melchior Conley holding James Albert, Norm, Richard, Arthur, and Grandfather Michael holding Mary. 

Beth Conley Heinicke shares her 1903 Molly Stark Watch 
What a nice tradition for a family to share.  Not just a beautiful watch, but a watch made while their grandmother/great grandmother was part of the process, and a part of Canton history.   Beth said, all of the children's watches are different.  Her own Christmas watch is a 1903 Molly Stark.  She wears it around the holiday, or for special occasions. 
This Hampden 6-size watch is 15 jewel grade No. 213.  All 6 size watches were hunting movements.  This particular watch was a gift from Grandpa Conley to P.J. Heinicke.  

Dueber-Hampden Watches serve another generation.
Photograph taken December 24, 1996, left to right is Claire, Drew, and Hillary Swallen, Danny Conley, and P.J. Heinicke.  

Drawing on memory

Joan Green, reference librarian at the Stark County District Library, Canton, Ohio
I started my Dueber-Hampden blog in January this year.  What a fun time it has been.  I thought I would get more original history, but I'm too many generations away.  Gibbs' book, From Springfield to Moscow: The Complete Dueber-Hampden Story has proven to be a good resource.  While researching more,  I became acquainted with Joan Green.  Mrs. Green is a reference librarian for the Stark County District Library.  In my search to learn more about Dueber-Hampden, Joan told me an interesting story.  When she was about 15-years-old and a high school sophomore, she and a girlfriend decided to sketch the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works before it was completely torn down.  Armed with sketch pads, pens, and pencils, the girls climbed a nearby hill close by the Watch Works.  Joan said she has lost touch with her old friend, and doesn't remember if they ever did finish the drawing.
Reflecting on my Blog and saying Thanks            
I am trying to research and record some history about the Watch Works, and to share with others who may have an interest in it before it is forgotten.  As I close out this year's post I want to thank all the people I talked to this year, who shared their stories, and their own history about Dueber-Hampden.  Especially thanks to all my collectors who provide the technical expertise.  This blog is possible with all the help people have given me so far.  Without them I have no story. I have no blog.  So I hope you have enjoyed reading their stories as much as I have enjoyed hearing them and writing them.   If you want to read back on some of the earlier blog posts, the achieves are at the right-hand side and are easily accessible. 

Happy Holidays!
As I sign off for this year, I wish you a happy holiday season and good things in the new year.    

Green, Joan. Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2010.
Heinicke, Beth. Personal interview. 17 Dec. 2010.

Green, Joan. Yearbook photographs. 1961. Photograph. Private Collection, Canton South.
Heinicke, Beth. Family Photographs 1, 2, 3, 4. Photographs. Private Collection.
Franta, Tom. The Dueber Watch Case Building. card. Private Collection--Edward Thouvenin.


  1. I enjoyed this Blog. My name is Eric Conley. Current President of The M. Conley Company. Grandson to Richard Conley.

    1. Dear Mr. Conley, thanks for reading our Dueber-Hampden Blog, your family is part of the history of Dueber-Hampden, thanks for sharing with our readers.

  2. Hi, Lee.

    I'm very new to pocket watches and have been looking at a Hampden watch at a store. I knew nothing about the brand, but found your blog and the fifth photo on this page stood out to me since it's the same movement as the watch I'm looking at. A quick check with serial numbers showed that it looks like they are near by (apparently different batches though.) I was wondering if there was anything you could possibly let me know about that style? If not, I totally understand. I was just interested in case I do buy the watch.