Monday, August 13, 2012

Making the Move...from Springfield, Massachusetts and Newport, Kentucky. Dueber-Hampden Watch Works finds a new home in Canton, Ohio.

In our last blog we talked about the construction of the watch factory from Springfield, Massachusetts and the case factory from Newport, Kentucky.  In this blog entry we discuss the Watch Works move in 1888 and its effect on Canton, Ohio.  

After the cyclone hit in Canton, and once the Watch Works buildings were repaired, the move from Springfield, Massachusetts to Canton, Ohio became the biggest chapter in the Dueber-Hampden story. Watch makers from Hampden County in Springfield required two special trains to move to Canton. The first four hundred workers arrived in town on August 1888 to begin work. The effect of the loss of employees to Springfield was devastating.

The Hampden Watch Company had been Springfield's leading industry. More than 600 mechanics worked at the watch factory. 

This was more than Smith-Wesson and the Armory combined. In addition, these were not just the best mechanics, but the highest paid. As Gibbs reports in his book, From Springfield to Moscow, The Complete Dueber-Hampden Story, he said think of the sadness that fell over Springfield and Hampden County,  Massachusetts when the announcement came that the Watch Works, along with those skilled and highly paid workmen and their families, would be moving to Canton.
Although Hampden County sorely felt the loss of the Watch Works, that did not seem to be the same for Newport Kentucky.  There was no record of mourning the loss of the Watch Case Company (Gibbs, 13).  BUT according to Mathis Premiere Design website—the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that “Mr. Dueber will go.  Newport to lose a great manufacturing interest, What comes of short-sighted selfishness,” the article called the move disastrous for Newport (9).  

The Newport facility employed nearly 735 men, women and children with an annual payroll of $300,000.  The previous year Dueber made close to $1,500,000 in sales—much of the profit was reinvested into the company.

Changing the dynamics of cities

Dueber-Hampden did not just change the economic dynamics of cities.  Dueber-Hampden also played a part in changing the religious influence of Stark County, Ohio. The Zion Lutheran Church, established at 901 Dueber Avenue SW in 1895, came as a direct response to the growing population on the west side, and following the building of the Watch Works (Heald, v4, 400).

To serve the growing West side Methodist population, the Dueber Avenue Methodist Church was also established (Heald, v4, 403).

But along with all the celebration for the watch works and its employees coming to Canton, we can't overlook that there were some growing pains for the city.  According to E. T. Heald, "The coming of Dueber Hampden Watch Works doubled the population of Canton overnight to 26,000 (262)." 

The arrival of Dueber-Hampden Watch Works started an immense growing period for Canton, Ohio.  The building of both the watch and case factories created the growth of eleven lumber yards and the ripple effect of all the housing that was needed for the employees and their families. 

Historian Heald discusses in much detail the need for a better sewage system for Canton that had already been taxed before the population began to grow. When the population was around 12,000 there was no place to dispose of home waste and at that time diphtheria was the greatest cause of deaths. City leaders had begun to put together a board, and make some improvements, but with the coming of Dueber-Hampden, Heald reports there was an immediate need to build a new sewage disposal system south of the city near North Industry just about 1 1/2 miles south of Howenstine on the Dennison Steinmetz farm (262).

The Dueber Watch Case Company and the Hampden Watch Company quickly became two of Canton's largest employers. In 1888, the companies' first year in Canton, the firms employed 2,300 Canton residents. In 1890, Canton's population was 26,337 people. The Dueber-Hampden Watch Company was an important employer in Canton, Ohio during the early 1920s and thanks to these two companies, (watch & case) Canton became an important center for watch manufacturing in the United States of America. .

Something to think about... your own tradition...sharing the history!

Over the course of the two years I have been researching this blog, I have had a good opportunity to interview many people who have connections to the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works, either through a relative who may have worked there, or others who may possess a watch manufactured at the Works, and has been passed down through the generations.

After interviewing many people about Dueber-Hampden and thinking about their fondness for its watches, I wanted to start my own tradition and help my children appreciate the history of their own hometown. Canton was founded in the early 1800s, and less than 100 years later John Dueber moved his factory to this city. I wanted to share this history with them.  

I decided to buy two watches and  my hope was to have the watches be pretty similar.  A collector found one watch in Florida and another in Ohio. The irony is that the watch serial numbers are in sequential order, meaning one was produced right after the other.   

The watches I purchased were manufactured by Dueber-Hampden Watch Works in Canton,  Ohio for Johnston & Co.  As was the practice of many watch companies,  local jewelers could order movements with their name or their stores' name on the watches.  Although the Johnston & Co.  private label movements did not specifically identify them as Johnston watches, the watches could be identified by their special demaskeening patterns and the special marked Hampden in script lettering. 
These two examples are the highest grade Johnston & Co. watches.  These two watches were marked three positions and were pendant set, excluding them from railroad standards.  These watches were referred to as street railway grade in some circles.  These particular watches would have been used by the local streetcar conductors.  

This blog just outlines a few of the influences Dueber-Hampden Watch Works had on Canton's cultural, religious, and economy for its people, and these watches represent a wonderful part of our hometown's coming of age. 

A vintage street car running in Canton, Ohio (1910-1923)  Source:


Gibbs, James W. From Springfield to Moscow: The Complete Dueber-Hampden Story. Revised Edition--supplement to the 1954 Dueber-Hampden Story. Philadelphia, PA: Supplement to the Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc., 1986. Print.

Heald, Edward T. "Greentown's Famous Doctors."The Stark County Story. The Stark County Historical Society. I. Columbus, Ohio: The Stoneman Press, 1949. Print.

Heald, Edward T. The Stark County Story. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. Canton, OH: The Stark County Historical Society, 1958. 262-275. Print.


Dueber-Hampden workers: Dueber-Hampden's came to Canton, used by permission from The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, Canton, Ohio

Dueber-Hampden Watch company ad and trade card used with permission from the Edward Thouvenin collection

Street car in Canton:

Enjoy our Video of Dueber-Hampden Best Time Keepers!


  1. We kids used to play in these massive buildings after the watch company moved out. The rumor was that gold dust lay under the floor but we never found any. When the buildings were razed I bought flooring by the trailer load and used it to make a pontoon boat.

    1. Brother Rolf,
      I've heard this often about the gold in the floors, I also heard that some of the floors were sent to New York in hopes of recovering the gold. Old photographs showed that Dueber-Hampden had some ingenious ways of recovering the gold, by washing the clothes and filtering for the gold....panning I guess. I would be interested to see some photographs of your pontoon boat, this is another part of the story I haven't heard. Thanks for posting!