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DUEBER-HAMPDEN WATCHES, 1886

By Unknown

Broadcast WHBC-FM-April 3, 1949, Publisher

      THE COMING of The Dueber-Hampden Watch Works to Canton marked a new era in Canton's history. It was the largest migration of a fully developed company-two companies in fact-in the history of Canton. It started Canton on its fastest pace of growth, doubling its population in half a decade. It created Canton's greatest housing shortage in proportion to the city's size, and in solving the shortage, the city added a greater percentage of territory in the way of additions and extensions of corporate limits than in any other five year period. It brought to Canton a new industrial leader gifted with a bold imagination, great executive ability and dynamic personality. Up to the time Dueber-Hampden's came the race between Canton, Massillon and Alliance was anybody's race. After Dueber-Hampden came there was no longer a race, Canton had so far outdistanced the other two.

      Dueber-Hampden came at a providential time. Just as death removed Cornelius Aultman from the industrial, financial and social leadership of Canton, facing C. Aultman & Co. with an uncertain future with harvester trusts looming on the horizon, John C. Dueber brought the needed personal leadership and industrial organization to more than take up the slack.

      John C. Dueber came to the United States from Germany at the age of 9 years. with his parents, and apprenticed to a watchmaker in Cincinnati for five years. He began single-handed making watchcases in a little room at Cincinnati. To secure capital he made wedding rings at night. He founded a thriving watchcase factory at Newport, Ky., just across the river from Cincinnati. This was incorporated in 1876, the same year that the Gruen Watch Company, was founded in Cincinnati.

      In 1885 John C. Dueber had outgrown his Newport factory. He was doing a S1,500,000 business a year, but was hemmed in with no opportunity to buy land for plant expansion and he faced the watch-case trust.

      In the early years of American watch making when the watch companies were few, each factory made both cases and movements. But as the business developed separate companies were formed to make cases exclusively, and to make movements exclusively. The case factories, which could produce their product by mass production more easily, multiplied faster than the movements, and soon there was overproduction of cases.

      In those days of rugged individualism, before the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed, the watch-case manufacturers banded together in a trust, and proceeded to boycott John Dueber because he quit them. So to keep in business, John Dueber had to buy a movements company or surrender to the trust. He decided to buy The Hampden Co. of Springfield, Mass., with 480 employees - a company that was paying 10 per cent dividend annually, and had a cash surplus of $150,000.

      Since he couldn't expand at Newport, Mr. Dueber let it be known that whatever city or town would raise $100,000 in gift money first would get the combined Dueber-Hampden companies, with some 1,500 to 2,000 employees, which with families would mean 7,500 to 10,000 population. When Canton heard of this opportunity it's brilliant and public spirited civic leaders sprang into action. The Board of Trade had just been organized with Louis Shaefer as secretary. Charles A. Dougherty, who had had to give up a dental career for health reasons, and had taken up real estate, rolled down his desk, and went out to raise the $100,000 and in three months he had it raised. Twenty prominent lead- ers guaranteed $5,000 each, and the banks advanced cash upon their guarantees as security.

      John C. Dueber was invited to Canton with a party of 40 associates and assistants, and a monster meeting was held at the Opera House in June 1886, with 1,500 attending, at which it was announced that in addition to the gift of $100,090 by the citizens of Canton the Meyers' heirs would donate 20 acres from their farm west of the creek for the factory. A congratulatory telegram was received from William McKinley in Congress. The city council agreed to a railroad spur running into the factory grounds from the Pennsylvania Railroad. Secretary Shaefer bought five acres from Thomas Patton along the creek, for additional parkland to be presented to the Duebers.

      Ground was broken for the new Dueber-Hampden factories Oct. 14th, 1886. The plans called for two buildings for the two separate companies: the Hampden Watch Works to the south, the Dueber Watch Case Works to the north. The buildings had a combined frontage of 1,140 feet, almost twice as long as the great Waltham factory. George W. Kramer and F. 0. Weary of Akron were the architects. Mr. Dueber contracted for the 6,000,000 bricks at Zanesville, of which 1,000,000 were pressed bricks for the face walls. The buildings were the last word in watch making architecture, and with the spaciously parked grounds surrounding, brought a new note of impressive distinction and beauty to Canton's building, skyline and landscape. The central parts of each building served as offices and rose to 142 feet in height, the equivalent of 12 story skyscrapers; Canton's and Stark County's first skyscrapers. The turrets on the wings were 100 feet high, and the stack 150 feet. A majestic landmark was the tower with the great clock, with its four faces, which have kept time for the past 60 years.

      While John Dueber erected his factory buildings 1886-1888 Canton busily built dwellings and additions to provide homes for the hundreds of workers and their families, who were to come from Springfield, Mass., and Newport, Ky. The Meyers' heirs laid Out their farm adjoining the factory, into 742 lots, the most extensive addition that had yet been made in Canton. Through the heart of it ran Dueber Avenue. Other additions added more than 1,100 lots between 1887 and 1891.

      The building operations got a set-back May 27, 1888, when a terrific rainstorm and cyclone hit the south wing of the Hampden building, and leveled into a mass of ruins the just completed wing, 230 feet long, 30 feet wide and 3 stories high. No one was killed or injured, but there being no cyclone insurance the company had to stand the S15,000 loss and several weeks of time. While John C. Dueber was surveying the ruins in company with his architects and superintendent, John A. Coburn, and plumber, Thomas P. McCarthy, young Ira Aungst, then 18 years old walked up and applied for a job. He was engaged on the spot, the first Canton boy to be employed by the company. He continued working there for 41 years, advancing to become master watchmaker. The buildings were completed for less than S200,000, hard to believe as we look at them in the face of today's building costs.

      Dueber-Hampden consisted of two separate companies, with separate incorporations, separate officers and occupying separate buildings for the first 34 years of their existence. First president of The Hampden Co. was Canton's prominent citizen W. W. Clark, who also served as treasurer. John C. Dueber was the president of The Dueber Watch Case Co. from the beginning of its operations until his death in 1907, and president and treasurer of The Hampden Co. from 1895 until his death. W. A. Moore was secretary, treasurer and general manager of The Dueber Watch Case Co. from the beginning until 1902 when John C. Dueber added those responsibilities to his duties as president.

      After John C. Dueber's death, his son, the late Albert M. Dueber, who had worked up in the factory, part of the time as a traveling salesman, and after 1901 as vice-president, became president. Another son, Joseph C. Dueber, who had shown great promise as executive and business man, died about 1900, a blow to the father in his declining years, and a blow to the future prospects of the company.

      Following his father's death, A. M. Dueber managed both companies as president and treasurer until 1923 when the two companies were merged as The Dueber-Hampden Co., with a capital of $1,000,000. Mr. Dueber continued as president and treasurer of the merged organization; Moses Loeb, who came in as vice-president of The Dueber Watch Case Co. in 1909, continued in that capacity; and C. L. Hunter, who came in as secretary in 1909, continued in that office.

      When two special trains brought the first contingent of 250 workers from the Hampden Company at Springfield, Mass., early in August 1888, there was a big banquet for the workers and the members of their families at the Tabernacle with Canton's colorful Mayor John F. Blake, father of Joseph M. Blake, present, and W. L. Alexander, master of ceremonies. On the program, addressing the 560 guests, employees and members of their families, were Louis Schaefer, Archibald McGregor and Congressman William McKinley.

      The Hampden Watch factory began operations in August 1888, a year earlier than the Dueber Watch Case Works. The Newport Watch Case factory was producing 15,000 cases a week before it moved. By the end of the first year the Hampden factory was employing 1,000 persons, and turning out 600 watches a day, and the company declared an 8 per cent dividend in February 1890. Net assets of the two companies were reported as S2.609,000 in January 1891, with liabilities of S612,000. John C. Dueber and family were sole owners.

      Hampden watches enjoyed a trade reputation of being the highest grade on the market. With railroad men Hampden watches vied with Hamilton watches for first place in popularity. John C. Dueber chose wisely when he bought the Hampden works of Springfield, Mass., where the skill of watch workers was the highest in America.

      In August 1892 business was running at the rate of $3,000,000 a year. The beautiful landscaping about the buildings had been completed. Dueber watches with 14 karat special filled cases and 17 jewel movements, said to have been the first on the market, commanded the highest price because of their intrinsic value. Later Dueber brought out the first 23-jeweled watch movements in this country. Altogether the company brought out seven different sizes of watches, only one of which was discontinued. Karl F. Krumm (¹), who was one of the 21 who later went to Russia, jeweled them all.

      When bicycles became the rage, John C. Dueber added bicycles to his production in The Watch Case Works in 1896, continuing about five years.

      The Dueber-Hampden factories were at their peak of operations with 2,300 employees when John C. Dueber died in 1907.- This was near-capacity for the huge buildings, which at times ran four nights a week, making a beautiful sight all lighted up.

      From the beginning all of John C. Dueber's fighting qualities were required to meet the boycott of 27 watchcase factories in the United States. He met the challenge by organizing his own sales organization from coast to coast.

      After the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890 John Dueber brought an anti-monopoly Suit for $950,000 damages against The American Watch Trust for its alleged conspiracy to boycott Dueber-Hampden watches. The combined capital against Dueber was about $10,000,000. At that time the capital of The Dueber Watch Case Co. was S2,000,000 and of The Hampden Co. S200,000. The courts decided against the Watch Trust in 1893 and the boycott was called off in 1895, according to Repository reports.

      In 1896 suit was brought against Dueber by the Waltham and Elgin companies for infringing on the Colby patent for pendant set watches. When the lower courts ruled against Dueber he carried the case to the District Court of Appeals before Judge Howard Taft, and there won a reversal of the decision of the lower court.

      When John C. Dueber first came to Canton, he and his son Joseph lived at the Hurford House. Later he bought the J. C. Welty residence at 848 Market Ave. N. and lived there with his family until his death. After his death A. M. Dueber moved to 712 W. Tuscarawas and Mr. Dueber's widow and two daughters to 718 W. Tuscarawas.

      In 1901 Mr. Dueber traveled to Europe with his younger daughter, Estella (now Mrs. A. L. Joliet). Together they visited his native village of Netphen in Prussia. When he and his daughter returned to Cantonm they were met at the station by a crowd of 3,000 people and a band. Afterwards he sent a clock to put in the church tower at Netphen. During World War II the church was bombed, but the tower and clock were unharmed.

      During the first 20 years following John C. Dueber's death the Hampden Works continued along the lines he had established, and the company enjoyed a steady, healthy business. But meantime business in the country was undergoing dynamic changes. Factories were consolidating and many failing. Of the 44 American companies listed by Robert H. Ingersoll & Brother's History of American watch making in 1919, as having once been in business, only 17 were operating in 1919. The Dueber-Hampden Co., following a conservative course, retained a decreasing share in the watch making business. Capital had been reduced from $2,000,000 to $500,000 in 1905.

      In September 1925 The Dueber-Hampden Co. was sold to a group Clevelanders, headed by Walter Vretman, who became president; Fred G. Gatch, vice-president; L. W. Wickham, secretary; and R. E. Rhyan treasurer. Purchase price of $1,551,000.00 exactly equaled the debts less $65,000, which latter figured as the commission for the sale. The assets were written up on the company's books to an amount $2,338,298 in excess of the purchase price, offset by 8,000 new shares of non-par stock issued to the promoters in addition to 2,000 shares issued to the selling company.

      Such methods of financing had their inevitable culmination in a receivership in 1927. Raymond W. Loichot was appointed receiver by the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

      After working out the inventory and developing the assets, operations were discontinued in 1930, 42 years after they began. The machinery and tools were sold to Amtorg-Soviet Russia's buying agency in this country-for $329.000. This amount was within $65,000 of the appraised value of the equipment. The Dueber-Hampden machinery and equipment filled 28 carloads.

      The land assets were appraised at $528,886.00 and buildings at $483,388.00. At a public sale the mortgagee, A. M. Dueber, who was the sole bidder, bought the plant in for $720,000.00, or within S300,000 of the appraised value.

      A large percentage was realized upon the values of the property as set up in the inventory and appraisal.

      Entirely separate from the receivership was an interesting transaction between the Soviet Government and 21 former veteran watch-makers of The Dueber-Hampden Co., whereby the latter were employed for one year to go to Russia and supervise the establishment of a Soviet watch factory near Moscow, and train the Russians in watch making. The expedition reached Moscow March 16, 1929. Fourteen came back at the end of the year and the remaining men and their wives six months later. Of the 21 who went, 10 have died since their return. (*) The American watchmakers were paid cash, transportation, and given apartments, cook and waiter, which were estimated as the equivalent of $7,000 a year. Ira Aungst was favorably impressed with the speed and skill with which the Russians learned the watch business, especially the young women, who, he said, did what no young women do in the American watch factories.

      A further word on this Russian watch factory comes from Jeweler John Gasser, who at one time worked at Dueber-Hampden. He visited old friends in Switzerland a year ago, and there heard from traveling men who had recently been to Russia that the watch factory had practically ceased operations, though the clock factory was still operating. The report was that Russians were not so well adapted for the fine and intricate mechanism of the watch.

      Today the great former watch factory plant is divided between the Dueber heirs and the Cally-Wyl Co., which latter is a word coined from the recent owners, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Cable and E. C. Smalley of Canton, and Howard Wyles of Berea, Ohio. Mr. Wyles withdrew from the company about a year ago. Extension of Garfield Avenue is the dividing line north and south; west of that line the Dueber heirs retain 9.22 acres, and east of it the Cally-Wyl owners for the past three years have owned 15 acres, which include the main buildings. In the buildings and along W. Tuscarawas St. the Laundromat, (²) Boardman's Floral office, Motor Mart for used cars, and Studebaker's Service Station are on the Cally-Wyl property, while Kroger's, Kestel's Canfield Service and the Dueber Movie Theatre are on the property of the Dueber heirs. The latter include Mrs. A. L. Joliet, Mrs. John Ferrall and Mrs. Robert Vail. The latter two were Mary and Josephine Dueber, daughters of A. M. Dueber.

      The main buildings are largely used for storage-the south or Hampden buildings by The Hoover Company and the North or Dueber buildings by The Timken Roller Bearing Co. The statues that used to adorn the entrance now repose at the Lehman High school.

      John C. Dueber was one of Canton's great builders. He was an exponent of the strenuous life, a square dealer, who met life's issues without flinching and expected others to do the same. He was a battler noted for pugnacity and tenacity. He concerned himself with the welfare of his employees, and encouraged their organization for sports and athletics. He took his part in civic affairs, and served as president of the Canton Business Men's Club. He was a Republican and never pussyfooted in his championship of William McKinley.

      When he brought his factory to Canton the town only had 13,000 population. Within four years time the census showed more than 26,000, a gain of 100 percent, the increase largely due to the new watch industry which he built. But more important than quantity was the quality of the workers he imported into Canton-all skilled workmen, who raised the social level of the community and whose descendants are to be found forming an important part of the middle-class backbone of Canton today, economically, artistically, religiously, intellectually and morally.

1) Karl F. Krumm died October 8, 1949.

*) As Of June 20, 1950. seven of the survivors of the watchmakers of the Russian expedition were reported living. all residents of Canton; namely, Burt N. Beebout, 435 Hazlett Ave. NW.: lames F. Davis, 238 Bedford Ave. SW.; Alfred J. Fravel, 327 6th St. NW.; Victor N. Rust, 647 Park Ave. W.; Louis C. Ryman, 1016 6th St. SW.: Albert L. Shotts. 1912 9th St. SW.; and W. H. Woessner, 1206 Park Ave. SW. The possibility that William Gutenberger was still living at some point outside of Canton could not be verified. Quite a number of the widows are living.

2) In the fast changing business scene, during the brief time since the script was written the following changes have occurred: Laundromat has changed to Thirty Minute Laundry of Canton; Boardman's Floral Office has changed to Canton Cut Flower Co.: C. & F. Service Station has taken the place of P. V. Kestel and Climax Reflector Inc. and Climax Machine Co. are new companies.

Submitted by: Samuel Kirk (##)

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