Cornell Watch Company Factory

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Cornell Watch Company Factory

Post by koimaster » October 11th 2021, 9:10am

The Newark Watch Co. is purchased by the Cornell Watch Co. from Grand Crossing, Illinois.

Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1871


The Illinois Central Railroad officials honored a number of their friends , yesterday evening, with an excursion to the new town of Cornell, which is just springing into existence a little south of our city. Among other distinguished personages on board were Judge Robert Wilson, General Warren, Lieutenant Commander Murray, U.S.N., J.Y. Scammon, Thomas Hoyne, H.H. Honore, F.S. Dobbins, George Trumbull, John Fitch, Paul Cornell, George W. Waite, and Colonel Bowen. The railroad company was represented by the President, General Superintendent, Chief Engineer, and other officers. The trip was a very enjoyable one. All seemed pleased at what they saw on the way and at the end of the journey, where the Cornell watch factory, a noble structure and admirably adapted to its purpose, is rapidly approaching completion. Having surveyed this and other improvements, for which our enterprising fellow citizen, Paul Cornell, is deserving of praise, the party returned with enlarged conceptions of the substantial growth of our city and its environs.


Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1873

The solution of the transportation problem, which is now puzzling so many minds, and which seems to be the great question of the day in the West, has one very ready answer, if only a sufficient number of people can be made to agree to carry out the plan. So long as the cost of transporting grain to distant consumers is so great as to deprive the farmer of all profit, and at the same time to cause an exorbitant price for breadstuffs at the place where they are mostly consumed, there will be considerable difficulty in reconciling the interests of producers and consumers, engaged in mechanical labor, are brought into the immediate vicinity of the producers, both are benefited. In short, few things will improve the condition of the farmers of the great Northwest as much as the location of large manufacturing establishments throughout the country wherever circumstances will permit.

Recognizing the above fact, Chicago has already taken a commanding lead in all branches of manufactures, from the heaviest and bulkiest articles to the finest and most delicate pieces of mechanism.

One of the most valuable and interesting branches of industry that has ever been started here is one but, little known, except to those interested in it, or to the residents in its vicinity. We refer to the Cornell Watch Factory, situated at Grand Crossing, about nine and a half miles south of the city, at the crossing of the Illinois Central Michigan Central, Michigan Southern, and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroads. The factory was built by the Cornell Watch Company, and work was begun about two years ago. The paid in capital stock of the Company at the present time if $400,000. The officers are, President, Paul Cornell; Vice-President and Manager, T.C. Williams.

The factory is a plain, substantial brick structure, consisting of a main building and two wings. The main part is 50 by 100 feet, four stories high, and has a tower and bell. The wings are each 50 by 50 feet, and are only three stories high. It has the capacity for 500 operatives.

The starting of a watch factory is attended with great difficulties and embarrassments, owing to the fact that all the machinery used in the manufacture of a watch must be made in the factory. The number of watch factories is so small that there are no machinery dealers who either keep or make watch-working machines, and consequently all watch factories have machinery departments, where they make their own machines. These latter are rarely covered by patents, and, except a few unimportant pieces, the same kind of machinery used in all factories. Therefore, the starting-point of a watch factory is in its machinery department. In the Cornell one, the power for all the machinery used is given by a 30-horse-power engine, which works as noiselessly and smoothly as if it were a mere plaything. It seems almost impossible that this silently-working machine should have such power. The machinery department occupies the entire lower floor of the wings, and contains all the latest improvements in metal-working machinery. Here are machines that will cut the heaviest pieces of metal used, and others that will shave off a thin ribbon of metal that will break to pieces at a touch. The large planer in use here has some valuable improvements, invented by the Master-Machinist of the factory. The tool can be used at any angle by means of set-screws, and all are graduated to degrees. There are nineteen machinists in this department, all of whom are workmen of the highest degree of proficiency.

The room next in order in the production of a watch is the plate-room. Here the upper and lower plates are punched out of brass. They are then formed and pierced, preparatory to receiving the train of the watch. The larger brass-works in general, and all the wheels are cut here also, joined to the pinions, and made ready to go into the watch.

In the balance department, some of the finest work about the watch is done. The balances are made of brass and steel, joined together in a curious and ingenious manner, and fashioned out of quite a good-sized piece of metal. When finished, they are very delicate and beautiful. These balances have an advantage over those made from a single metal, since the contraction and expansion of the two metals, due to heat and cold, neutralize one another.

The light steel and screw department executes all the steel and screw work, and the stem-winding attachments. Some of the screws turned out by the machinery of this department are so small that one of them weighs only one-sixteen-thousandth of an ounce Troy.

In the motion department, the whole train is fitted to the watch. That is to say, all the interior parts of the watch are here brought together and joined to each other.

The examining department is where all imperfections or inaccuracies are sought for, and when they are found, the offending part is sent back to be corrected or replaced.

In the jewel department, the rough jewels, which come in blocks and fragments, are cut into small slabs, re-cut into cubes, turned, sized, polished, and pierced, ready for setting. Only rubies and garnets are used in the Cornell watches.

The escapement or pallet department is where the pulse of the watch—that which gives it the regularity of beat—is made. This work requires greater judgement and skill than any other.

When all the parts of the the watches have been made, they are placed in a box having ten separate compartments, and are sent to the gilding department, where all parts required gilding are rubbed smooth with stone, and are electro-gilded. The dial department, which is in the same room, is one of the most interesting of all. The dials are punched out of thin copper, and are then covered with a fine enamel, which is imported expressly for this purpose. This enamel is then baked on in a furnace. The dials then go to the painters, who paint the dial figures and divisions and divisions with fine camel hair brushes. This is all done by hand, no process having yet been invented which can do this work properly. The coloring matter appears very faint when first put on, but the dials are again placed in the furnace, and the heat deepens the color to black.

The dials being fitted and the hands put on, the watches are given over to the regulator, and in a short time are ready for the market. At this time, with only about 200 hands employed, the factory is turning out twenty-five watches daily, and the force can be increased at will to 500, with a greater proportional increase in the number of watches. The demand for the watches of this Company is growing so rapidlY that the Manager hopes to have the full force of 500 at work within eighteen months. Chicago can well be proud of this branch of her manufactures, since it took some of the large Eastern companies over two years before they could make a watch at all. The Cornell factory is now entirely over the preliminary embarrassments that always beset a watch factory, and it offers some of the finest work ever done in watchmaking, as a proof of its success. The Company manufactures seven different movements, of which three are stem-winders, thus taking the lead of all companies save one, which also makes a stem-winder.

The Company claims that its railroad watch is unsurpassed, having a perfect escapement, the finish of pallets and escape-wheel teeth being superior to any other yet produced. All watches have the quick beat of 18,000 beats per minute, and a certificate accompanies each watch guaranteeing that it shall perform its work according to promise. In order to insure the introduction of the Cornell watch through reliable and well-known dealers only, the Company has determined to give the exclusive sale to one jeweler in each town, and already orders have been received to such an extent that, instead of decreasing the force of employes during the panic, as most factories did, it was necessary to make a considerable increase.

Whether taken as an interesting branch of manufactures with which we have not as yet had much experience, or as one of the industries which are destined to extend the name and importance of Chicago all over the world, the Cornell Watch Company is a success in which all Chicago people should take pride.

Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1873


An Injurious Scandal Started by Discharged Workmen.
A paragraph in the city column of THE TRIBUNE yesterday relating to the Cornell Watch Company, was the result of inexcusable carelessness in giving publication to a scandal started by a discharged workman, brought in by a reporter at a late hour. Under any circumstances we should regret the tone of the paragraph for there should be no such word as “fail,” recognized in connection with our local manufacturing enterprises. In this case the rumor is totally groundless. The affairs of the Company were never in a better shape, and the capitalists associated in tho enterprise are amply repaid for their skill and nerve. We publish a letter from the Secretary of the Company, the statements in which can be abundantly established from the books of the Company. The Manager has recently been cutting down the force and making changes with a view to economy and efficiency, and it was solely from this source that the scandalous rumor was set afloat.

To the Editor of The Chicago Tribune:

Sir: A paragraph appeared In to-day’s Tribune, with reference tb the Cornell Watch Company. The statement is a “scandal” without foundation in truth, undoubtedly coming from an operative feeling malicious in consequence of being discharged. Within the last ninety days the production of the Company’s factory has been more than double, while the expenses have been diminished 33 per cent in the same time. The prospects of the Company were never so good as thev are to-day Respectfully yours,

S. S. Calkins, Secretary..

Chicago Tribune, March 21, 1874


of Cornell, Ill., which was started in the fall of 1871 by Paul Cornell, sell directly to retailers. The management of the concern is in the hands of T.C. Williams, the Vice-President known as an energetic and enterprising business man. So far the Company turns out eight different movements, all of which are provided with a motion of 18,000 beats per hour. Their watches have lately been introduced on the Illinois Central Railroad, which passes the door of the factory at Grand Crossing, nine miles south of here.

Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1874

The 10 o’clock train on the Northwestern Railroad took out yesterday morning, on their way to California, some forty men who were employed by in the Cornell Watch Factory, and their wives and children. They followed the machinery, which was forwarded some time ago. Their expenses were paid by the Company, on condition that they should be refunded in monthly installments. They had one car, which will go through with them.

Chicago Tribune, December 2,1874


There appears to have occurred some misunderstanding in regard to the Cornell Watch Company, formerly of Chicago, but now of San Francisco. The Company has not disbanded, but, having reorganized on aq gold basis, has removed its place of manufacture. It has not even left the Chicago market, but its is now permanently located at Room No. 8 Tribune Building, as will be seen by the advertisement in another column. Prominent and leading capitalists of California have taken large interests in this reorganization; the Company will have extra advantage of cheap labor, an unvariable climate, and increased facilities, having lately added a watch-case factory with a capacity to turn out cases for all their watches. That far-west country of the setting sun is not in the habit of fostering dwarfs, and this Company is expected to successfully equal some of her gigantic enterprises. Its energetic and enterprising President, Paul Cornell, Esq., goes with its other machinery, and will continue to superintend its operations, making California his winter residence. We cannot spare him entirely, remembering that he is the father of Hyde Park and Cornell, our thriving and ambitious suburbs, and has left his marked influence on our great South Parks and boulevards, the Hyde Park Water-Works, Gas-Works, and her splendid driveways. Nor will Cornell Station feel any blight from this removal of machinery, for the splendid buildings formerly occupied by the Watch Company still remain, and arrangements are in progress to fill them with a first-class manufactory, and also add other kindred establishments close at hand.

Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1874


San Francisco, Cal., Dec. 30.—Considerable escitement has been caused here by the fact that the proprietors of the Cornell watch factory have determined to employ Chinese in all departments. Seventy operatives from Chicago have protested, and several have been discharged to-day. One foreman was dismissed. Nearly all the operatives are from Chicago. A general strike of all is threatened, but the proprietors persist in their adherence to the plan of employing Chinamen. Other foremen will probably be discharged to-day. The Company proposed to employ about 500 persons.

Oakland Tribune, September 20, 1875

The Cornell Watch Company will locate their works near Berkeley. This Company will re-incorporate under the name of the California Watch Factory, the necessary papers having already been forwarded to Sacramento. This selection is a feather in fair Berkeley’s cap.


Excerpted fromThe Watch Factories of America, Past and Present By Henry G. Abbott. 1888

The old movement made by the Newark Company (1864-1870) was improved on and the new machinery and a great many new tools made. The company manufactured ten grades of movements as follows:

“Paul Cornell” (President)
“J. C. Adams” (General Agent)
“Geo F. Root”
“John Evans”
“H. N. Hibbard”
“E. S. Williams”
“C. T. Bowen” (Vice President)
“Geo W. Waite”
“Ladies Stem Wind”


The were all size 18 with exception of the ladies movement and the greater majority were full plate and double sunk dial. Expansion balances were used. The Paul Cornell and C. M. Cady models were stem-winders and the balance key winders. The ladies movement proved a failure in spite of the fact that a trade paper in existence at the time said: “One great feature of the Cornell Watch Co. is that they are the first in the county who have manufactured and introduced a Ladies Stem Winding Watch, which is, perhaps, in finished and originality of design, one of the greatest improvements of the age.”



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Re: Cornell Watch Company Factory

Post by 3Flushes » October 11th 2021, 3:11pm

Great read.

Had never heard of these guys before. Cool how they marked the movements in the names company principals and watchmakers.

Found these specs at NAWCC:

Chicago Grades -

Top Grades
Paul Cornell- 18-size, Full Plate, Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, Ruby Endstones, Patent Regulator, 20 Jewels
C.M. Cady - 18-size, Full Plate, Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, Patent Regulator, 19 Jewels

Railroad Grade
W.M. Hibbard - 18-size, Full Plate, Key Wind, Expansion Balance, Adjusted, Double-Sunk Dial, 17 Jewels

Mid Grade
George F. Root - Full Plate, Key & Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, 15 Jewels
John Evans - 18-size, Full Plate, Key Wind, Expansion Balance, 15 Jewels
C.T. Bowen - 18-size, Full Plate, Expansion Balance, 11/15 Jewels
J.C. Adams - 18-size, Full Plate, Key Wind, Expansion Balance, 11 Jewels

Lower Grade
E.S. Williams - 18-size, Full Plate, Expansion Balance, 7 or 11 Jewels
C.L Kidder - 18-size, Full Plate, Uncut Screw Balance, 7 Jewels
Geo W Waite Type 2 - 18-size, Full Plate, Gold Solid Balance, 7 Jewels (Sep 1871 Ad)
Geo W Waite Type 1 - 18-size, Full Plate, Nickel Solid Balance, 7 Jewels (Sep 1871 Ad)

San Fransico Grades -

#5 - 18-size, Full Plate, Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, Patent Regulator, 19-20 Jewels
#4 - Full Plate, Key & Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, 15 Jewels (regulator index on plate)
#3 - Full Plate, Key & Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, 15 Jewels (regulator index on balance cock)
#2 - Full Plate, Key & Stem Wind, Expansion Balance, 11 Jewels
#1 - Full Plate, Key & Stem Wind, Solid Balance, 7 Jewels ... l-Watch-Co
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