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Stark County Story Told in 24 Objects…
The Library will feature 24 objects throughout 2020 to tell the Story of Stark County. These objects are chosen by our museum staff. Enjoy!
E. Howard Clock movement #2
George Deal’s serendipitous path-crossing with James Gilmore at the Hartville Market in June, 1983 was significant. Gilmore told Deal – President of the Stark County Historical Center from 1983 to 2000 – that he had been holding on to the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company’s tower clock mechanism that most people believed had been lost if not destroyed after the demolition of the factory around 1963. After a deal was negotiated, Gilmore donated the mechanism to the McKinley Museum. Deal saw to it that the clock works was refurbished and some pieces restored thanks to assistance from both the Timken Company and Ohio Valley Chapter #10 of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. When the mechanism was put into working condition, it was displayed on the second floor in the east wing of the Museum. The E. Howard Clock movement #2 reflects the rise, consolidation, and fall of industrialization in Canton and the country itself.
The Gilded Age of U.S. history (1850-1916) reflected the extent that a young U.S., after the brutal political, economic, and social chaos of the Civil War, flexed its economic potential. The Gross National Product (GNP)I increased 300% and the U.S. became a world leader in industrial output measurements despite episodic depressions. Stark County and Canton shared in this expansion. If the country had its Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt; the community had Aultman, Belden, Timken and Hoover. The country’s population, in part due to an influx of much needed immigrant labor, rose from just over 23 million in 1850 to over 106 million in 1920. Canton’s population, driven by similar national employment opportunities and needs, increased from less than 3,000 in 1850 to over 50,000 in 1920 with 14,000 of those new citizens in a span of only ten years from 1880-1890. The county’s population in the same time span grew from less than 40,000 to over 177,000 with significant increases in and near Alliance, Perry Township and the Massillon areas. The U.S. Census Department reported that the nation’s center of manufacturing products would be located only eight mile south and seven miles west of Canton in Sugarcreek, Ohio. In 1910, Stark County was rated seventeenth in the nation in the value amount of key steel manufacturers. As the economic growth in the U.S. took off, so did the local economy.
The Dueber-Hampden Watch Co. is just one of those local industries that reflected this general national industrial expansion. With its total workforce of 2,300 in 1888 and a factory that covered 1,140 feet of frontage, Dueber-Hampden’s output and quality made Canton a vital center for watch manufacturing in the U.S. Relying on the local population growth centered primarily on immigrants from Greece, Austria and Switzerland, Dueber-Hampden increased productivity to meet a significant demand in timepieces. This demand in watches was spurred by a nation more preoccupied with time. The need to know what time it was spurred in part by factory time clocks and train time schedules that became a more integral part of the American daily routine.
It was John Dueber’s decision in 1888 to move his factory to Canton from Cincinnati and combine his company’s manufacturing of a watch’s inner mechanisms to the watch cases manufactured by the Hampden Company. His decision was based on opposition to a trust that had formed to control the production of watch cases. This, of course, was not an isolated development in the Gilded Age. Like the Watch Case Trust, other businesses such as steel-making under Carnegie and oil-production with Rockefeller created trust to dominate and hinder competition. Dueber believed that the Watch Case Trust would limit his production of high-quality time pieces and lose its competitive edge over less quality pieces. His simple solution? Combine the two operations. He moved to Canton when the Cincinnati authorities denied him permits to expand. Canton came calling and Dueber found his new home in Canton. (Dueber’s wife, Mary, was less than thrilled with what she saw as the backward society of Canton and promised never to leave her Canton residence. A promise she largely kept.) Dueber would formally unite the two operations in 1923 into the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company. Unfortunately, for Dueber and his workers wrist watches with Swiss time-pieces became more functional and popular. With demand dropping, Dueber-Hampden declared bankruptcy in 1927 at the cusp of the Great Depression. The machinery was sold to the Soviet Union reflecting the gradual, cautionary rapprochement between the U.S. and Communist-regime.
Canton’s industrial expansion, population growth, dependence on cheap immigrant labor, trust-building, and shifts in social tastes and needs all reflected national trends. It reflects a twist on an old adage that if the country at large sneezes, Canton catches a cold. The reverberations of historic national tendencies are all around us in our community. The memory of some of these trends are reflected in many of the objects that are located within the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. Within the Museum are artifacts that help us connect our local history to national and even international events. And its happenstances like Deal’s run-in with Gilmore that helps keep history both alive and intact in the Museum much like E. Howard clock works #2 that graced the tower of the Dueber-Hampden Watch Company for over 60 years.
McKinley Presidential Library & Museum