Clock Shop & The Hampden Table

When I was quite young, first grade or so, my younger sister and I used to walk a long way down the gravel road to visit Mrs. Garman (back then there was almost no traffic and nobody worried about “stranger danger”. Before the freeways, Richfield was a very sleepy little farm community.). She was in her nineties or so, and lived alone. Her husband Howard was passed, her daughter also gone, her sons long since moved on. She had given up her chickens. The farm was sold. She was alone. -Except for her clocks. When you walked in her back door, there were ticking clocks everywhere. It was quite a wonderous sight for young eyes. It must have taken her some time to get them all woundup every morning.

I’ve often wondered if that experience caused my lifelong liking of old windup wall and shelf clocks.

Several years ago a fellow came along to do some trading. I had a Soap Box Derby car that didn’t fit the museum and he had clocks. Lots of clocks. Soon I had clocks all over my house, just like Julia did. But even better, he had a clock maker’s table. I didn’t know it at the time, but that table was to reveal quite a story.

Back in 1864 John C. Dueber founded the Dueber Watch Case Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1888 he bought the Hampton Watch Co., then moved both companies to Canton, Oh. There the combined company grew to employ 10% of all Canton workers. Unfortunately, by the time of the Great Depression the company failed from lack of sales. But a quirk of fate was to give the once thriving company a second, then third life.

Communist Russia needed watches (I suppose when you want to lead worldwide revolution your army needs to know what time it is). They tried to buy several watch factories in Europe, but the Europeans wouldn’t sell to them. So the Soviets turned to the U.S. They settled on Hampden. Soon 28 train car loads of equipment and parts were on their way to their new home outside of Moscow. It proved to be so important that when the Nazi’s invaded Russia, the factory was packed up once again and moved farther into the Russian interior.

So now, ninety years later, the Hampden (renamed the First Moscow Watch Factory) still produces watches. While back home in the States, all that remains of the once mighty employer of so many Canton residents is the single watch maker’s desk now residing in the museum’s new Hampden Clock Shop.

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