Elgin in Kane County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Elgin National Watch Company Factory Bell
Pocket watch production began in 1867. The factory, located on National Street at the south end of Grove Avenue, grew in stages until by 1920 it was the largest watchmaking complex in the world, ultimately producing more than 54 million timepieces. For almost 100 years, Elgin Watch was Elgin's biggest industry with 4,000 workers at its peak in the 1920s. This bell was part of the 1905 reconstruction and was paired with a four-sided Seth Thomas clock in the 144-foot tower at the factory entrance.
The Bell - 1905
Weighing over a ton, the bell was cast by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore in 1887. The bell marked daily time periods for the factory workers and the Elgin community. At 6:00 a.m. in the morning the bell peeled 78 strokes to awaken the workers. At 6:30 a.m., a 37-stroke reminder was sounded.
The work day started at 7:00 a.m. with a single stroke. The bell rang to announce the noon break and the return to work for the afternoon. Traditionally, three strokes tolled at the end of the work day.
By the late 1920s, the factory's steam whistle replaced the bell.
Watch Factory Closes - 1966
As a sentimental gesture the bell was rung during the company's 75th anniversary celebration in 1939.
Run for the last time on August 23, 1965, three strokes were sounded - the traditional end-of-work, but this time for the entire Elgin National Watch Company factory.
The clock tower was dynamited on Sunday morning, October 2, 1966. The bell was recovered from the ruins.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Historic Bells series list.
Location. 42° 2.462′ N, 88° 16.652′ W. Marker is in Elgin, Illinois, in Kane County. Marker is at the intersection of Park Street and College Street, on the left when traveling east on Park Street. Located outside the Elgin Area Historical Society & Museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 350 Park Street, Elgin IL 60120, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Elgin's Masonic Temple Cornerstone (here, next to this marker); Memorial Tribute to Elgin Academy's Patriotic Sons Who Served in the Great Civil War, 1861-1865 (a few steps from this marker); W.W. I Memorial Davidson Park (approx. half a mile away); Elgin Milk Condensing Company (approx. half a mile away); Elgin National Watch Company (approx. 0.8 miles away); Elgin (approx. 0.8 miles away); Illinois Watch Case Company (approx. 0.8 miles away); Pinkerton’s Early Home (approx. 3.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Elgin.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on February 19, 2013. This page has been viewed 649 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on February 19, 2013. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.