The Hampden Watch Co. came into being upon a reorganization of the New York Watch Co. in 1877. Over three and a half million watches were made before production stopped as a result of the Great Depression.
The history of the Hampden Watch Co. goes back to the New York Watch Co., a successor to the Mozart Watch Co. The New York Watch Co. “... was in business from about 1866 to 1877, during which time it made a variety of different grades of movements. Its total production is estimated to be less than 60,000.” (Greg Frauenhoff) After a reorganization, the firm became the Hampden Watch Co. in 1877.
In 1891, Hampden created an advertising blitz for their new line of 17-jewel watches that lasted for years, exemplified by This Typical Ad. At this time, most high grade watches only had 15 jewels. Although higher-jeweled watches had been available for decades, Hampden was the first to mass produce and heavily promote 17-jewel watches, such as the Anchor Grade. The 15-jewel Railway grade was discontinued and the Special Railway and New Railway grades were added. At the same time, the John C. Dueber and John C. Dueber Special grades were Upjeweled to 17 Jewels. Another ad, this one from 1896, shows that Watch Inspectors of the New York Central & Hudson River Rail Road accepted the Special Railway, New Railway, Anchor and John C. Dueber Special grades in railroad time service. In pushing its line of 17-jewel watches, Hampden started a jewel count escalation that, over the next ten years, resulted in 21 and 23 jewel watches becoming commonplace and even led to the production of 24, 25 and 26 jewel watches.
Since its existence as the the New York Watch Co., Dueber-Hampden had long used the grade name "Railway" on its watches. With Ball promoting its Railway Queen grade, Dueber-Hampden brought suit against both Ball and Waltham (who had begun to mark its movements with the word "Railroad") for interference in December 1899. The suit was decided in Dueber-Hampden's favor seven months later. Curiously, the most noticeable effect of this was that Longines had to drop its "Railway Monarch" grade and the Columbus Watch Co. had to discontinue its "Railway King" grade.
Other, similar, examples of Hampden ads appeared in McClure's Magazine (1900 - at least two different ads), two other different ads appeared in (un-named) 1900 magazine issues, the Ladies Home Journal (1901) and Cosmopolitan (1900 and 1903 - at least four different ads). This was followed by another campaign in the national magazines, based upon their "Watchman" figure with his cape and lantern, for the Wm. McKinley, John Hancock and the Four Hundred grades. All told, these campaigns ran for at least four or five years and Dueber-Hampden proudly boasted about the campaign in an 1904 Ad in the Trade Press.
One area of confusion amongst novices is the numbering of the 16-size models 2 and 1. The model 2 was built first and examples have lower serial numbers than those of the model 1. The reason for the inversion is simple; it was a mistake, or so it is believed. The model numbers were assigned in order to supply parts and this seems not to have been done until long after production ceased on the two models. Model 2 was a thicker watch than the 16-size movements of the twentieth century. As the drive for thinner watches occurred through the 1890s (as demonstrated by these case ads from Roy and Bell), Dueber-Hampden came out with its model 1, the "dome model." The center of the model 1 was the similar in thickness to the earlier model 2 - it had to be to clear the center wheel - but the edge was thinned down so that the case center ring could be thinner. In this configuration, the "domed" center would still fit within the height of the case back, but the thinner center ring would enable a generally thinner case. These models would be superseded by thinner ones of uniform height, which allowed the case center bulge to be reduced making for a truly thinner case.
In late 1902, Dueber-Hampden introduced a new, thin model 16-size watch, the model 4. The Wm. McKinley grade (see below) was the the first advertised in this new model, for which the lack of exposed winding wheels was promoted. The model 4 was made in a large variety of grades, some of which are described below (such as the Railway).
Around 1913, or so, the 16-size, model 4 gave way to the model 5, with its exposed winding wheels. Many of the same railroad grades that had been produced in the model 4 continued in production in the new model 5 and a few additional railroad grades were added. Apparently, the model 5 continued in production by the new owners after the factory was shipped to Russia. Here's a 15-jewel version (probably not used in railroad service).
Dueber-Hampden's predecessor, the New York Watch Co., had, as one of its highest grades, the 18-size, 15-jewel Rail Way grade. This grade was continued after the 1877 reorganization in which the New York Watch Co. became the Hampden Watch Co., and in fact, it held its position at the top of the Hampden line. When the stem-wind version appeared, it was only as a hunting-case watch, now named the Railway grade. Those desiring an open-face Hampden watch of Railway quality had to purchase the identically described grade No. 60. It was only after production was moved to the Dueber-Hampden works in Canton, Ohio that an open-face Railway grade was introduced, becoming available in June 1889, around serial number 480501. The Railway grade, was heavily promoted for Railway service, but two years later, it was discontinued as Dueber-Hampden introduced and promoted its new line of 17-jewel watches, including the Special Railway and New Railway grades.
The Railway grade lay dormant for about 10 years, while the 18-size Special Railway and New Railway grades expanded from their initial 17-jewel versions to movements fitted with 21 and 23 jewels. Then, when Dueber-Hampden launched their new 16-size, thin model 4 movement in about 1903, the Railway grade re-emerged as a model 4, 19-jewel watch. Surprisingly, the new 19-jewel Railway grade wasn't also available as an 18-size movement and, in fact, Dueber-Hampden never offered an 18-size, 19-jewel grade. Be that as it may, Dueber-Hampden claimed that the Railway grade, along with a number of their other watches, would "pass inspection on all roads." When the model 4, with its hidden winding wheels, was replaced by the by the model 5 (having exposed winding wheels), the Railway grade remained in the line, as one of three Dueber-Hampden railroad watches.
Dueber-Hampden's grade No. 104 movements were first built in the model 2 design and then in the model 1. The No. 104 was one of the highest of Dueber-Hampden's grades, having a tu-tone finish, gold jewel settings and being adjusted to temperature and positions. It was first produced as the model 2 in a 23-jewel version, in both hunting and open-face configurations. It was also built in a 17-jewel hunting configuration. When the model 1 was developed, the No. 104 was built in this model as well, in both jewel versions, but as open-face only. The grade was manufactured in the uniformly thin, model 4, but only as a 23-Jewel movement, although this was available in hunting and open-face configuration. The grade continued until the late 1920s, being built as a 23-jewel, model 5, but at this point, it was only available as an open-face watch.
From the model 2 through the early versions of the model 4, the No. 104 carried a flag trade mark bearing the letters "SR" on the barrel bridge. Because of this, novice collectors, and some more experienced ones, tend to refer to the grade No. 104 as a Special Railway grade. Although Dueber-Hampden may have intended this, literature of their's has yet to come to light that links the grade No. 104 to the Special Railway name or grade. Thus, it is incorrect to refer to this grade as anything other than the grade No. 104.
Like the grade No. 104, the grade No. 105 was first built in both 23-jewel and 17-jewel model 2 configurations. This was followed by model 1 movements, again in both 23-jewel and 17-jewel versions. In this grade also, the model 2 was built in both hunting and open-face version and the model 1 only in open-face. Also, in a similar fashion to the grade No. 104, the barrel bridges of the model 2 and model 1 grade No. 105's were stamped with the letters "NR" inside of a flag trade mark. Again as with the grade No. 104, no Dueber-Hampden literature has yet to come to light that links the grade No. 105 to the New Railway name or grade. Thus, it is incorrect to refer to this grade as anything other than the grade No. 105. There was a 16-size grade, upon whose barrel bridge the grade name New Railway appeared, but this was built in the late 1920s and is nowhere referred to as the grade No. 105.
After the turn of the century, in late 1902, or early 1903, the grade No. 105's subordinate status to the grade No. 104 was clearly demonstrated when it was continued in the next model, the new, thin, model 4. In this version, which had become the "nameless" version of the Wm. McKinley grade, it was only available as a 21-jewel watch. This status continued in the transition to the model 5 (as appeared in jobber catalogs). The earlier model 4 was available in both hunting and open-face versions, but the model 5 was only built as an open face watch. The grade No. 105 was only built as a lever-set watch.
In late 1902, Dueber-Hampden introduced a new, thin model 16-size watch, the model 4. This model was first promoted in the Wm. McKinley grade which was available in both 17-jewel and 21-jewel configurations. The 21-jewel configuration was also available in the "nameless" version; the grade No. 105. Dueber-Hampden was located in Canton, Ohio, the resting place of President William McKinley, who just a few years previously had been assassinated in office. This must have certainly influenced the naming of the grade. The 17-jewel Wm. McKinley, almost the entire production of which was adjusted only to temperature, was a very popular mid-grade watch, having wide appeal.
While Dueber-Hampden had long promoted Hampden movements in Dueber cases, early ads for the Wm. McKinley grade noted that it was "Sold only in cases." A few years later, ads promoted the Wm. McKinley grade as being available as a factory-cased watch being fitted in a 25 year, 14 karat, gold-filled case, without saying that it was only available as a cased watch. Later still, the movements were offered in jobber catalogs.
While not Dueber-Hampden's top grade 16-size watch, the 21-jewel Wm. McKinley was a railroad watch, adjusted to temperature and position. As such, it was claimed to have been accepted for time service on all railroads. In the early years of the twentieth century, this also applied to the hunting-cased version. The earlier model 4 movements were only marked "Adjusted" while the later examples and the model 5 Wm. McKinley grade movements were marked to be "Adjusted To Five Positions" reflecting the change in most railroad requirements requiring adjustment to five positions and being so marked. Unlike the grade No. 105, the model 5 Wm. McKinley was available in a hunting version. Another difference from the grade No. 105 is that the Wm. McKinley grade was made (in both model 4 and model 5) in a pendant-set configuration as well as in lever-set.
Those movements signed Dueber Watch Co. comprise a grade of Hampden Watch Co. movements. This grade was made in both 16-size and 18 size, 11 & 15-jewel (18-size only), 17-jewel and 21-jewel configurations; the 16-size, 21-jewel version being quite uncommon. Dueber Watch Co. grade watches having less than 21 jewels (those that are unmarked for jewelling have 15 jewels or less) are unadjusted and are not railroad grade. Pictures of several interesting dials signed "The Dueber Watch Co." and bearing the anchor-in-shield trade mark, along with lower jeweled Dueber Watch Co. movements can be seen in a September 2010 Message Board thread.
The 18-size, 21-jewel Dueber Watch Co. grade is pictured and described on page DH-02 of the Oskamp-Nolting Co. 1917 Catalog. Curiously, this movement, although lever-set, fitted with a double roller and adjusted to temperature, isochronism and five positions, isn't within the group on the page noted as being "Railroad Grades," nor is it mentioned in Dueber-Hampden ads listing their grades which "pass inspection on all roads." One possible conclusion to draw from this is that the 21-jewel, Dueber Watch Co. grade wasn't accepted on some railroads (the proportion of which is indeterminate). Another possibility is that Dueber-Hampden did not wish to call attention to a lower-cost alternative ($26.60) to the 21-jewel Special Railway ($35.40) and John Hancock ($33.20) grades. In earlier years, the 18-size, 21-jewel Dueber Watch Co. grade was simply marked "Adjusted." Like most other railroad standard watches, after the 1906-1908 transition in railroad time service requirements, it was fitted with a double roller and marked to reflect that it was now "Adjusted To Five Positions."
The Hampden Watch Co. grade Molly Stark, a size-3/0, 7-jewel, gilt-finished watch, was Introduced in 1896. Molly Stark was the wife of General John Stark, a revolutionary war hero of Bunker Hill and Bennington fame, for whom another grade of watch was named. The Hampden Watch Co.'s home of Canton, Ohio is in Stark County, which probably accounts for the company naming watch grades in their honor. The Molly Stark grade was one of Hampden's "400" size movements (seen in a 1908 ad). Molly Stark grade movement variations have been detailed by Henry Burgell.
The Hampden Watch Co. grade General Stark, a modest model 4, 16-size, 17-jewel, nickel-finished, unadjusted movement, available in both open-face and hunting-case versions, was introduced after the turn of the century. The grade was also produced as a 12-size, 15-jewel watch. General John Stark, for whom the watch was named, was a revolutionary war hero of Bunker Hill and Bennington fame. The Hampden Watch Co.'s home of Canton, Ohio is in Stark County, which probably accounts for the company naming a watch grade in his honor. The firm also named a ladies’ watch grade for his wife, Molly. One can view a brief catalog description of the General Stark movement, and see where it fit in Hampden’s line in a 1907 Ad.
Basic information about a Dueber-Hampden watch may be obtained online using Henry Burgell's Interactive Hampden Serial Number Lookup Table. Since this is based upon a "recreated" serial number list (the factory records were lost or destroyed), there may be occasional errors. Oldwatch.com's Hampden Production Date Chart, or the Pocket Watch Site's Hampden Date Table, are an online means for determining the very approximate production date of Hampden pocket watches. Use the serial number on the movement (the “works”), not the serial number on the case. In general, we think of serial number vs. date lists - created by using the average number of watches produced over a period of years - to only be accurate within a year or two at best, and recognize that there are numerous exceptions wherein which the dates may be off as much as 3 years or more. This is not just for Hampden, but for other watch manufacturers as well.
Brief descriptions and list prices of some Hampden movements at this time may be seen online in scan of an 1887 Catalog Supplement.
It is believed that all factory records either went with the equipment, or were destroyed, and there are no surviving records from which to match serial numbers of watches against models and grades. Nevertheless, Messrs. J. Hernick and R. Arnold, by collecting descriptions of Dueber-Hampden watches, with serial numbers, over a decade or more, were able to partially reconstruct the serial number vs. grade/description list. This was published in The Hampden Watch Co., NAWCC Special Order Supplement #1, J. Hernick and R. Arnold, NAWCC, Columbia, PA, 1997.
The Complete History of Watch Making in America - Reprinted from the Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review 1885-1887, Charles S. Crossman, Adams Brown Co., Exeter, NH, undated, but probably late 1980's.