Abraham Lincoln's Waltham Watch

Robert McCabe

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Through my research, I have found the following information documented in print relative to Abraham Lincoln's "1863" Waltham "Wm.Ellery" watch.

Carl Sandburg, in "Lincoln, War Year, volume 3, documents that Abraham Lincoln received an "1863" Waltham "Wm. Ellery" watch as a gift after completing the "Gettysburg Address" on November 19th, 1863. He documents this watch to bear serial number "67613."

In late 1864, Abraham Lincoln was visited at the White House by his Uncle, Dennis F. Hanks. Hanks was responding to a request to seek Lincoln's aid in releasing several men, Democrats, whom had been imprisoned in Charleston, Illinois for participating in a riot. This riot resulted when Dr. Shubel York, a Medical Officer in The United States Army, made a remark about "Copperheads" which infuriated others present. Dr. York was among three people who were shot and killed in that riot.

While enroute to the White House, Dennis F. Hanks was knocked to the ground "accidentally" by two men while he was boarding the train in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Upon being seated on the train, he discovered he had actually been robbed in this encounter and the men had made off with his watch, and money. The only thing he was left with was his train ticket, concealed in his hat.

Upon reaching the White House, even though unannounced, he was immediately brought in to see the President. Lincoln greeted him warmly, and they discussed the problem at hand. Lincoln immediately ordered the release of the prisoners, and then both went on to speak casually about family, and old times. Mr. Hanks had taught Lincoln to read and write, and was mentor for Lincoln throughout Lincoln's childhood. In the course of their conversation, Mr. Hanks mentioned his being robbed of his watch, and funds. Lincoln immediately went into his desk drawer and removed the "1863" "Wm. Ellery" gave it to Hanks, and said "Dennis. you may have this watch. I have carried it a long time. Take it home, and take care of it." Mr. Hanks did so.

Upon Mr. Hank's death on October 21st, 1892, his Grandaughter, Mrs. M.M. Shoaff Barney, was permitted by his Last Will to sell the watch to assist in his funeral expenses. Mrs. Barney sold this watch to a Mr. Charles F. Gunther of Chicago for the sum of $500.00. Mr. Gunther then placed the watch on Exhibit in the "Old Libby Prison Building" which was then on exhibit at Chicago at the "1893 Chicago World's Fair" , also known as "The 1893 Columbia Exposition."

Mr. Gunther then later, on October 1st, 1930, sold the watch to Mr. Oliver R. Barrett, also of Chicago. Mr. Barrett, a very well known Collector of Lincoln artifacts, retained the watch in his vast collection. Following his death in 1950,an auction of his collection was held by "Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc" 980 Madison Avenue, N.Y, N.Y. This auction was held on February 19th and 20th of 1952. This watch is described in the auction catalogue on page #132 and is described at item #483. An original photograph of the watch also appears in this description.

The "Waltham" company itself had great interest in regaining this watch, and was the winner of the auction for this historic time piece. No mention is made of what their winning bid may have been. I have found no further indication of the present holder of the time piece following its return to "Waltham" in 1952.

I have in possession the first watch made by "Waltham" in the group from which this historic watch was made, an "1863" "Wm. Ellery" serial number 67581. It is a seven jewel model 1857 full plate.

IMG_4135.jpg
 

Robert McCabe

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Hi Art,

Yes, I have acquired many of the original reference materials related to this watch, including transcripts of the original affidavits by those who possessed this watch, auction catalogue, etc.... The original affidavits were contained with the watch at the "Barrett Auction", and provided to "Waltham" when they won the watch back in 1952, but I have requested any available copies from the locations of their filing. I will begin a "time line" with photos of original materials. I've just received an original copy of Harvard Business School's analysis of the "Waltham" company by "Charles W. Moore" done in 1945. This Lincoln watch is discussed and described in this publication along with a drawing of the watch itself. I'll begin a sequential time line based on what is verified.
 

Robert McCabe

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Abraham Lincoln's Waltham watch References

In response to those who have interest in the factual documentation, and description of Lincoln's Waltham watch, I want to offer the following:

1) Carl Sandburg's book, "Lincoln, the War Years, Volume 3, page 434. There is a description of the watch and an actual photograph.

2) Oliver R. Barret, Lincoln Collector. Catalogue of auction by "Parke-Bernet Galleries, dated February 19th & 20th, 1952. Page #182, item #483. Description of watch, Affidavits of Dennis F. Hanks, to whom Lincoln originally gave the watch, and photographs of the watch and accompanying chain.

3) Harvard University, analysis of the Waltham company done by "Charles W. Moore" and published in 1945. Description and illustration of watch page # 61.

4) Afidavit of "Dennis F. Hanks", Lincoln's Cousin to whom the watch was given personally in "1864." Filed on May 14th, 1891 and Filed in the Edgar County, Illinois, office of the County Clerk. Hanks resided in Paris, Illinois at this time.


Does anyone know of any other watches yet existing from the group of watches that included Lincoln's? They would be a model 1857, Wm. Ellery, between the serial numbers of 67581 and 67900?
 

Jim Haney

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Re: Abraham Lincoln's Waltham watch References

Robert,
I combined your post today and the thread you started.

Please keep all posts on the same subject in one thread.

Thanks
 

hc3

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Re: Abraham Lincoln's Waltham watch References

I saw one from this run sold on Ebay a year or two ago, it was in very bad shape and brought a very high price.
 

Robert McCabe

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Re: Abraham Lincoln's Waltham watch References

I've noticed that many have questions as to the exact model, plate size, and jeweling of Lincoln's "1863" Waltham "Wm.Ellery" watch. I happen to have the very first watch made in the series from which Lincoln's watch would have come. Lincoln reportedly owned #67613. This series ran from #67581 through #67900. In spite of some dating mistakes with movements, I have always found it consistent, in my experience, that all Waltham movements included within a given range are identical. This being the case, I offer photographs of the very first movement in this group for your consideration. From there, you must decide.....
View attachment 289588 View attachment 289589 View attachment 289590 View attachment 289591 View attachment 289592 View attachment 289593 View attachment 289594 View attachment 289596 View attachment 289597 View attachment 289595
 

PapaLouies

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Hi Robert,

All the Attachments are Invalid!

Would love to see photos.

Regards,

PL
 

PapaLouies

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Thanks, Robert, for a beautiful original watch that depicts precisely the Factory hand-written record. In my opinion, it exhibits the authenticity one can hang one's hat on.

Regards,

PapaLouies
 

Robert McCabe

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Can anyone date the Waltham watch case that I posted pictures of in this thread? I appreciate any help. Thank you!!
 

Keith R...

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Well, I see no other case screw marks on the case of the Ellery consistent at least to the age
of the Ellery. Typically the case could have been on the shelf a year prior to the movement.
I have similar civil war era cases with the same markings.

Case says Waltham Mass.

Keith
 
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Keith R...

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Robert, glad you initiated this thread. I have always been a history buff. Now I didn't build
my collection around the civil war, but as my collection grew, so did the Civil war era watches.
I too liked the more common Ellery's, something that might have been affordable and carried
by our soldiers of the day. Here's one of my favorite Ellery's from 1864. Now it's been serviced,
but even with it's solid steel balance, it's good to within 1 minute per day. I think Clint has a nice
collection just quite a bit above this pay grade, which his is also rich with history and true
provenance.

Keith

103_9100 (800x600).jpg View attachment 290844 View attachment 290845

103_9100 (800x600).jpg
 
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Robert McCabe

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Keith,

That is a wonderful watch! And congratulations to have gotten it regulated to such accurate timing!! It looks like an 11 jewel which is a great advantage for accuracy! I could not agree more! In truth, watches like the "Ellery" would have been more likely to have owned by those fortunate soldiers that could even afford the cost of this basic model. For us Civil War history folks, even though we may never know who actually did own the watch, it's great to know this MAY have been the case!!

I appreciate you comments, and information. I'll continue to post more information regarding Lincoln's "Ellery" as it becomes available. I'm in contact with The Edgar County, Illinois Bureau of Records, and they are searching for any records of Affidavits related to the watch. If I have any luck, I'll post copies of what they may find. They tell me their records go back to 1882, and these affidavits date to 1890, so I am hopeful.

Thank you again for your contribution!

Bob
 

Keith R...

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Thanks Robert, I must have been snoozing. I can take no credit for regulating this old 11J above Art's
watch. Rob Carter down in TN, does all my work. I do good to get the gas nozzle in my farm truck for
a fill up.

I look forward to any future info you turn up. Keith

PS, I've always liked Art's English cased Waltham. There's something about a 2.5 ounce case that
gives the watch a perfect look.
 

Robert McCabe

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Hi Art, Yes, I believe it may very well make sense that with silver, and gold, being a scarce commodity during the Civil War, it would make perfect sense for the majority of cases to have been lighter in weight. Given that, and their cost, a lighter case would seem "the better fit" for finding, and trusting, that a movement is in its original case. There were certainly those that could afford a heavier case at that time, but considering that such a large part of the market were minimally paid soldiers, the lighter cases seem very appropriate to them. I have always liked the lighter cases for that reason, but you can't argue the greater durability of the heavier cases.
 

Clint Geller

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Hi Art, Yes, I believe it may very well make sense that with silver, and gold, being a scarce commodity during the Civil War, it would make perfect sense for the majority of cases to have been lighter in weight. Given that, and their cost, a lighter case would seem "the better fit" for finding, and trusting, that a movement is in its original case. There were certainly those that could afford a heavier case at that time, but considering that such a large part of the market were minimally paid soldiers, the lighter cases seem very appropriate to them. I have always liked the lighter cases for that reason, but you can't argue the greater durability of the heavier cases.
Even before the Civil War began, most American watch cases, both those made of gold and those made of silver, tended to be relatively light. This was true even of Howard watches, where the movements mostly cost more than the cases that housed them, so the cost of the metal was clearly not the driver behind the preference for lighter cases there. The market cost of an ounce of gold did rise from $21 to $30 between 1860 and 1865, a 43% increase, then it dropped back down again to $23 by 1870. (During the Civil War, the federal government sold most of its $250 million gold reserve to Britain at $16/oz.) However, I don't believe this price fluctuation explains the pre-1865 preference for lighter cases for American watches, which was well established before the gold price rose, and which began to change before gold prices fell. Rather, I believe that the growing prestige of American watches in the 1860s likely had more to do with the shift in market taste towards heavier gold and silver cases, as the domestic market image of American watches continued to shift from that of best-buy alternatives to watches of choice.
 

Clint Geller

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Incidentally, not all American watch cases from the Civil War period are light. I don't have it handy at this instant, but there is a Waltham factory catalog from around 1862 that advertises 4 ounce silver cases as an option for their 18 Size watches. I also own a 4 ounce silver case with a dust cover presentation, dated 1862, to a sergeant in the 25th Michigan Infantry.
 

Robert McCabe

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Thank you for this in depth information Clint! Congratulations on that "1862." Awesome piece of history!!
 

Clint Geller

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Thank you for this in depth information Clint! Congratulations on that "1862." Awesome piece of history!!
Here is the inscription on the watch, and a few pictures of James A. Sage, from Otisco, Ionia Cy., MI. Some time after receiving the watch, Sergeant Sage was promoted to Lieutenant. He was wounded at Utoy Creek during the Battle of Atlanta, on August 6, 1864, but he survived the war.

The 25th MI Infantry was a distinguished fighting unit. On July 4, 1863, as two much more famous battles had just ended or were ending (in Gettysburg Pennsylvania, and the Siege of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River), Colonel Orlando Moore and 200 men of the 25th MI Infantry, only a part of his regiment, were dug in along a bend of the Green River near Columbus, KY. There they were approached by 3,000 cavalry supported by artillery under Confederate General John Morgan. In command of a vastly superior force, Morgan offered Moore an opportunity to surrender. Moore respectfully declined, saying that especially seeing as how it was July 4, he could not but do his duty to defend his country. The 25th MI proceeded to repulse eight Confederate charges, each one supported by artillery. Morgan then requested a truce to bury his dead, to which Moore agreed. As the rebel general departed leaving Moore in possession of the field, Morgan gave Moore an honorary brevet promotion to Confederate Brigadier General. Within the Union Army of the Cumberland, that heroic stand caused the 25th MI be known thereafter as the "Green River Boys."
 

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Robert McCabe

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Thank you for taking the time to provide this!! I know that I, and my fellow Civil War historians very much appreciate it!! By the inscription, am I correct that the watch was given to him by the members of "The 25th Michigan?" Thank you again!
 

River rat

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Nice thread I don't post in the pocket watch section much. But use to collect them a lot when I started collecting watches. Still got a few I hold on to. One is my Wm. Ellery serial no. 132058 dated 1864 with eagle stamped case
PA272273.jpg

PA272281.jpg
The bottom Ellery I still own the upper one less common also civil war era I sold a few years ago.
 
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Clint Geller

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Thank you for taking the time to provide this!! I know that I, and my fellow Civil War historians very much appreciate it!! By the inscription, am I correct that the watch was given to him by the members of "The 25th Michigan?" Thank you again!
Yes, you are correct, Robert. The watch was presented to Sage by his company. Cash enlistment bounties of as much as $100 (to be paid upon completion of a recruit's enlistment) were commonplace at the time. So an extra up-front enlistment incentive for a noncommissioned officer, such as a watch, might not have been extraordinary. The particular watch in question is a 7 jewel PS Bartlett Grade Model 1857 in a handsome, 4 ounce silver case.
 
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Keith R...

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If you guys go to post #26, I have recorded 6 of these cases in a case file. Most of
them are post 1860, but end in 1864. I sure would like a heads up if you see a lid
that has this design inside the front/back lid. Just PM me. Thanks Clint for sharing
yours.

Keith
 

Robert McCabe

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A word of appreciation for those that have taken the time to photograph their early, and Civil War era watches and in addition share any provenance that might be associated with them! I really appreciate seeing them, and often use the information they provide to research further and learn much more about the person described, and much more about facets of The Civil War that were previously unknown to me.

I would like to invite anyone with such early and/or historical items to use this thread to share their items, photographs, and historical provenance, if any. It is certainly appreciated by me, and I feel I can speak for other such enthusiasts in saying it would be appreciated by all!

Thank you!!
 

Keith R...

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Robert, I have one that was civil war era in an early Jas Boss case that long past the Civil
war, it had a Tucker patented regulator added to the plates in the 1880's, for micro adjusting
the regulator. I suspect this 15J was utilized in railroad service post civil war era, AT&Co
grade sn# 98514. This watch was originally manufactured in November 1864.

Keith

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Keith R...

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PL, If you look closely in the first photo you can see it on the frame, #8928.

Robert, yes it's part of my main collection. I have serviced it three times over
the years. It times to the seconds in 24hrs. Keith

PS, Rob Carter just serviced it in 2015.
 

PapaLouies

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Keith, is not that just the last four of a much larger number inside the case back?

PL
 

PapaLouies

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Keith,

I found it on another post of yours. Jas Boss Case Number 98723.

Regards,

PL
 

Keith R...

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I am up to 1,743,092 in an archived post for a Jas Boss case on a Geneva pocket KW watch.
Fun reading though. I am up to 5M number for Keystone cases early 1880's. Keith
 

PapaLouies

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Keith'

Since you found J. Boss case marks as high as 1,700,000 that surely were produced by 1871, it would not surprise me to think Boss could have produced your case #98723 by 1864, making it original to your AT&Co. #98514.

Regards,

PL
 

Keith R...

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PL, I believe case 98723 to be period correct for 64. However, it is not original
to movement 98514 that I'm aware of. Keith

I believe no American collectors watch is original without hard paper work from the
date of sale to back it up. Now English watches with matching case and
movement numbers, different story.
 
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Keith R...

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Your case number is an early one. It predates your watch, but that's not unusual. It could have been
made in 61/62 and still be original to your movement Robert, IMHO. Keith
 

Keith R...

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mauleg, if I have a watch with no provenance and no paper work, say from 1860
and the case is period correct and the movement is period correct and there are
no other extra case screw marks, I could say the following and be truthful; The
watch and case appear to be original to each other.

Keith

PS, If it had hard paper work that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that case
and movement were sold together on date X in 1860, I could say watch and case
are original to each other.
 
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PapaLouies

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Can I ask for your opinion on the age/date of my watch case posted on post #12?
Robert,

I think your case NN280 is likely period correct based on it's wear. I have the following AM. WATCH CO. Silver cases BB266, NN13, **T64, TT162 and ZZ39. I'm of the opinion that the letters fixed the date of production but to date I'm not aware of any factory records.

Regards,

PL
 
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Keith R...

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I truly wish our case makers had followed the path and practice of movement number and
matching case number. My favorite example is a watch owned by Tom McIntyre, one Ephraim
Clark, an early colonial Clock & watch maker. Tom has watch number 534 with case number
534, (case maker Thomas Carpenter). I found it while doing research on one of my verges
with a case also made by Thomas Carpenter. There would be very little guessing had we
continued that practice. Both our examples are 1792, a full 70 years prior to the subject watch
we are discussing.

Keith
 

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