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Giles, Bro. & Co.

Giles, Bro. & Co., a Chicago jobber since the 1860s, is perhaps best known for the anti-magnetic watch shield patented by the company's senior partner, Charles K. Giles. Throughout the late 1880s and early 1890s, shielded cases were heavily promoted by the firm.

Giles, Bro. & Co. - A Thumbnail Sketch

Giles, Brothers & Co. was established in 1860 by Charles K. Giles, a brother of Frederick A. Giles, founder of the U.S. Watch Co., Marion, NJ. In addition to distributing and retailing U.S. Watch Co. (Marion) movements, along with those from other watch companies, Giles, Bro. & Co. was a manufacturing jeweler and, in a manner similar to a well-known competitor - Webb C. Ball, Giles was a contractor for Railroad Time Service inspection (see below).

Apparently, Giles, Bro. & Co. was a victim of the panic of 1893, ending up in receivership that year with the creditors receiving 15% cash, and 5% each after 12 months and 18 months.

The Anti-Magnetic Shield

C.K. Giles received patent number 289642 on December 4, 1883 for an "Anti-Magnetic Shield for Watches" (see References, below). This is the product for which Giles is best remembered, perhaps because it was promoted much more than the other products and services of Giles, Bro. & Co.

At the time, much was made of the effects of magnetism upon watches. The Non-Magnetic Watch Co. was both importing Swiss-built 16-size movements fitted with Paillard's patented balance and spring and contracting with the Peoria Watch Co. (and later, others) for an 18-size private label watch. American watch companies were also offering anti-magnetic watches, some using Paillard's patented balance and spring and others, such as Waltham, using their own design.

Giles led a faction in a different direction. His investigations, which he lectured upon, were based upon a weakness in the Paillard non-magnetic material in that it was more difficult to bring into adjustment and more likely to get out of adjustment by a wide range of temperature changes. Giles' concept was that the conventional compensated balance and steel hairspring were highly developed and perfectly capable of keeping a tight rate and that the correct solution to the problem of magnetism was to shield the movement from it.

When one considers that watch movements were already enclosed within a watch case, it's not too great a leap to add an anti-magnetic shield to the case, or as some companies did, make the case itself out of shielding material. As a manufacturer, Giles promoted the anti-magnetic shield, which they made, much more than the shielded cases, which they sold, but didn't make. The case companies provided Giles' shields in their certain of their cases and some, such as Joseph Fahys & Co., introduced a line of anti-magnetically shielded cases. The shield's ring took the place of the case's dust band while the hinged back of the shield replaced the cuvette.

Railroad Time Service

In ads, Giles claimed that the anti-magnetic shield was ... endorsed and recommended ... by ... leading railways ... Missing from the ads, however, is the fact that Giles had the contract for time service inspection on those railways and thus was able to insert requirements such as:

One might carefully note the date and realize that the Wabash Western rules predate, by four years, those rules that Webb C. Ball first had issued for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, following the Kipton wreck. Although Giles was still promoting anti-magnetic shields at this time, neither the rules issued by Ball, nor any other railroad time service department or contractor, mentioned the need for them. In fact, an 1892 report of Giles, Bro. & Co. being appointed general inspectors for the Illinois Central Railroad fails to mention anti-magnetic shields. By this time, the subject of magnetism came to be generally discussed in railroad time service rules as a matter of course, the typical instruction being:

Such documentation that has thus far come to light indicates that the railroad time service contracts at Giles, Bro. & Co. came to be supervised by J.W. Forsinger. According to an 1893 report Forsinger left Giles, Bro. & Co., taking a number of accounts with him, eventually establishing J.W. Forsinger Watch Inspection Service. This occurred around the time Giles, Bro. & Co. went into receivership. The accounts leaving with Forsinger included some very important railroads:

Chesapeake & Ohio
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (the Rock Island Line)
Illinois Central
Louisville & Nashville
Northern Pacific
St. Louis & San Francisco (the Frisco)
Wisconsin Central



C.K. Giles Patent Number 289642, December 4, 1883
Page 1
Page 2
Drawing 1
Drawing 2

History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time - Volume 3: From the fire of 1871 Until 1885, Alfred Theodore Andreas, A. T. Andreas Co., Chicago, IL, 1886, Pg 749.

Giles, Bro. & Co. Ads
1870SeptemberGiles, Bro. & Co. Distributor of U.S. Watch Co. (Marion) Watches
1885JanuarySomething New: Anti-Magnetic Shield Ready for Market
1887SeptemberTestimonials from Howard, Waltham & Elgin
1888Waltham & CStL&P Conductor Testimonials
1888FebruaryProtection for Watches
1888MarchTo Watch Dealers - Waltham Testimonial
1888DecemberAnti-Magnetic Shield For Watches
1889JanuaryVarieties of Shield Cases
1890FebruaryManufacturers of the Anti-Magnetic Shield
1891JanuaryWholesale Jewelers
1892MayGiles 32 Yrs Selling Watches & Jewelry

Most of the books listed below, along with back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin, are available on loan by mail to members from the NAWCC Lending Library.

Marion - A History of The United States Watch Company, William Muir & Bernard Kraus, NAWCC Special Publication No. 1, Columbia, PA, 1985

Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.

"Railroaders' Corner - The 1880s Magnetism Scare, Part 1: The Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 345, August 2003, pp. 485-492.

"Railroaders' Corner - Magnetism Part 2: Cases," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 346, October, 2003, pp. 645-651.

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