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ILLINOIS WATCH COMPANY

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Published on Jun 4, 2012

The Illinois Watch Company was founded on December 23, 1870, in Springfield, Illinois by John C. Adams, John Whitfield Bunn (1831-1920) and various additional financiers. Twenty years later, Jacob Bunn, Jr. (1864-1926) took over and ran the company until his death in 1926. The Bunn family surname was used in their most famous railroad watch, the Illinois "Bunn Special".

The history of the Illinois Watch Company contains three distinct institutional chapters. First: The Springfield Watch Company. The corporation was established as the Springfield Watch Company by John C. Adams of Massachusetts, and John Todd Stuart, William B. Miller, Dr. George Pasfield, John Whitfield Bunn, John Williams, and George N. Black, all of Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois. John Todd Stuart served as the first President of the new corporation, which had been capitalized initially at $100,000.00. William B. Miller served as the first Secretary. The other named men constituted the original Board of Directors of the Springfield Watch Company. In 1873, the corporation established a corporate office in New York City. By the end of the year 1872, the corporation had sold approximately 10,000 watch movements.

Second: The Illinois Springfield Watch Company. The Springfield Watch Company encountered severe financial difficulty during its institutional infancy. Consequently, the corporation had to undergo reorganization in 1877. In July, 1877, the corporation changed its name to the "Illinois Springfield Watch Company." Erastus Newton Bates, the second President of the corporation, assumed the chief executive leadership of the newly reorganized concern until July, 1878. The corporation again faced severe financial crisis, and had to be reorganized.

Third: The Illinois Watch Company. The Illinois Springfield Watch Company was reorganized in the autumn and winter of 1878, and was renamed the "Illinois Watch Company" (the final name of the corporation). Chief executive leadership of the corporation was assumed by Jacob Bunn, Sr. (1814-1897), an Illinois industrialist, railroad financier, railroad reorganizer, wholesale grocer, commission merchant, newspaper publisher, land developer, coal operator, political advisor and financier, banker, and rope manufacturer. Jacob Bunn was the older brother of John Whitfield Bunn, and both men were among the closest friends and political allies of Illinois lawyer and statesman Abraham Lincoln, whose political career was largely financed and managed by the Bunn brothers. Jacob Bunn, Sr., oversaw the steady growth of the new corporation, and under his administration the corporate employment grew from 260 in the year 1879 to 400 in the year 1880. Jacob Bunn led corporate sales along a certain and definite trajectory of growth in both volume of manufacture and corporate revenue. In 1879, the corporation manufactured 33,285 watch movements. In 1880, the corporation manufactured 47,065 watch movements. By 1890 the concern had established corporate offices in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco. The corporation helped pioneer the logistical technology that served the enforcement of standard time for railroads throughout the world. At its apex of profitability, the Illinois Watch Company employed approximately 1,200 people.

Principal Corporate Governance of the Illinois Watch Company: 1. Jacob Bunn (1814-1897): President, reorganizer, Director, Chairman. 2. John Whitfield Bunn (1831-1920): Vice-President, Director. 3. Charles Smorowski: Secretary of the corporation. 4. Jacob Bunn, Jr. (1864-1926): Vice-President, President, Director, Chairman. 5. Henry Bunn: Vice President, President, Director, Chairman. 6. Benjamin Hamilton Feguson: Director, Vice-Chairman, Chairman. 7. Frederic W. Morgan: General Cashier, Credit Manager. 8. Julius Armbruster: General Salesman.

The passing of Jacob Bunn, Jr. threw Illinois Watch into disarray. In 1928, for a sum in excess of $5,000,000.00, the Illinois Watch Company was purchased by the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which continued to operate the factory under the Illinois name and shifted the emphasis from pocket to wrist watch production. By 1932, the Great Depression forced Hamilton to close the Illinois factory, though they retained possession of the brand name.

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