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The rise of chicago and American watchmaking

1837 - 1864


Chicago is incorporated as a city and by 1860, the population grows to over 100,000.


Northwestern University is founded by John Evans, the namesake of Evanston, Illinois. John Evans will go on to become an investor in the Cornell Watch Company and his sister-in-law will marry Paul Cornell.


A.L. Dennison, the father of American watchmaking, pioneers the American System of Watch Manufacturing to make the first entirely American-made watch, leveraging mechanization, supply chain integration and interchangeable parts. By the end of the 19th century, the United States is the leading producer of watches in the world.


Paul Cornell founds Hyde Park seven miles south of the Chicago River as a resort community connected to Chicago and the rest of the country via the Illinois Central Railroad.


John C. Adams, co-founder of the Cornell Watch Company, is appointed official time keeper for all railroads centering in Chicago. John C. Adams would later develop the Adams’ System of Time Records to ensure accuracy for all watchmakers producing railroad watches for the primary, national railroads.


John C. Adams founds the National Watch Company in Elgin, Illinois. For over 100 years, the National Watch Company, later renamed the Elgin National Watch Company, would be one of the largest watch manufactures in the world, producing 60 million watches.

the cornell watch company

1870 - 1876


Paul Cornell and John C. Adams found the Cornell Watch Company and finish construction of the factory in 1871, two miles south of Hyde Park, employing some 200 workers to construct entirely in-house, unsurpassed railroad pocket watches, "having the perfect escapement.”

Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1873


The Cornell Watch Company develops the first entirely American-made ladies stem winding pocket watch, touted as "perhaps, in finish and originality of design, one of the greatest improvements of the age."

Excerpt from The Watch Factories of America, Past and Present by Henry G. Abbott. 1888


Charles L. Kidder, the co-founder of the International Watch Company (IWC), returns to the United States from Schaffhausen to run the Cornell Watch Company with Paul Cornell.


In the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Panic of 1873, the Cornell Watch Company investors step away and Paul Cornell assumes almost all company stock.


In an attempt to save the company, Paul Cornell and 60 employees move the Cornell Watch Company to San Francisco, California.


The Centennial International Exposition is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, introducing the world to the American System of Watch Manufacturing and forever changing the Swiss watchmaking industry.


The Cornell Watch Company is renamed the California Watch Company and moves operations to Berkeley, California.

the legacy of the cornell watch company

1890 - 1894


The University of Chicago is founded in Hyde Park by John D. Rockefeller and Marshall Field after Paul Cornell proposed an institution to rival Northwestern University.


The World’s Columbian Exposition is held in Hyde Park, Chicago, bringing 25 million people, made possible by Paul Cornell’s vision and Hyde Park’s accessibility to the whole country via railroad.


The former Assistant Superintendent of the Cornell Watch Company arrives in Japan as the Chief Supervisor of the Osaka Watch Company to introduce the manufacturing of pocket watches through the American System of Watch Manufacturing.  Modeled off the Cornell Watch Company railroad pocket watch, the Osaka Watch Company creates Japan’s first entirely Japanese-made pocket watch, launching modern Japanese watchmaking.