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FF 05-09-2014 06:19 AM

Pocket Watch?

Don't know if you've seen this before, but I found it interesting

If you were in the market for a watch in 1880, would you know where to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit better than most of the store watches, you went to the train station! Sound a bit funny? Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States , that's where the best watches were found. Why were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad company wasn't selling the watches, not at all. The telegraph operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town. It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the rail line. Most of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators and that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad. They would know when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their next station. And it was the telegraph operator who had the watches. As a matter of fact, they sold more of them than almost all the stores combined for a period of about 9 years. This was all arranged by "Richard", who was a telegraph operator himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the East. It was a huge crate of pocket watches. No one ever came to claim them.

So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches. The manufacturer didn't want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good, pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit. That started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the travelers. It worked! It didn't take long for the word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the train station to buy watches. Richard became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch maker to help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is history as they say. The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods. Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago -- and it's still there. YES, IT'S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880's, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station. It all started with a telegraph operator: Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck!

Story checks out as true. See: Sears History - 1886

D.M.D. 05-09-2014 08:13 AM

I believe Sears also had a big Philadelphia presence as well once housing their headquarters.

HopCar 05-09-2014 08:20 AM

Thanks FF. Cool story.

Steve 05-09-2014 09:28 AM

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This old Hamilton has been in the family for years, maybe it was bought at a RR station.

snakeriveridaho 05-09-2014 02:12 PM

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Nice story, thanks.

Here are 2 of my pocket watches. They both have 21 jewels. The top one is a railroad watch. The second one is a World War II aviation watch used by pilots to coordinate flights.


RT Firefly 05-14-2014 11:55 PM

Great story Mr. FF. Thanks. On the subject of watches, there used to be a watch company founded by Theodore Tate. He was able to mass produce a good reliable timepiece for a decent price. At one time almost everyone had a Tate watch. When the California gold rush started, Teddy Tate saw a great opportunity to produce compasses because if you were going to the gold fields you NEEDED both a watch and a compass. Based on the solid reputation of the Tate company his compass sales took off BUT the compasses were totally useless. Sales of both the compasses and the watches dropped faster than a hooker's panties when the fleet came into port. The compass fiasco was not only the downfall of the company but also the source of the phrase "He who has a Tates is lost."

HopCar 05-15-2014 01:12 AM

Oh RT, you've reached a new low. I love it.

Xsbank 05-15-2014 01:48 AM

Did you hear that noise a moment or so ago, a low, grating, groaning sound, the sound of the entire membership of the world-wide trawler group groaning in unison.

Good one, RT!

Bluto 05-17-2014 12:27 PM

That's really interesting. From tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow.
Sears is really struggling now. I hope they make it, I like their craftsman tools with the lifetime warranty.

GFC 05-17-2014 05:44 PM

Hmmmmm, lifetime warranty? Might start thinking of that "lifetime" in terms of the longevity of Sears.

Bluto 05-17-2014 10:29 PM

I used Sears Craftsmen hand tools for over 30 years, you only had to buy them once. Anything worn out or broken is replaced with no questions. They aren't the best (like Mack or Snap-On), but they were great values.
I'll miss them if they go.

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