Waltham Watch Co. ... Visit Gift Shop

[Home] [Waltham Watch Company Donations]  These brief articles are taken from past Waltham Museum Newsletters.

"Waltham's Watch" from Jonathan Boschen on Vimeo.

David Marsh: Designer and Maker of the First Waltham Watch

It was 100 years ago on March 12, 1901, that David S. Marsh died. He was 74 years, 2 months and 11 days old when he passed quietly away in his home at 14 Cushing Street. He was an old and respected resident of Waltham who was obligated to leave his employment at the watch factory on June 1900 when he became sick.

Born in East Calais, VT, on January 1, 1827, he came to Roxbury, MA, where he was employed by the Howard Clock Co. in 1846 to make an 8-day watch. In 1849, Aaron Dennison, whose dream was to make watches with interchangeable parts, occupied a room at the Howard Clock Co. for this purpose. While a building was being erected nearby for the watch business, David S. Marsh was designing the first watch with the help of his brother, Oliver B. Marsh. Before the building was completed, David Marsh left the company to work for the Durant Watch Case Company of New York. In 1854, the Watch Factory moved to Waltham from Roxbury. David Marsh rejoined them in 1862 until he got sick in 1900. Now itís 100 years after his death and David S. Marsh is being remembered for designing the first Waltham watch. After Davidís death, the first watch was owned by his son, William W. Marsh, and was still in good working condition.

Supplying Coal to the Waltham Watch Company

When studying the Waltham Watch Company you sometimes overlook some basic operations of the factory, such as how did they get coal to fire their boilers during the earlier part of 20th century. This information was provided to the Waltham Museum by Leo LeBlanc who owns Colvin's Aerial Truck Company at 185 Prospect Street. It was on the back of this lot and the adjacent lot on Sun Street that large coal bins were once located. Overhead were train spurs where trains could back up coal cars so that coal could be dumped into these storage bins. Here trucks or horses and wagons would take the coal over to the watch factory power plant.    Note: Leo LeBlanc also visited the museum that day with his wife, Loraine.

FACTS: The Waltham Watch Company (1887)

In one of the articles donated by Leslie Nesky it tells about the machinery at the watch factory.    "The machinery, all of which has been designed and built in the factory, has cost one-half million dollars. It is driven by over 5,000 pullies and about eight miles of belting from two miles of shafting, with power furnished by a Corliss engine. Steam is furnished by five boilers of 60 horsepower each. The engine room is 34 by 42 feet and 24 feet high; is furnished in pine and cherry with slate dado and floor of maple and iron tiling and is pronounced the finest engine room in the country."

More on The Waltham Watch Company (1887)

"The precise number of operatives in the watch factory during this week in October 1887 was 2,471 of whom 1,350 were males and 1,121 were females. the majority of the women are about 20 years old and unmarried, but adding the average of all women it would be 26. To be exact about the matter of matrimony, the total number of wives in the factory, most of whom accompany their husbands to work, is 224, or just one-fifth of the whole, thus showing that not fewer than 897 are yet enjoying the bliss of maidenhood. The majority of the men are about 30 years old, but the average age of the entire number, is 32.       The proportion of the males who are married is far greater than the females. In truth, the majority of the former are married, as appears by the fact that out of the whole 1,350 just 621 suffer the solitude of bachelordom."

More on the Waltham Watch Company

(Note: William A. Kilbourn is now 86 years old. He is a member of the Friends of the Waltham Museum.)  In our January 1995 newsletter we gave excerpts of an interview done with William A. Kilbourn, a division manager at the watch factory during the 1930's and 1940's. Here is more of that interview:

More of this interview in future newsletters. In 1932 the factory employed about 1200 people, men and women, but women as far as possible because they could be hired cheaper and they were generally happier doing routine jobs than men. They were able to operate the machines and talk at the same time so that the hours passed quite fast for them. In fact, I would say they were quite an efficient group.

In those days the watch factory was headed by Fred C. Durmaine, as President. Previously it had been operated mostly as a closed corporation, managed, one might say by a czar. The foreman of each department, generally speaking, made his own rules and ran it the way he wanted. At that time there was a great lack of communications with the outside world. The foreman were not aware of simplified and improved watchmaking that could have been done to manufacture the watches more economically. Mr. Durmaine's greatest problem was to get people to accept new ideas and new processes to bring the price of the watch in line with foreign competition, especially the Swiss watch.

During the depression the employees were asked to take cuts in pay in order to keep their jobs, as a low pay job was better than no job at all. In those days we didn't have the government sponsored programs for the unemployed people that we have today.

The Construction of the Waltham Watch Company Building

As part of Historical Waltham Days, the Waltham Museum also held a slide show at Lafayette Hall on June 13, showing the first Waltham Watch Company factory and all the construction that took place after this 1854 original building was built. The first addition to the factory was the North Wing in 1859, later came the South Wing in 1862 which housed the old Nashua Watch Company. The success of the Waltham watch during the Civil War allowed them to double their size in late 1864.

In 1873 the old North Wing was taken down and a new all-brick North Wing replaced it. That is the only part of the factory that exist today, because from 1878 to 1882 they tore down the rest of the factory and constructed a whole new facility. The new factory was over 600 feet long, four-stories high, had a pitched roof, and a new executive office. This new construction, which was done wing by wing still remains today. In 1901, Crescent Street was moved back 50 feet and front additions were added. By the beginning of World War I the factory was over 1,000 feet long and was five stories with a flat roofómuch as we know it today.

The original building had two 50-horsepower steam engines to power its machinery in the first of three power plants. The second power plant was constructed in 1864 and had a large 125-horsepower Corliss steam engine. All this was removed in 1880 when the third power plant was constructed with a 180-horsepower Corliss engine, a 300-horsepower Ball Compound engine, and seven electric dynamos.

Homepage/Collection | E-mail | Links | Donations | Sign Guest book | Return to: TOP of Page
Also visit:
Autos | Boats | Books | Churches | Families | Hall-of-Fame | Industries | Map | Metz Company | Military
Murder | Newsletter | Slide Shows | Sports | Stores | Theaters | Timeline | Waltham Watch Company

Special: Waltham Through History