Frances Perkins and the E. Ingraham Company

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. The letters are from the E. Ingraham Company Records.

In late October 1944, famed U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins wrote to the E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut. In her letter, she gave the company permission to employ girls between the ages of sixteen and eighteen for nine hours a day. Under an earlier federal regulation, young girls could only work for eight hours a day.

But as Perkins’s acknowledged, times had changed: a labor shortage in Bristol and the essential work of the E. Ingraham Company to the war effort meant rules would have to be bent – if only temporarily.

Founded in 1831, the E. Ingraham Company had by the 1940s become one of the most successful clock and watch makers in the United States. The company’s successful manufacturing operations, though, would soon serve a different purpose. In 1942, the War Production Board drafted the company into the U.S. military effort against the Axis powers.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, industries throughout the United States shifted from producing for the consumer market to providing essential material for the war effort. The E. Ingraham Company went from crafting fine clocks and its popular “dollar watches” to cranking out mechanical time fuzes for the Army and Navy.

Local women had long labored in the E. Ingraham Company’s Bristol factories. But World War II drew even more of them into the workplace. The relentless demand for munitions pushed company president Edward Ingraham to ask the federal government for a loosening of labor restrictions.

Appointed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a cabinet-level position and has so far been the longest-serving Secretary of Labor. She devoted much of her life to defending the rights of women and children in the workplace. Moreover, setting limits on working hours had been one of her chief aims upon accepting her position. Perkins’s approval of an extra hour of work for young women employed by the E. Ingraham Company thus illustrates the demands placed on daily life during war time.

In June 1945, with the war in Europe over and the need for munitions in decline, Perkins rescinded her prior authorization. Young women could no longer work more than eight hours, and the E. Ingraham Company returned to fashioning the clocks, watches, and other products that had made them a household name in the years before the war.


The Time is Right for a new digital resource — watch and clock catalogs of the E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut

Page from a 1918 catalog of the E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, now available online through the Internet Archive

For many years now Archives & Special Collections has been working to get more and more of our archival collections online, available to researchers off-campus and across the globe.  One of the ways we are doing this is by participating in the collaborative network of the Internet Archive, which provides access for the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.  We recently put up a set of product catalogs from the historical records of the E. Ingraham Company, which produced clocks and watches for well over a century in Bristol, Connecticut.

Researchers can access the catalogs directly from this link: and will see catalogs of the clocks and watches sold by the company from 1881 to 1940.  I want to extend my thanks to Tom Koenig, Catalog and Metadata Librarian, for cataloging the items prior to the scanning and to Michael J. Bennett, Digital Projects Librarian, and his assistants Allison Hale and Kathleen Deep, for their expert scanning and work to get the items on the Internet Archive.  This project is a great example of the ways the UConn Libraries staff collaborates on projects and I am grateful for everyone’s efforts.

More information about the E. Ingraham Company, and the historical records that are in Archives & Special Collections, can be found in the finding aid at

Laura Smith, Curator for the Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

E. Ingraham Company and war work, part 2 — a source for classroom instruction

The blog post on November 14 showed a photograph and document from the E. Ingraham Company Records.  Here are two more documents and some more questions.

Telegram from the War Department, Hartford Ordinance District, to E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, December 13, 1944

Letter from E. Ingraham Company president to employees, December 15, 1944

What work is the company doing that is so important to the war effort? How has the E. Ingraham Company responded to the command from the government to step up production?  Do you think Edward and Dudley Ingraham were fair to not allow Christmas parties at the company during work time?

These primary sources conform to the Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework for High School students, particularly Strand 1.2 — significant events in local and Connecticut history and their connections to United States history, grade level expectation 15 – describe how major events in U.S. history affected Connecticut citizens.

More information about the E. Ingraham Company can be found with the finding aid to the records at

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections

Child labor laws and war work — a source for classroom instruction

Army/Navy E award presented to the E. Ingraham Company, June 16, 1944

The E. Ingraham Company of Bristol, Connecticut, was a maker of clocks and watches from its founding in 1831 by Elias Ingraham, to its demise in 1967.  It was run by descendents of Elias Ingraham for all but the last 15 years of its existence.

Letter to E. Ingraham Company from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1944

Use this photograph and the letter to create a narrative of what was happening at the E. Ingraham Company, and in the United States, at the time.  Some questions to ask include:

What was happening in the country in 1944?  What conditions would have necessitated the need for hiring girls at the company?  What kind of work were the workers doing that was so important to the government? 

More information and some more documents will come in a couple of days.  For now, use the documents, and your own knowledge of the circumstances of the time, to describe what is happening.  Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment!

Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections