Sales catalogs of the E. Ingraham Company, makers of clocks and watches

For more than a century, the E. Ingraham Company was a prominent family-operated manufacturer of clocks and watches, with headquarters and plants located in Bristol, Connecticut. Most of its employees were natives of the Bristol region, and members of the Ingraham family of Bristol controlled its management.

The company was founded in 1831 by Elias Ingraham (1805-1885), who opened his own shop in Bristol as a cabinetmaker and designer of clock cases. After several mergers with other companies and name changes the company was known as E. Ingraham and Company by 1884. From 1884 to 1958, the period during which most of the surviving company records were created, the firm was known as E. Ingraham Company. In 1958, the name was changed to Ingraham Company, and in November 1967, when the company was sold to McGraw Edison Company, it became Ingraham Industries.Through much of the company’s history, members of the Ingraham family served as its presidents and in other official capacities. The last to hold the office of president was Dudley Ingraham, until 1954.

E. Ingraham Company’s products throughout its history reflected technological advances and changing consumer demands for timepieces. Until about 1890, the company manufactured only pendulum clocks. During the 1890s, they began making lever escapement time clocks and alarm clocks. Radical changes in manufacturing methods during the following decade enabled E. Ingraham Company to produce 30-hour alarm clocks, pocket watches (1914), and 8-day alarm lever and timepieces (1915). In 1913 the company began to manufacture the popular “dollar watch.” In 1930, Ingraham added non-jeweled wrist watches and in 1931 began marketing electric clocks.

The depression of the 1930s did not affect E. Ingraham Company as severely as it did many other businesses. Employment never dropped more than 15% and wage and salaries were not cut. By the beginning of the Second World War, the company was producing clocks and watches at maximum capacity in order to meet the great export need after many European supplies were cut off. However, in 1942 the War Production Board ordered E. Ingraham Company to cease manufacture of all clocks and watches. By August 1942 the company had entirely re-tooled for production of items of critical war use, such as mechanical time-fuse parts for Army and Navy anti-aircraft and artillery. Full production of clocks and watches was not resumed until 1946, but the years 1946 to 1948 were boom years for company sales.

The company was sold to McGraw Edison Company in November 1967 and its name changed to Ingraham Industries.

In 1980 the company donated its records to the University of Connecticut Library. They consist of account books, general business records, correspondence, printed materials, photographs, maps and drawings which document the company’s history from 1840-1967. Also included are general accounting and administrative records; records relating to sales, purchasing, production, and labor; subsidiary company records. The general correspondence, which comprises more than half of the records, is particularly voluminous for the years 1916-1947. 

Now available online in the UConn Archives digital repository is a set of sales catalogs of the E. Ingraham Company’s clocks and watches, beginning at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19800034Catalogs. These catalogs are a terrific resource for clock collectors and historians.

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: http://archive.org/search.php?query=collection%3Auconn_libraries+AND+E.+Ingraham+Co 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 http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/Ingraham/MSS19800034.html.

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 http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/findaids/Ingraham/MSS19800034.html

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