Hamilton Model 950 Pocket Watch

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The Hamilton Watch Company made this model 950 railroad conductor’s watch around 1918. The 16-size watch has 23 Jewels, Motor Barrel 1634902, and was adjustable to five positions. Good pocket watches of high accuracy became badges of office for railroaders. A railroad employee bought the finest he could afford. Among the brand names of 'Railroad Grade' watches celebrated among railroaders were Hamilton, Illinois, Elgin, Howard, and Waltham. The high-quality of a railroad standard watch was critical in the safe operations of trains.
The conductor was the chief officer in charge of any train. At initial departure and station stops the engineer had to await clearance from the conductor before starting. It was always important that the conductor and engineer kept the same time throughout a run. All train operating crew (conductor, engineer, trainmen, fireman) set their watches to a 'standard clock' maintained to accurate standard time by the railroad at the office where employees signed-in each day. Railroads issued standards in their operating-rule books that specified the degree of accuracy or the number of jewels in the mechanism (17 jewels was usually the minimum). At specified intervals, watches were to be submitted to a railroad-company designated 'watch inspector,' normally an independent jeweler on contract. The employee kept his watch inspection record current.
In 1883, railroads brought standardized 'Railroad Time' and the four time zones we know today to the U.S. Before then, cities kept their own local time; noon was set to the sun's passage at zenith. The plethora of times made things extremely difficult for long-distance travelers when there were several intermediate trains to catch. And for railroads by the early 1880s, the safe coordination of interstate trains had become impossible; there were several crashes each involving two trains keeping different times. It took Congress another quarter-century to codify 'Standard Time' and the four zones as national standards.
National Museum of American History
Hamilton Watch Co.
Credit Line
Gift of Carl Wyatt Estate
Physical Description
gold (watch case material)
nickel (watch movement material)
overall: 1 7/8 in; x 4.7625 cm
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Work and Industry: Mechanisms
America on the Move
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Place Made
United States: Pennsylvania, Lancaster
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