William Ellery model Pocketwatch

During the Civil War Army physician Dr. G. D. O'Farrell received this watch as a gift from grateful patients.
In the 1850s watchmakers at what would become the American Watch Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, developed the world's first machine-made watches. They completely redesigned the watch so that its movement could be assembled from interchangeable parts made on specialized machines invented just for that purpose. They also developed a highly organized factory-based work system to speed production and cut costs.
In its first decade, the firm's work was largely experimental and the firm's finances were unsteady. The name of the company changed repeatedly as investors came and went. Operations moved from Roxbury to Waltham in 1854, and the Panic of 1857 brought bankruptcy and a new owner, Royal Robbins. Reorganization and recovery began, and output reached fourteen thousand watches in 1858.
Renamed the American Watch Company the next year, the firm was on the brink of success from an unexpected quarter. During the Civil War, Waltham's watch factory designed and mass-produced a low-cost watch, the William Ellery model. Selling for an unbelievable $13.00, these watches became a fad with Union soldiers. Just as itinerant peddlers had aroused the desire for inexpensive clocks, roving merchants sold thousands of cheap watches to eager customers in wartime encampments. By 1865, the year the war ended, William Ellery movements represented almost 45 per cent of Waltham's unit sales.
This William Ellery model watch was a gift to Army surgeon G. D. O'Farrell from his patients at White Hall, a Civil War hospital near Philadelphia. The inscription on the dust cover of O'Farrell's watch reads: "White Hall USA Gen'l Hospital, Feb. 15, 1865 Presented to Dr. G. D. O'Farrell, USA by the patients of Ward C as a token of regard & respect for his ability as a surgeon and unswerving integrity as a man."
Currently not on view
Object Name
pocket watch
Date made
American Waltham Watch Co.
Physical Description
enamel, white (dial material)
silver (case material)
overall: 3 in x 2 1/8 in x 3/4 in; 7.62 cm x 5.4102 cm x 1.905 cm
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, Waltham
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Clothing & Accessories
Measuring & Mapping
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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