Keeping time at Westclox
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Timepiece factory featured in latest issue of
[July 07, 2007]
SPRINGFIELD -- The Westclox factory, a fixture
in Peru, Ill., since 1885, is featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois,
a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Charles Stahlberg of Waterbury, Conn., patented his revolutionary
cast-mechanism clock and then relocated in 1885 to the Illinois
River valley community of Peru. He took advantage of the ample
supplies of nickel and zinc at area smelteries as those metals were
necessary to manufacture his clocks. Stahlberg settled first in
unused space at Brylski's Department Store until a three-story
factory building could be completed next to the Matthiessen and
Hegeler Zinc Company.
The United Clock Company experienced
production and distribution problems and filed for bankruptcy in
1887, but was quickly bought by Frederick William Matthiessen, owner
of the nearby zinc company, and several other investors, who then
formed the Western Clock Company. The company name was shortened to
Westclox in 1918, and the firm became a major regional employer with
the success of its mass-produced clock models such as Big Ben, Baby
Ben, Sleepmeter and America. Matthiessen was noted for his
benevolent treatment of employees, offering workers numerous
benefits and incentives. By 1929 the factory employed more than
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Production switched to bomb fuse production during World War II,
a process that continued until the company's hostile takeover by
Talley Industries in 1968. Talley closed the plant in 1980.
The massive factory still stands on U.S. Route 6 and was listed
in the National Register of Historic Places on June 1.
The article was written by Cynthia Fuener, Illinois Historic
Preservation Agency publications editor and Peru native.
Historic Illinois is a bimonthly IHPA publication that features
historically significant sites in Illinois. Subscriptions are $10
per year, which includes six issues of Historic Illinois and one
full-color calendar. For more information, call 217-524-6045, visit
or write to Historic Illinois, Illinois Historic Preservation
Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701-1507.
Historic Preservation Agency news release received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]