News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

March 8, 2014

Historical treasure: The polished gold pocket watch of William Wiley

TERRE HAUTE — As today marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in the U.S., (I hope you’ve all set your clocks ahead one hour), this week’s Historical Treasure is a timepiece. The teachers of the Terre Haute Public Schools presented this beautiful polished gold pocket watch to William H. Wiley on May 13,1882.

William H. Wiley served as Terre Haute school superintendent for 37 years, from June 3, 1869 to June 1906. No one had a greater impact on local education. After his retirement the former Terre Haute High School was renamed Wiley High School in his honor.

A practical educator, stressing writing and speaking skills, Wiley encouraged local students to compete. In his administration’s first decade, Terre Haute students won state and national awards at the 1874 Indiana Exposition and the 1876 Centennial Exposition, respectively. High school enrollment had soared past 1,200 when he retired in June of 1906.

The watch itself measures two inches across with a decorative gold case and is inscribed “Presented to W. H. Wiley by the teachers of the Terre Haute Public Schools.” It was made by the American Waltham Watch Company of Roxbury, Mass.

Founded in 1850 by David Davis, Aaron Dennison and Edward Howard, the company’s vision was to produce high quality watches at a lower cost using interchangeable parts. Their company was the first watchmaker to mass-produce watch movements on an assembly line. Abraham Lincoln owned and carried a ‘Wm. Ellery’ model Waltham watch.  

The company continued making watches and timepieces until 1957 when they ceased production and became the Waltham Precision Instrument Company. The rights to the name “Waltham Watch Company” were sold to the Hallmark Watch Company of Chicago, IL who continued to sell imported watches using the Waltham name.

Your Historical Society has an excellent collection of timepieces of all shapes and sizes. Since we have an “extra” hour of daylight for a while, why not come by and check them out?

Historical Treasure

• The Vigo County Historical Society’s museum is at 1411 S. Sixth St. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through

Sunday.

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