Illinois Watch Case Company of Elgin and Elgin American
It is very common to for people to become confused about which
products were made by the Elgin National Watch Company (ENWCo), and
which were made by the unrelated company, the Illinois Watch Case
Company of Elgin (IWCCo).
The Illinois Watch Case Company was another major manufacture in the
city of Elgin Illinois. It had many brand names that it used on its
such as "Elgin Giant", "Elgin Pride", "Tivoli",
"Spartan", and "Elgin Commander". Later on, IWCCo also started the
"Elgin American" line of lady's compacts and cigarette cases. The
use of the name "Elgin" in their brand names, or marking the cases
with "Elgin USA" has often lead people to believe that a watch was
made by the Elgin National Watch Company when it was made by someone
else, or to think that another brand of watch no longer has its
original case because it is "now in an Elgin case."
The Elgin National Watch Company and the Illinois Watch Case Company
are not sister companies, they didn't even always get along very well.
In fact, they even went to the point of suing each other all the way
About 50 years later, when watch companies
started selling cased watches, ENWCo went out and bought the Wadsworth
Watch Case Company of Kentucky, even though it might have made more
sense to buy the IWCCo, which was just down the street.
|An Ad Publish By Elgin National Watch Company in 1898|
The fact that many people get confused is exactly what the
Illinois Watch Case Company was trying to accomplish, and
exactly what Elgin National Watch Company was objecting to.
Most of the details here can be found in E. C. Alft's
"Elgin: An American
History" book. This is a wonderful book about the history of one
somewhat typical American town from the first building to the 1980's.
I highly recommend you get a copy of the book, or read it online.
The Illinois Watch Case Company was originally located in Chicago but
in 1890, long after ENWCo had become famous, it moved to Elgin
Illinois. The owners of IWCCo originally wanted to change their name
to the Elgin Watch Case Company, but when ENWCo found out about it,
they quickly filed for that name instead. (ENWCo never actually made
cases under this name, however.) In response, the Illinois Watch Case
Company filed for the name "National Watch Case Company", which was
very similar to the "National Watch Company" name that ENWCo had used
up until around 1874.
Law suits and counter suits were filed, one eventually reached the
Supreme Court. In 1901, the court ruled in favor of IWCCo and said
that the name "Elgin" could not be trademarked since it was a
geographical description and existed before the watch company. ENWCo,
however, did win
several lesser suits
that barred companies from selling
cased watches as "Elgin Watches" or "Watches from Elgin". This was
clearly misleading, since the movements were not made in the city of
Elgin, it was just the case that was made there.
In the 1940's, when the watch case business started to run into hard
times, the Illinois Watch Case Company branched out into manufacturing
cigarette cases and Lady's Compacts, using the "Elgin American" brand
name. In the 1950's, all production was moved to Japan, which meant
the "Elgin American" line was no longer made in America, let alone
Isn't it nice to know that deceptive sales practices and law suit
happy companies isn't something new? Uhhh, well, maybe that isn't
nice to know. Oh well. :->