To a large extent, the development of the watch industry in America can be attributed to the appearance and subsequent development of American railroads.
Prior to the advent of trains as a means of transporting people and goods, there was no real need for precious timekeeping or even for uniform time. Even after the railroad system in the United States had reached significant proportions following the Civil War, communities continued to maintain their local times.
By the end of 1883, the railroads had agreed, at least among themselves, to divide the nation into four time zones and had adopted Standard Time. The public soon followed suit although it is interesting to note that Congress did not officially sanction the concept until 1918.
WEBB C. BALL - Railroad watch inspection system
In 1996, Cleveland, Ohio, celebrated the bicentennial of the founding of the city on the lake. Throughout this celebration, many individuals were remembered and recognized as Cleveland's favourite sons, and their accomplishments were viewed. One Clevelander- Webster Clay Ball, whose accomplishments reached international acclaim, not only for his civic contributions, but also for his place in horology was honoured.
Webb C. Ball was born in Fredericktown, Ohio on October 6, 1847. When Standard Time was adopted in 1883, he was the first jeweller to use time signals, bringing accurate time to Cleveland. On July 19, 1891, the General Superintendent of Lake Shore Lines appointed W.C. Ball as Chief Inspector for the lines. This inspection system appeared to be the beginning of the vast Ball network that would encompass 75% of the railroads throughout the country and cover at least 175,000 miles of railroad. Webb C. Ball also extended his system into Mexico and Canada.
The Kipton Disaster
On April 19, 1891 the first mail train known as NO.4 was coming west on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad in Kipton, Ohio. At Elyria, 25 miles from Cleveland, the Engineer and the Conductor of the ACCOMODATION were given orders to let the fast mail pass them at Kipton, a small station west of Oberlin, the University town.
From the time the train left Elyria until it collided with the Fast Mail at Kipton, the conductor, as he admitted afterward, did not take his watch out of his pocket. He said that he supposed the Engineer would look out for NO.4. But the Engineers watch stopped for four minutes and then began running again, a little matter of life and death of which he was unconscious. There were several stations between Elyria and Kipton, but the Engineer pounded slowly along in the belief that he had time to spare. Leaving Oberlin, he supposed he had seven minutes in which to reach the meeting point. Of course he had only three minutes. Had the conductor looked at his own watch he could have prevented the accident. The trains came together at Kipton, the Fast Mail at full speed and the ACCOMMODATION under brakes, because it was nearing the station. The Engineers of both trains were killed, and the dead bodies of nine clerks were taken form the kindling wood and broken iron of the postal cars.
This accident prompted the Lake Shore officials to enlist Webb C. Ball to investigate Time and Watch conditions throughout the Lake Shore Line and develop an inspection system for their implementation.
It is important to recognize and applaud Webb C. Ball, for he was the first successful system to be accepted on a broad scale. It was his system that set the standards for the railroads; it was his system that helped establish accuracy and uniformity in timekeeping. It was his system that resulted in railroad time and railroad watches being recognized as STANDARD, whenever accuracy in time was required.
"In general, it becomes accepted that when the average person asks a railroad man the time, he is assured it is correct."
BALL-Since 1891, Accuracy Under Adverse Conditions
information obtained from http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/clocks-n-watches/watch/watches/ball-watch/