About the Pocket Watch, a very interesting story

f you were in the mar­ket for a watch in 1880, would you know where to get one? You would go to a store, right? Well, of course you could do that, but if you want­ed one that was cheap­er and a bit bet­ter than most of the store watch­es, you went to the train sta­tion!
Sound a bit fun­ny? Well, for about 500 towns across the north­ern Unit­ed States , that’s where the best watch­es were found.

Why were the best watch­es found at the train sta­tion? The rail­road com­pa­ny was­n’t sell­ing the watch­es, not at all. The tele­graph oper­a­tor was. Most of the time the tele­graph oper­a­tor was locat­ed in the rail­road sta­tion because the tele­graph lines fol­lowed the rail­road tracks from town to town. It was usu­al­ly the short­est dis­tance and the right-of-way had already been secured for the rail line.

Most of the sta­tion agents were also skilled tele­graph oper­a­tors and it was the pri­ma­ry way they com­mu­ni­cat­ed with the rail­road. They would know when trains left the pre­vi­ous sta­tion and when they were due at their next sta­tion. And it was the tele­graph oper­a­tor who had the watch­es. As a mat­ter of fact, they sold more of them than almost all the stores com­bined for a peri­od of about 9 years.
This was all arranged by “Richard”, who was a tele­graph oper­a­tor him­self. He was on duty in the North Red­wood, Min­neso­ta train sta­tion one day when a load of watch­es arrived from the East. It was a huge crate of pock­et watch­es. No one ever came to claim them. So Richard sent a telegram to the man­u­fac­tur­er and asked them what they want­ed to do with the watch­es. The man­u­fac­tur­er did­n’t want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them. So Richard did. He sent a wire to every agent in the sys­tem ask­ing them if they want­ed a cheap, but good, pock­et watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a hand­some prof­it. That start­ed it all.
He ordered more watch­es from the watch com­pa­ny and encour­aged the tele­graph oper­a­tors to set up a dis­play case in the sta­tion offer­ing high qual­i­ty watch­es for a cheap price to all the trav­el­ers. It worked! It did­n’t take long for the word to spread and, before long, peo­ple oth­er than trav­el­ers came to the train sta­tion to buy watch­es. Richard became so busy that he had to hire a pro­fes­sion­al watch­mak­er to help him with the orders. That was “Alvah”.  And the rest is his­to­ry as they say. The busi­ness took off and soon expand­ed to many oth­er lines of dry goods. Richard and Alvah left the train sta­tion and moved their com­pa­ny to Chica­go — and it’s still there..

YES, IT’S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the 1880’s, the biggest watch retail­er in the coun­try was at the train sta­tion. It all start­ed with a tele­graph oper­a­tor:
Richard Sears and part­ner Alvah Roe­buck!
Bet You Did­n’t Know That!
OK, maybe you did;  I did­n’t!
Now that’s History.