WW1 Hamilton

Did you come by your watch in an interesting way? Does your watch come with a story? Provenance adds value ... and interest too. Tell your watch provenance story here.

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WW1 Hamilton

New postby Cary Hurt » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:01 am

I originally posted my "find" of a ca. 1918 Hamilton "Strap Watch for Men" back in March. It's finally back from a needed rehab, so I thought I'd share new pictures and the story that goes with it. Two stories, really, although one is pretty simple and quick.

The first story is how I found the watch. It's a pretty straightforward story. Last spring, in searching for trench watches, I happened across an eBay listing for a "Hamilton Watch" with no details, and this picture...Image. I knew what I thought it was, and I placed a rather large bid, hoping for an 0-size 981 or 983 grade men's wristwatch. I thought the worst it could turn out to be was a 6/0 movement in a contract case. Luckily for me, there was only one other bidder, and I won the watch for a relatively modest high bid.

This was what I received, and I was thrilled to find that I had guessed correctly, and that it was equipped with the even more rare 985 19 jewel movement.
Image
Other images from that time are located in this thread http://www.global-horology.com/GHMB/viewtopic.php?f=137&t=4003

So now, fast forward through the process of having the case professionally restored and the movement serviced. The case had a badly mangled lug, and had unfortunately been previously repaired with lead solder. It was a tedious process to clean the lead and repair the damage to the silver, but it came out very nicely done.

The end of the first story is the current state of my watch...
Image

Now on to Part 2...
Cary Hurt
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Re: WW1 Hamilton

New postby Cary Hurt » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:24 am

The real story with this watch involves it's original owner...

The eBay seller was a Chicago-based estate clearance dealer, not a watch dealer (hence the lousy pictures and description).
I've managed to piece together an interesting story of the original owner, and why the watch ended up in Chicago...

Image

The inscription is pretty clear, and it was relatively easy to locate online information about Major H. J. Mellum.

Horace J. Mellum was a prominent lawyer, and also served as a municipal judge in Kenosha. He was commander of the Kenosha Provisional Battalion, and was presented this watch on July 4, 1918, when he took command of this 1000 man detachment. I originally thought that the "Provisional Battalion" was intended for combat in WW1, but instead I've discovered that the Battalion was made up mostly of professionals, and they basically were called up to replace the Wisconsin National Guard troops who had been sent to Europe. Their duties including training new recruits, ceremonial duties, and tracking down draft dodgers. Mr. Mellum had attended military school, and had seen service in the Spanish-American War, helping explain his appointment to command the Provisional Battalion. At the end of the War, the Provisional Battalion was absorbed into the Wisconsin National Guard, and Mr. Mellum would retain a commission with them until 1941.

When I finally searched the Chicago connection, I found that Mr. Mellum had been quite successful, and in addition to being a lawyer, he was also General Counsel and Vice-President of the Nash Motor Co., and later Nash-Kelvinator. He was also a leader in the movement to insure the rehabilitation of disabled servicemen returning from the War, and would remain committed to the cause of helping the handicapped for the rest of his life. He retired from Nash in 1952, on his 75th birthday, and returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he lived in a stately mansion on Lake Shore Dr. He died at age 88, in 1964.
Image
I haven't been able to figure out where the watch had been for the last 45 years, but I assume it was disposed of by grandchildren or great-grandchildren who weren't nearly as excited about the history of the piece as I am.

Here is Mr. Mellum's biography as posted by the Wisconsin Historical Society...

Biography/History
Horace Jay Mellum was born to Norwegian parents, Ole Halvar Mellum and Anna Louisa Aspaas Mellum. He attended Chicago public schools, Chicago Business College, Morgan Park Military Academy, and Northwestern Military Academy, Highland Park, Illinois. In 1895, Mellum enlisted in Company M, First Infantry, Illinois National Guard, where he served until 1908. This service sent him to Cuba in 1898 in the Santiago campaign.
Employed as a stenographer for the Griffin Wheel Company, Chicago, Mellum attended evening classes at the John Marshall Law School and received his LL.B. degree in 1910. He engaged in a general law practice until 1916 when he was hired as secretary of the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, a Kenosha, Wisconsin, auto manufacturer which evolved into Nash Motors and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. He remained with the company until his retirement at age 75 in January 1952.
During his years in Kenosha, Mellum was active in professional, military, and civic organizations. Affiliated with the Kenosha Boy Scouts, the Chamber of Commerce, and various Masonic orders, he resumed his military interest by helping organize and becoming the head of the Kenosha Provisional Battalion, 1917-1920, a unit formed to replace National Guard troops serving in World War I, which performed guard and ceremonial duties and provided pre-enlistment training to soldiers. He remained in the National Guard until 1941 when he retired with the rank of colonel.
Mellum developed expertise in worker safety and vocational rehabilitation and from 1926 to 1931 was president of the Wisconsin Association for the Disabled, an organization devoted to aiding crippled children and disabled adults. From 1920 to 1951, he served on the state advisory committees on workmen's compensation and unemployment compensation and on his retirement was made an honorary life member of the latter by the Industrial Commission of Wisconsin. A member of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, he also served as vice president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association for several years. Mellum was a talented public speaker and presented many speeches on patriotic and automotive topics to Kenosha organizations and trade groups.
Married to Nellie Eleanor Miller, of Winterhur, Switzerland, on June 24, 1903, Mellum had one son, Horace J., Jr. After retirement, he returned to Chicago and became active in the Chicago Bar Association.


I'll close this chapter with an image of the cleaned and now very accurate movement. This is one of my favorite watches and the 985 is now one of my favorite movements. The detail and finish is amazing to me.
Image
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Re: WW1 Hamilton

New postby rrpktwtchr » Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:52 pm

Nice job, Cary! ;) . . . Thanks for sharing!
Timely regards,
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Re: WW1 Hamilton

New postby Gawatch » Sun Aug 23, 2009 5:03 pm

Cool Story thanks for sharing it Cary and nice job on the restoration.
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Re: WW1 Hamilton

New postby Irwin » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:38 am

Cary - A masterfull bit of research, and a nice watch.
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Re: WW1 Hamilton

New postby veritas » Wed Aug 26, 2009 5:41 am

Great story cary and a really nice watch.I would agree he wore a very nice watch, compared to some others i have seen.
Thanks for sharing.
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