The Watch Word

The Watch Word magazine chronicled personal stories, photos, engineering successes, and company history for employees of the Elgin National Watch Company, a leading Elgin employer for over one hundred years. The first watch movement was created in 1867, and manufacturing continued until 1968. Watches produced after 1968 may bear the Elgin name, but have no connection to the Elgin, Illinois company.

Publication of the Watch Word begain in August 1921 and ceased in December 1956.

In a partnership between the Elgin Area Historical Society Museum and the Gail Borden Public Library, copies of the Watch Word are being scanned and made more easily available. Follow the links below to view specific issues of the magazine. Originals can be viewed at the Gail Borden Public Library & the Elgin History Museum.



Issues currently available are:

1921 - August through December

1922 - the complete year

1923 - the complete year

1924 - the complete year

1925 - the complete year

1926 - January through April, June through December

1927 - the complete year

1928 - January through October, December

1929 - January through November

1930 - the complete year


1931 - the complete year

1932 - January through June, September through December

1933 - May 1935 - Publication was suspended during the Great Depression.

1935 - June through December

1936 - January, February, April, May, August, November

1937 - March through December

1938 - January through March, May

1940 - March, July through December

1941 - January through May, August through October

1942 - January, February, April through December

1943 - January, February, April through November

1944 - the complete year

1945 - Special Anniversary issue - 8oth Anniversary and War Production Issue,
          January through August, December


1946 - January, February/March, April, June

1947 - Anniversary issue, June through December

1948 - January, March through December

1949 - January through May, July, August, October through December

1950 - the complete year

1951 - February through April, June through December

1952 - December

1953 - December

1954 - April, June, August through December

1955 - January through June

1956 - January through June, September through December

Publication ceased after the December 1956 issue.



Picturesque Elgin 1908



"Messrs McGregor and Whitstruck, publishers of this volume, have sought to place before the public, in as attractive form as possible, the beauty and business of Elgin, Ill., as depicted by the camera. This City, of 25000 population, is situated in the heart of the picturesque Fox River Valley, surrounded by the most beautiful of landscapes, and the most productive of fertile fields."

from the introduction in "Picturesque Elgin"

View on Illinois Digital Archives

Print edition is available at the Gail Borden Public Library.



Tornado of 1920

More...On March 28, 1920, Palm Sunday, a tornado ripped through Elgin just as many people were leaving church.

In an era where a radio was still extremely rare and only one house in a block had a telephone, there was no way to warn the community of what was coming their way. After a devastating three minutes, businesses and homes were destroyed, churches were half gone, and buildings had been leveled.

In the end the tornado claimed 8 lives and injured 100 as it made its way from St. Charles to Elgin and then on to Wauconda.

View a collection of photos from the 1920 tornado on Illinois Digital Archives.

Lithographs of Elgin

More..."Elgin establishes the price for the world. Our Elgin butter is known and recognized as representing the highest quality of creamery butter possible to produce, not only in this country but the world over. China, Japan, the Phillipines, Alaska, Mexico, Cuba, Porto [sic] Rico and the South American countries all use and appreciate our Elgin butter." Description taken from orginal lithograph.

Lithographs of selected schools and companies of Elgin from approximately 1910. Short facts and anecdotes about each company are included.

View on Illinois Digital Archives.

Artwork of Kane County

More...Step back into Victorian era Elgin when street cars crisscrossed Fountain Square and manufacturing was bustling at the Elgin National Watch Company. Photographs of the buildings, streets, and parks of Elgin are included in this study of Kane County, dating from 1898 onward. Originally published in 9 parts, a bound version can be viewed at the Gail Borden Public Library that includes a history of Kane County written at time of publication.

View photographs on Illinois Digital Archives.

Print edition available at the Gail Borden Public Library.

Veterans' History




Elgin shares in a proud history of honoring those who have served in the Armed Forces. 


Veterans History Project

From Basic Training to serving overseas, Elgin veterans share their first-hand experiences serving their country in this collection of video interviews. Veterans recount their time during World War II, Vietnam, and conflicts up through Operation Iraqi Freedom. Our veterans share unique stories of the trials and tribulations of war and we are privileged to be let into those memories.
Watch our collection of Interviews




Elgin Patriotic Memorial Association




Elgin has been honoring veterans on Memorial Day for over 100 years. Leading this work has been the Elgin Patriotic Memorial Association. In 1892, when aging Union veterans looked for some new volunteers to assist in their task of honoring Veterans, the EPMA was formed. Information about the EPMA events, and volunteer information can be found at

Veteran celebrations occur at various locations in the city. Look over past Memorial Day programs and read stirring speeches from days gone by.
View at Illinois Digital Archives.

Elgin Hispanic Network

More...The Elgin Hispanic Network began in 1987 as a forum for networking and sharing of resources and ideas among the Latino community of Elgin. View a collection of photos, informational fliers, and other documents related to the history of the Elgin Hispanic Network.

Gail Borden Public Library District

More...By 1892, the citizens of Elgin were desperately seeking a building for the library which had existed for years in rented rooms in the downtown area. Samuel and Alfred Church, residents of Elgin and stepsons of Gail Borden, offered to purchase and donate the Scofield mansion at 50 N. Spring Street for this purpose. All they asked was that the library "be forever and always known and called the Gail Borden Public Library."

Views of Old Elgin

Read More

Carlos H. Smith, Elgin photographer, donated three photograph albums to the Gail Borden Public Library in 1915. The albums are entitled "Views of Old Elgin" and many photos were taken during  the 1860s and 1870s.

View at Illinois Digital Archive.