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William Bradley Umstead, 1895-1954
From the William B. Umstead World War I Collection
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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Source Description
Call Number:
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Physical Description:

WRISTWATCH, "Elgin" movement with brass bezel, stem-wind, stem-set, Elgin USA serial number 20,655,472 [confirming 1917 manufacturing date]; silver snap-back casing stamped on interior "Fahys/Sterling/Patent Pending/3/0/9872337" and "5/16" hand-engraved inside case; leather band and gold-tone buckle; hallmark and "California Saddle Leather" stamped onto back of leather band; case diameter 1.25" (3.2 cm), overall length with leather band 8.75" (22.2 cm); working condition, minute and second hands intact and operational, crystal unbroken with only minor scratches, case back lightly dented in half dozen spots, watch face slightly darkened.


Prior to World War I, wristwatches were marketed principally to women, so menís wristwatches were relatively few in number in Europe and the United States. The war changed this, especially in the military. Many soldiers in this technologically advanced conflict needed smaller, durable, easy-to-read timepieces to coordinate artillery fire, to synchronize troop movements and supply schedules, and for other purposes. At that time, however, standard watches were not issued to American military personnel; soldiers bought their own. Lieutenant Umstead wore this 1917 Elgin while in service. Note the orientation of the numerals on its dial. The "12" is next to the winding stem, where the "3" is usually situated on todayís watches. The placement of the "12" at the stem on early wristwatches was in keeping with the traditional format of larger pocket watches.

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.