The Illinois Watch Company was founded in Springfield, Illinois in 1869. During their almost sixty year history, the firm produced approximately 5,000,000 watches. After 1927, the company was purchased by the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and they continued to produce watches under the Illinois name until 1939.
Illinois came to be well regarded for their highly finished railroad grade watches, such as the "Pennsylvania Special" seen here. Around the turn of the century, as the railroad industry expanded, there arose a demand for precision timepieces. In order to avoid delays, accidents and other calamities, the American watch making industry created watches that would lose no more than thirty seconds per week, maintain under constant use and adjust to temperatures and positions. In effect, they created some of the most accurate mechanical timekeepers of the day.
This example of the "Pennsylvania Special" represents one of the few pieces produced bearing a total of 26 jewels, in contrast to a standard watch of the day employing only 17 jewels. At the time this number of jewels set a precedent, later only to be surpassed by Seth Thomas' advertised 28-jewel movement. To date, an example of Thomas' watch has yet to be discovered, making the 26-jewel "Pennsylvania Special" the most highly jeweled American pocket watch known to the market and a true collector's find.