were the best watches found at the train station? The railroad
company wasn't selling the watches, not at all. The telegraph
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-ways had already been secured for the
of the station agents were also skilled telegraph operators and
that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad.
They would know when trains left the previous station and when
they were due at their next station.
It was the
who had the watches. As a matter of fact they sold more watches
than almost all the stores combined... for a period of about 9
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
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
started it all. He ordered more watches from the watch company and
encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in their
stations, offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the
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.
became so busy that he had to hire a professional watch maker to
help him with the orders. That was Alvah. And the rest is history
as they say.
business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry
and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to
Chicago -- and it's still there.
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 his
partner Alvah Roebuck!