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Westclox Canada

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The Western Clock Company in LaSalle, Illinois shipped their alarm clocks north to Canada for many years early in the twentieth century.  In 1920, Peterborough, Ontario was chosen as the site for a Canadian factory.  Following two successful years in rented space, the company decided to build its own factory and moved in in 1923.  Business boomed, and additions were added in 1927, 1935, 1941, 1949, 1950 and 1952.

The best-known Westclox models produced throughout the company history were the Big Ben (since 1908) and Baby Ben alarm clocks, and the Pocket Ben watch.  However, there were many dozens of other models sold over the decades to meet changing demands.  Windup (spring-operated) models of alarm clock were always available, but electric versions were introduced in the early 1930s.  The first motors were not self-starting, and so a knob on the back had to be turned to start the motor.

Later in the 1930s, self-starting electric motors were developed.  Westclox chose to put a power-failure indicator in their electric alarm and wall clocks throughout the 1940s and early 1950s.  That's the purpose of that small, circular hole below the 12 on the dial - the indicator was set to show white during normal operation, but power interruption tripped a lever inside to move the red colour behind the window.  Battery-operated wall clocks became popular in the 1960s, first with electromechanical movements (balance wheel) and then electronic quartz movements.

Production was stopped in Peterborough ca. 1986 when labour became cheaper offshore.  A smaller facility in Peterborough was then used as the Canadian office and distribution centre.  Fortunately, most of the original factory building still stands near the top of the Trent Canal lift locks.  Sadly, the Westclox company closed around the world late in 2001 after more than a century in business.  At that time the Peterborough Museum and Archives was able to acquire many of the local company's paper records.

Probably millions of clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches were produced in Peterborough during that long run from 1920 to 1986.  They are scattered across Canada from coast to coast.  Look on the dial for the words "MADE BY WESTERN CLOCK CO., LIMITED, PETERBOROUGH, CANADA", "MADE BY WESTCLOX CANADA, LIMITED, PETERBOROUGH, CANADA" or, more recently, "MADE IN CANADA". Look especially for the following three unbranded, round, animated alarm clocks marked MADE IN CANADA on the face and case back: the PIXIE (two kids on a rocking teeter-totter, 1930s), the EARLY BIRD (bobbing robin with worm, late 1940s/early 1950s), and WOODY'S CAFE (Woody Woodpecker, late 1950s).  These are very collectible!

For detailed information about the history of the parent company in the U.S., visit Bill Stoddard's excellent web site at www.clockhistory.com.