CWRU Links

BALL, WEBB C.

BALL, WEBB C. (6 Oct. 1846-6 March 1922) regulated the watches of most of the nation's railroads as a sideline of his Cleveland jewelry business. Born on a farm in Knox County, O., he was the son of Aaron and Sidney Ann Clay Ball. He began his jewelry apprenticeship in 1869 in Fredericktown, O., and joined the Deuber Watch Case Co. of Cincinnati in 1874. Coming to Cleveland in 1879, Ball bought an interest in the firm of Whitcomb & Metten Jewelers, which in 2 years became the WEBB C. BALL CO. He was consulted as a "time expert" by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad in 1891, after an accident due to an inaccurate watch had claimed 13 lives. Developing specifications for an accurate, dependable railroad watch, Ball produced and patented several distinct watch movements adapted to the industry's requirements. He also organized the Railroad Time and Watch Inspection Service to enforce standards of accuracy. Administered nationally from his Cleveland jewelry establishment, the system was eventually extended to three quarters of the nation's railroads, covering a total of 125,000 miles of track. It was credited with saving hundreds of lives, in recognition of which Ball was elected to honorary membership in the BROTHERHOOD OF LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEERS in 1921. He was also a member of the UNION CLUB OF CLEVELAND and a former president of the Cleveland Convention Board. Married since 1879 to the former Florence I. Young of Kenton, O., he died at their home in CLEVELAND HTS. He was survived by her, his son Sidney Y. Ball, and daughters Wilma Ball, Florence Ball, and Alice Andrews.