She explained that the watch had been gifted to her by a woman she worked with years ago. The woman told Celia that the watch had belonged to her adoptive mother who died at age 106 about ten years ago. The woman who adopted her had never married but during her long life in the Waterbury VT area had been known as a "real looker" (Celia's description) and had many "boyfriends" in her life about whom she had always remained very secretive.
I took the pocketwatch home to study it under a good light and to open the caseback to see what was inside. The dial says Hamilton which was an old, venerable Lancaster PA company which produced highly desirable watches from 1892-1969, the most collectible being it's "railroad" watches. (Envision an old black & white film where the railroad conductor pulls out his pocket watch to check his train's departure time.) The back of the watch has an Art Deco style three-initial monogram which I could not exactly decipher.
So I popped open the caseback of the pocketwatch and found an very intriquing hand-engraved inscription:
It is so reflective that it was hard to photograph but the inscription says:
I.M.D. to G.L.D.
Geo. L. Dwyer
Aw, how romantic, right? Given that the last initials in the inscription's "to-from" are "D", I assumed the pocketwatch had been a gift from a Mrs. Dwyer to her husband, George Dwyer. The couple would have been a wealthy one because the price of the watch in 1929 would have been around $125. But I now knew the initials on the back of the case were "GDL".
I opened the dust cover to examine the watch's movement. First know that I adore "mechanical" watches, which describes the way watches were originally crafted. Mechanical means you wind the spring inside the watch by hand every day to keep it running. You have to have a major love affair with a watch to find the daily winding ritual a joy and not a burden. Anyway, look at the beautiful mechanical movement inside the pocketwatch:
Make sure you click on the photo to see the amazing detail. The spring that winds it is loose and not winding so the watch is not running. You can see the winding spring at the edge of the movement in between the 11 and 12 o'clock position in the photo. It is a 23-jewel mechanical movement. But oddly, there is no movement number etched into it at the usual spot (around the 3 o'clock position in the photo). That missing info is thwarting my attempts to value the watch. I cannot find another Hamilton pocketwatch online that has no movement number on it.
So, back to the story....I relayed the inscription text to Celia. She didn't know that the watch caseback opened, much less that it had been inscribed. Interestingly, she told me that the original owner of the watch had been a Miss Iva Mae Dexter, and not a Mrs. George L. Dwyer. Hmmmm. So why would Miss Iva Mae Dexter have given an elegant and expensive 18K gold pocket watch to Mr. Dwyer in 1929?
Who were these people? A bit more research revealed George's name listed on page 746 of the membership list of the American Dairy Science Association dated July 15, 1934. Address was Waterbury VT. So I believe I've found the pocketwatch's George L. Dwyer and he was a dairy farmer.
So guess what Iva Mae did for a living? She was a dairy inspector. How interesting. Celia was told that Iva Mae's dairy lab had been known as the cleanest in the country. On her 104th birthday, Iva Mae fulfilled one of her lifetime dreams when she rode a San Francisco cable car. I found by digging that CNN had reported on Iva Mae's adventure in a televised piece on April 21, 1996.
My research is continuing but raises lots of questions so far. What was the precise relationship between Iva Mae and George? What event prompted her to gift such an extravagant and personalized gift to George, who I believe was a married man. If the pocketwatch had been a gift to George, why then did it end up in Iva Mae's belongings at her death? And why has the pocketwatch landed at my doorstep now?