Robert H. Ingersoll

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File:Robert Hawley Ingersoll from his 1921 passport application.jpg
Robert Hawley Ingersoll from his 1921 passport application

Robert Hawley Ingersoll (December 26, 1859 - September 4, 1928) was an American businessman who initiated the "Dollar Watch," the first mass-produced inexpensive pocket watch in 1896.[1][2]


Robert H. Ingersoll was born on December 26, 1859 in Delta, Michigan to Orville Boudinot Ingersoll and Mary Elizabeth Beers.[1]

Robert moved to New York City in 1879 and entered the employment of his brother Howard, making and selling rubber stamps. In 1880 Robert opened his own wholesale business, also selling rubber stamps. In 1881 he was joined by his brother Charles Henry Ingersoll (1865–1948).[3]

The first Ingersoll watches, called "Universal" were introduced in 1892, supplied by the Waterbury Clock Company. In 1896 Ingersoll introduced a watch called the Yankee, setting its price at $1. This made it the cheapest watch available at the time, and the first watch to be priced at one dollar; the "dollar watch" was born.[2]

William H. Ingersoll was later a partner in the business.[4]

On June 22, 1904 in Muskegon, Michigan he married Roberta Maria Bannister.[1]

Ingersoll later bought the bankrupt New England Watch Company in 1914 and renamed it the Ingersoll Watch Company.

The company went bankrupt in 1921 following its over-expansion during World War I.[5] Its assets were sold to the Waterbury Clock Company, the predecessor of the modern day Timex Group USA.

His wife was involved in an attempted murder suicide in 1926 when she shot her lover and then took her own life with a gunshot to her breast.[6]

Robert H. Ingersoll died on September 4, 1928 in Denver, Colorado.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Robert Ingersoll, Watchmaker, Dies. Originator of Famous $1 Timepiece Succumbs After Long Illness in Denver. He Was 68 Years Old. His Wife a Suicide in This City in 1926. Body to Be Brought Here for Burial". New York Times. Associated Press. September 6, 1928. Retrieved 2015-04-18. Robert H. Ingersoll, watch manufacturer and originator of the Ingersoll dollar watch, died yesterday at a sanitarium, where he had been a patient ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cutmore, M. "Watches 1850 - 1980". David & Charles, Devon, UK. 2002.
  3. Robert F. Tschudy, "Ingersoll, the watch that made the dollar famous", Bulletin of National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Vol. V, No. 3, April 1952.
  4. "W. H. Ingersoll, 66, Is Dead In Jersey. Ex-Partner in 'Dollar Watch' Company, Marketing Expert, Succumbs Changing Tire". New York Times. August 25, 1946. Retrieved 2015-04-18. William H. Ingersoll of 527 Willow Avenue, Garwood, N.J., a former partner in Robert H. Ingersoll Bro., makers of the famous "dollar watch," and later a leading advocate of price maintenance, died here yesterday afternoon of a heart attack while changing a tire on his automobile at the corner of Edison Place and McCarter Highway. He was 66 years old. ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Ingersoll Watch Makers Bankrupt. Receiver for Robert H. Ingersoll & Brother Named on Petition by Creditors. Liabilities are $3,000,000. Assets Placed at $2,000,000, Not Including Good-Will. Reorganization Is Planned". New York Times. December 28, 1921. Retrieved 2015-04-18. Robert H. Ingersoll Brother, manufacturers of the Ingersoll "dollar watch" were placed in the hands of a receiver yesterday by Federal Judge Augustus N. Hand. The liabilities are approximately $3,000,000 and assets about $2,000,000. Edward S.H. Child, attorney, 59 Wall Street, was appointed receiver. ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Mrs. R.H. Ingersoll Shoots Her Admirer And Ends Own Life". New York Times. December 20, 1926. Retrieved 2015-04-18. Wife of Watch Manufacturer Wounds W.M. Probasco in Quarrel, Turns Gun on Self. Tragedy In Park Av. Home. Shooting Laid to Her Anger at Break Because He Had Become Reconciled With Wife. Families Long Divided. Mrs. Ingersoll Had Been Married 22 Years, Wounded Man 14. He Is In Bellevue Seriously Hurt. Mrs. Robert Hawley Ingersoll, wife of the retired watch manufacturer, was found dead with a bullet through her breast yesterday afternoon in her apartment at 55 Park Avenue. Lying on the floor of an adjoining room was Wallace M. Probasco of 72 Irving Place with two bullet wounds in his breast and with his right arm broken by another bullet.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading