Home / History / Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: “Burlington Watch Co.” Part 74: The Burlington Watch Heist

Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: “Burlington Watch Co.” Part 74: The Burlington Watch Heist

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“Babson Bros. Lose Heavily in Robbery” Belvidere Daily Republican, March 27, 1915.
Pictured: “Babson Bros. Lose Heavily in Robbery” Belvidere Daily Republican, March 27, 1915.

The Burlington Watch Heist represents one of the more sensational stories in the company’s history, reported in local newspapers as “one of the most daring” robberies in Chicago.

During the early morning hours of March 27, 1915, eight masked men broke into the Babson Bros. building in Chicago, the headquarters where the Burlington watches were distributed.

Around 2:30 am, the men climbed the fire escape at the rear of the building and pried open a window on the top floor. 

Upon finding the night watchman, John Kastory, the group threatened to torture him if he did not reveal information about disarming the alarm boxes. Refusing to help the thieves, Kastory was beaten senseless with an iron bar and bound to a chair in the elevator.

The men then used explosives to blow open five safes and the company vault with nitroglycerine, gaining access to an extensive inventory of watches, cases, and fobs.

In total, the criminals stole approximately $10,000 worth of jewelry and cash, including 400 Burlington watches and 200 watch cases.

Babson Bros. hired the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency to help with the case. A few weeks later, Cleveland clubman Harry Calhoun was arrested after attempting to pawn the stolen watches under various assumed names. Calhoun was convicted of the crime despite claiming that a stranger had mysteriously left the watches with him.

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