Early Elgin achieved fame for the butter and dairy goods it sold to the city of Chicago. Gail Borden established a condensed milk factory here in 1866, and the local library was named in his honor. The dairy industry became less important with the arrival of the Elgin Watch Company. The watch factory employed three generations of Elginites from the late 19th to the mid 20th century, when it was the largest producer of fine watches in the United States (the factory ceased production in 1965 and was torn down in the summer of 1966) and the operator of the largest watchmaking complex in the world. Today, the clocks at Chicago's Union Station still bear the Elgin name.
Today, Elgin has grown to become the 8th largest city in Illinois with an estimated population of 114,000. As part of Intersate 90's "Golden Corridor," Elgin has the largest number of private sector jobs in Kane County. Located 38 miles from downtown Chicago, 30 minutes from O'Hare International Airport and with significant foreign direct investment, Elgin has become part of Chicagoland's nexus of globalization.
Local historian E. C. Alft has written several books and an ongoing newspaper column about Elgin's history.
Learning about Elgin's rich history is exciting! Elgin's History Museum has many exhibits, archives, photos and items of interest of our journeys through the years. Visit the museum online by clicking the image or visit the museum for live exploration!
Our History in Pictures