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Franklin, Benjamin - Inventor, statesman.
Vail, Alfred Lewis - worked with Samuel Morse, invented the Morse Code (yes, that's right, Samuel Morse did NOT invent the Morse Code), co-inventor of the telegraph - although Samuel Morse had the idea, Alfred Lewis took that idea into the working device and made it a reality.
Vail, Henry Hobart - Publisher
Vail, Jonathan Harned - Collaborator with Thomas Edison, a guiding force in early days of electricity in solving practical problems. Information provided by Tami Castro.
Vail, Stephen - Creator of the Speedwell Iron Works and progenitor of the clan of Vails that generated Alfred Vail and Theodore Newton Vail.
Vail, Theodore Newton - First president of ATT - established long distance service, during second stint put into action his dream of one service provider for telephone service (ie monopoly of ATT).
He was graduated from the University of the City of New York, 1836, but was obliged by ill health to abandon the idea of entering the Presbyterian ministry. On Sept. 2, 1837, he attended the exhibition of the telegraph apparatus of Professor S. F. B. Morse at the University, his interest in the invention resulting in an agreement with Professor Morse by which Vail was to receive a one-fourth interest in the invention in the United States, on condition that he construct at his own expense and exhibit before a congressional committee, one of the instruments and procure the necessary United States patents.
Vail persuaded his father to advance the required funds, and began the construction of the new instrument in a locked room of one of his father's shops at Speedwell, N.J., with the aid of his assistant, William Baxter. The first alteration which Vail made in the Morse machine was the substitution of a fountain-pen for the recording pencil; this, however, not proving successful, he invented the armature lever having a vertical motion, so that it could be brought down upon the record strip instead of being carried across it. He also made the entirely new telegraphic alphabet of dots, dashes and spaces, still erroneously called the morse code. On Jan. 6, 1838, a successful demonstration of the machine was made at Speedwell over three miles of wire, "A patient waiter is no loser," being the message sent by Judge Vail and correctly recorded. Exhibitions followed at Columbia college, New York city, and Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa. On Feb. 23, 1843, congress appropriated $30,000 for an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Md., and on May 23, 1844, the famous message, "What hath God wrought!" was sent by Morse from Washington and received by Vail at Baltimore, the instrument by which the message was taken at the latter city being now in possession of the National Museum, Washington, D.C. Among other important improvements which Vail devised, were the axial magnet, with working drawings of ampère meter, in which its principle was to be utilized, and an original vibrating circuit breaker.
Although the original conception of the electro-magnetic telegraph belonged to Morse, and although he actually constructed a working recording apparatus, the first available Morse machine was the work of Vail, and the modern telegraph is mainly that of Vail and of Professor Joseph Henry.
Alfred Vail was married, first, July 23, 1839, to Jane Elizabeth, daughter of James Cummings of New York city, and granddaughter of John Nugent, an English officer stationed in the West Indies; she died, June 10, 1852, and he was married secondly, Dec. 17, 1855, to Amanda O., daughter of Jonathan Eno and granddaughter of General Eno, who participated in the war of the Revolution. They had three sons: Stephen, James Cummings and George Rochester.
For thirty years Mrs. Vail, who died in Hartford, Conn., in 1894, had endeavored to secure for her husband proper credit for his share in the invention of the magnetic electric telegraph, and at the Chicago exposition in 1893, the name of Alfred Vail was displayed in letters of light among the names of eminent electricians. He received the honorary degree of A.M. from the University of the City of New York in 1848, and is the author of: American Electro-Magnetic Telegraph (1845). He died in Morristown, N.J., Jan. 19, 1859."
The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume X
The Vail lineage of Alfred Lewis Vail is from Thomas (brother of
Jeremiah) Vail and Sarah Wentworth:
Vail, Henry Hobart - Publisher
America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography Volume I, page 671.
J. H. Vail was general superintendent of the Edison Electric Light Company, in which position he oversaw the design and construction of central stations.Top of Page
See a description of his accomplishments.
Subject: Direct Line of J.H. Vail
From: "Tami Castro" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 4 May 2002 09:41:24 -0400
1. Thomas Vail 1620-1687
m. Sarah Wentworth 1628-
2. Samuel Vail 1654-1695
m. Elizabeth Hunt 1657-1757
3. Samuel Vail 1678-1733
m. Abigail Unknown 1685-1724
4. John Vail 1708-1754
m.(2) Margaret Laing 1710-bef.1751
5. Abraham Vail 1744-1824
m. Margaret FitzRandolph 1746-1826
6. John A. Vail 1777-1832
m. Deborah Harned 1788-1861
7. Jonathan Harned Vail 1818-1852
m. (2) Catherine Outcalt 1826-1902
*8. Jonathan Harned Vail 1852-1926
m. Anna C. Beekman 1853-1938
*Jonathan Harned Vail known to Edison Pioneers as J.H. Vail.
Davis Vail, son of Lewis Vail, and father of the subject of this biography, born in Ohio, came East at an early age, was connected with The Speedwell Iron Works, and married Phoebe Quinby, daughter of Judge Isaac Quinby of Morris county. By this marriage, he became related to three notable brothers in law, General Quinby, a graduate of West Point, a leading mathematician, Professor of Mathematics at the Rochester University, and general in the Civil War; Dr. William Quinby; and Dr. Augustus Quinby, all sons of Judge Isaac Quinby. After marriage, Davis Vail went to Ohio, remaining there several years. His son, Theodore, was born during the stay of the family in that part of the country. When the lad was about four years old, Davis Vail returned to the East and was again connected with The Speedwell Iron Works. In 1866, he removed to Iowa, where he operated a large farm.
Theodore N. Vail was educated in the old academy in Morristown, and
then studied medicine with his uncle, Dr. William Quinby, but, having learned
telegraphy at the telegraph office in Headly's drug store in Morristown,
he left medicine and went to New York, where he became manager of a local
office, being afterward attached to the staff of J. C. Hinchman, then general
superintendent of the metropolitan and eastern divisions of The United
States Telegraph Co. He went West with his father in 1866, and engaged
in farming, but in the fall of 1868, went yet farther west and was made
operator and afterward agent at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, on The Union Pacific
Railroad. Pine Bluffs was at that time the principal supply point for wood
for The Union Pacific, which had not then been completed.
In the Spring of 1869, Mr. Vail received an appointment as clerk in the railway mail service between Omaha and Ogden, and in August, 1869, he married Miss Emma Righter, of Newark, N.J. He devoted himself with great diligence to the improvement of the railway mail service, then in its infancy, and his good work in the perfection of schemes for the distribution of the mails, and especially his services in forwarding the mails during the long snow blockade of 1870, called the attention of the Department to him, with the result that he was assigned to duty between Chicago and Iowa City in the railway post office. On this line, the entire distribution of overland mails was made prior to the establishment of railway post office cars on The Union Pacific Railroad. When the railway post office was established on The Union Pacific, Mr. Vail was assigned to duty as head clerk.
In March, 1873, the Department called Mr. Vail to Washington and assigned him to duty in the office of the General Superintendent of Railway Mail Service, where he was charged with special oversight of distribution of the mails and arrangement of "schemes" or charts of distribution. During this period, the questions of the compensation of railroads and carriage of merchandise in the mails were being agitated in Congress, and the Department placed upon Mr. Vail the responsibility of preparing the post office statements, statistics and answers to Congressional inquiries. His intimate knowledge of the service, energy and capacity were recognized in June, 1874, by his appointment as Assistant Superintendent of Railway Mail Service. In 1875, he was assigned to duty as Assistant General Superintendent, and when, in February, 1876, Mr. Bangs resigned to go into other business, Mr. Vail was appointed General Superintendent. He had thus reached the highest grade in this branch of the Federal employment. Mr. Vail was the youngest of the officers of the Railway Mail Service, both in years and terms of service, and when the final appointment was handed to him by Marshall Jewell, Postmaster General, the latter said that his only objection to Mr. Vail was his youth.
As General Superintendent, Mr. Vail established upon a firm basis the civil service policy, which had been initiated by Mr. Bangs. The superiority of the results attained under the rules adopted for the railway mail service were recognized by all the civil service commissions in Washington, to the extent that until very recently the employés of the railway post offices were not included in the general civil service laws and regulations. Mr. Vail established the system of six months' probationary appointments, which have since been so generally adopted. It was during the incumbency of Mr. Vail that a reduction took place in the pay of the railroads for mail transportation. In the controversy which followed, some of the railroads threw the postal cars out of their trains. Within six months, however, relations were re-established with all the leading lines and increased car and train service obtained. Thereafter, more cordial relations existed between the Post Office Department and the railroad managers.
An incident of this time may be referred to. Senator Beck of Kentucky was much interested in having the southwestern mails go over Kentucky routes, and made many efforts to induce the Postmaster General to order them so sent. Being referred by the head of the Department to Mr. Vail, Mr. Beck accused Mr. Vail of being under the influence of certain railroads. In an interview with Mr. Beck, Mr. Vail explained the situation and gave the reasons which governed him. Mr. Beck left apparently not satisfied. Soon after, however, when a proposition to reduce Mr. Vail's pay was pending in the Senate, Senator Beck took occasion to compliment Mr. Vail very highly, and, in a five minutes speech, said that if there were an honest and efficient officer in the employment of the Government, Mr. Vail was the man.
After the invention of the telephone and its reduction to practice, The American Bell Telephone Co. was organized by Gardiner G. Hubbard, father in law of Prof. Alexander G. Bell. Mr. Hubbard had been engaged against the Post Office Department before Congress on the question of merchandise in the mails and was chairman of the commission appointed by Congress to investigate methods of payment to railroads for mail transportation. Believing Mr. Vail to be the right man for the place, he tendered him the position of general manager of The American Bell Telephone Co. Believing in the future of the "toy," as it was then termed, and against the protest of all his friends, he accepted the position in 1878 and devoted himself to the work with his accustomed zeal and ability. The task was at times discouraging. The public were slow to recognize the great value of the instrument, and strong opposition was manifested by The Western Union Telegraph Co., which denied that Professor Bell was the inventor and set up opposition exchanges at every point. Mr. Vail introduced the methods which have proved so successful and have resulted in The American Bell Telephone Co.'s phenomenal growth. A settlement was finally effected with The Western Union Telegraph Co. after years of fighting and negotiating, in which The Western Union conceded every point of importance.
Mr. Vail established the long distance telephone service, against the opposition of all his associates in the company. The first line which was built to New York was called the "Vail's side show." He also introduced the use of copper wire in telephone and telegraph lines, since so generally adopted, having in this matter the assistance of Mr. Mason of Bridgeport, whom he induced to experiment with drawing copper wire in such a way as to give it the tensile strength necessary to withstand the stretching from pole to pole.
In 1888, Mr. Vail retired from the telephone business after having
occupied the managing position for ten years. He has since traveled most
of the time abroad and has introduced the telephone in many countries.
Farming in Vermont now occupies a part of his time and upon his estate
of 1,500 acres, called the "Speedwell Farms," he raises French coach horses,
including some of the finest in the United States, Jersey cattle, Shropshire
and Dorsett horned sheep, and Welsh ponies. He is a member of the Union
League club of New York and the Algonquin club of Boston. He has one son,
Davis R. Vail, a student in Harvard Law School in Cambridge."
America's Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography, Volume I, page 671-4
Note: Theodore Newton Vail, creator of the ATT monopoly, was first cousin once-removed from Alfred Vail, co-inventor of the telegraph and inventor of the Morse Code.
The lineage of Theodore Newton Vail from the immgrant Thomas Vail,
brother of Jeremiah Vail, both of Long Island, is:
Telephone History - Theodore Vail's role in telephone history on his return to Bell in 1907, consolidating the telephone system.
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