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Cyrus W. Field. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110001).

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Field, Cyrus West (30 November 1819–12 July 1892), financier and promoter of the transatlantic cable, was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the son of David Dudley Field, a Congregationalist minister, and Submit Dickinson. Field’s abiding interest in grand projects such as the Atlantic telegraph owed much to his upbringing. Reared in a strict yet emotionally supportive household, he acquired from his parents a taste for hard work, a zeal for organization, and a restless curiosity. He “never saw Cyrus so uneasy,” one of his brothers once aptly remarked, “as when he was trying to keep still” (Judson, p. 58). It was also an upbringing conducive to high achievement as three of Field’s brothers also rose to national prominence: ...

Article

Glidden, Joseph Farwell (18 January 1813–09 October 1906), farmer, inventor, and capitalist, was born in Charlestown, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, the son of David Glidden and Polly Hurd, farmers. His family moved west to Orleans County, New York, when he was an infant. After attending local district schools, he studied at Middlebury Academy in Genesee County and at the seminary in Lima, New York. He taught school in the area for several years, but farming was always his first love. In 1837 he married Clarissa Foster in Clarendon, New York. Lacking funds to buy land in New York, he headed west in about 1840 with two crude threshing machines, doing custom threshing and general farm work. In 1842 he settled in De Kalb County, Illinois, where he purchased 600 acres of prairie land on the edge of De Kalb village. The death of the Gliddens’ three young children, followed by the death of his wife in 1843, left Glidden alone until 1851, when he married Lucinda Warne of De Kalb. They had one daughter....

Article

Wade, Jeptha Homer (11 August 1811–09 August 1890), financier and telegraph industry executive, was born in Romulus, Seneca County, New York, the son of Jeptha Wade, a surveyor and civil engineer, and Sarah Allen. After suffering the loss of his father at the age of two, Wade relocated with his family to Seneca Falls, New York. While details regarding his education remain sketchy, his family’s relative poverty sent him into the workplace at an early age. After working in a brickyard, he learned carpentry and then ran a sash and blind factory. In October 1832 he married Rebecca Loueza Facer, who died in November 1836. In September of the following year he married Susan M. Fleming and also developed what would become a lifelong interest in painting. After studying portrait painting with local artist Randall Palmer, he traveled westward in 1837 and for several years made his living as an itinerant painter. He traveled from New York as far south as Louisiana and as far west as Michigan, where he learned of a new device, the daguerreotype, which he soon used in conjunction with his painting....

Article

Weightman, William (30 September 1813–25 August 1904), manufacturer, chemist, and financier, was born in Waltham, Lincolnshire, England, the son of William Weightman and Anne Farr. Weightman emigrated to the United States when he was sixteen at the suggestion of his uncle John Farr, a chemist and founder of the firm Farr & Kunzi, established in 1818. Farr & Kunzi was the first company to experiment with conchona alkaloids in the United States, at the same time that Pellatier and Gaventou were announcing their discovery of that substance in 1820. Weightman entered the firm in 1820, and when Kunzi retired in 1836, Weightman and another associate, Thomas Powers, formed Farr, Powers & Weightman. In 1841 Weightman married Louise Stelwagon; they had three children....