John James Speed
John James Speed, Jr. was an American farmer, merchant, politician, and pioneer in telegraphy. Born July 20, 1803, in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Emigrated to Tompkins County, New York, with his father of the same name in 1807. Developed a farm of 700 cultivatable acres. He was elected to the New York legislature from Tompkins County in 1832. Sold the farm in 1836 for $20,000 and became a merchant in Ithaca. In the 1840s he used his leisure time to experiment with both visual and electric telegraphs. He began his career as a telegrapher in 1846. In Ithaca he was friends with Ezra Cornell and together they would become agents for Samuel Morse's partner Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith who had become agent for the Morse patent in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Smith contracted with Ezra Cornell and Speed to build a line from Buffalo to Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee July 13, 1847. Speed moved to Detroit in 1847. Speed would build the section from Detroit west. He made a sub-contract with Jeptha Wade for the construction of a line from Detroit to Jackson, the first line completed west of Buffalo in the summer of 1847. When the line reached Chicago it was organized at the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company with Speed as President. Direct contact was established between Chicago and Buffalo in January, 1849. However, the line was not well constructed and revenues were initially small.
Speed and Taliferro Shaffner connected the eastern and western hemispheres with a line from Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
- Taliferro P. Shaffner, "The Telegraphic Manual"
- Robert L. Thompson "Wiring A Continent" Princeton University Press, 1947