John Lewis Ricardo

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John Lewis Ricardo
Died2 August 1862 (aged 49–50)
Occupation(s)Businessman, politician

John Lewis Ricardo (1812 – 2 August 1862) was a British businessman and politician.

He was the son of Jacob Ricardo and nephew of the economist David Ricardo. In 1841 he married Catherine Duff (c.1820 – 1869), the daughter of General Sir Alexander Duff and sister of James Duff, 5th Earl Fife. They had one son, Alexander Louis (1843–1871), the first husband of Florence Bravo.

In 1841 he was elected Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent as a Liberal, serving until his death. He was active in the repeal of the Navigation Acts in 1849.


Ricardo was Chairman of the North Staffordshire Railway from 1846 until his death. In 1846, he and William Fothergill Cooke founded the Electric Telegraph Company, the world's first public telegraph company, and Ricardo served as chairman until its merger with the International Telegraph Company in 1856. He was also a director of London and Westminster Bank.[1]

Ricardo was a leader of a group of businessmen who, in 1845, purchased the patents for the electric telegraph designed by Cooke and Wheatstone. Ricardo was Electric Telegraph's largest shareholder, and its executive chairman, for its first 12 years. His goal was to build a network that would distribute breaking financial news to his own newsrooms adjacent to all British stock exchanges—an information monopoly that would be valuable to speculators and investors. However, when the established telegraph companies formed monopolistic cartels and raised prices to newspapers, Ricardo secretly switched sides and campaigned for their nationalization.[2]



  1. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 690.
  2. ^ Roger Neil Barton, "The birth of telegraphic news in Britain," Media History (2010) 16#4, pp. 379–406

Further reading[edit]

  • Barton, Roger Neil. "The birth of telegraphic news in Britain," Media History (2010) 16#4, pp 379–406
  • Fetter, Frank Whitson. "The Influence of Economists in Parliament on British Legislation from Ricardo to John Stuart Mill", The Journal of Political Economy, 83 no.5 (1975) 1051–1064.
  • Mather, Francis C. "The railways, the electric telegraph and public order during the Chartist period, 1837–48." History 38.132 (1953): 40–53.
  • Obituary, The Gentleman's Magazine (Oct. 1862) pp. 496–97.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Stoke-upon-Trent
With: William Taylor Copeland 1841–1852
Hon. Frederick Leveson-Gower 1852–1857
William Taylor Copeland 1857–1862
Succeeded by