Ohio History Journal

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Director, Western Reserve Historical Society

Jeptha H. Wade was the organizer, moving spirit, and princi-

pal owner of the Cleveland and Cincinnati Telegraph Company,

and the story of his activities in building and operating its line

leads into his career in the nation-wide telegraph field, especially

as a principal in the Western Union Telegraph Company. It was

with this Ohio line that Wade, capitalizing upon his earlier ex-

perience as an operator and builder of some of the western lines,

launched out as an organizer and entrepreneur, a career which

led to wealth and fame.

Wade, who had been born in Seneca County, New York, had

tried his hand at various jobs, including that of a portrait painter,

when in 1846, at the age of thirty-seven, he made his first contact

with the telegraph business. In the spring of that year he under-

took the job of building a telegraph line along the Michigan

Central Railroad for J. J. Speed, Jr., with whom he was to work

closely for many years. He built this line, operated the Jackson

office during the winter, and built the line eastward in 1847. He

opened the telegraph office at Milan, Ohio, and remained there

about a year as an operator. He had realized the possibilities of

the telegraph and had devoted himself wholeheartedly to the task

of learning as much as possible about the business, including the

mechanics of telegraphy. He was now ready to start out for him-


His first move was to buy the patent rights to the Morse tele-

graph system for the proposed line from Cleveland to Cincinnati,

via Columbus. Ezra Cornell, as an agent for F. O. J. Smith, who

was the owner of one-fourth of the Morse patent and agent for the


1 J. H. Wade to his grandson Homer, July 1, 1889. Copy in the Wade MSS.

Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, manu-

script documentation will refer to this collection of some five hundred items recently

presented to the Western Reserve Historical Society by the Wade family.