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The Commercial Cable Company, more about the founders

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The company was founded in 1884 by J W Mackay and J Gordon Bennett. Their motivation was very much to break the then virtual monopoly of transatlantic telegraph and bring down prices (particularly for Bennett's newspaper empire). Commercial Cable Comany logo
For a good general history of the company see Bill Glover's site.
To see an example cablegram from 1887 click here.
The notes and pictures that follow are from Bill McLaughlin.
James Gordon Bennett, Jr. 1841-1918 (partnered with John W. Mackay about 1883 to found the Mackay-Bennett Cable Company which then changed names shortly afterward to Commercial Cable Company). (As I know it, he put up about 20%.) His father had originally created the family fortune with the New York Herald. But Jr. was a good business man and increased his holdings.

Yes we do think the mild slang "Gordon Bennett!" refers to him.

John W. Mackay (1831-1902). He made a vast fortune in silver mining. He made hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1870s on the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, Nevada. The silver petered out in the late 1870s and John was looking for new investments and a new challenge. New York financier Jay Gould (hated by all his rivals) had a monopoly on Transatlantic Cables. He was vastly overcharging everyone. Bennett had newspapers in London and Paris and wanted to break the grip Gould had on the cable business to cut his own costs. Bennett went to Mackay. They laid two competing cables in 1884. A rip-roaring price war ensued. Gould finally gave-in saying, "How can I compete with Mackay? When he needs more money, all he has to do is go to Nevada and dig up some more." Not really true in the 1880s but Gould didn't know that.
Clarence H. Mackay (1874-1938). Inherited most of his father's wealth and business interests in 1902 when John W. Mackay died. His story is a fascinating one in itself but he reportedly wasn't a great business man. He kept his family fortune intact until the Great Depression. ITT did buy him out in 1928 but then he lost the bulk of his money in an ill advised attempt to save the stock market in 1929 with J.P. Morgan and other wealthy financiers of the day. The 600 acre estate in Roslyn is no more. This is a town on the North shore of Long Island about 20 miles east of New York City. It is the site where the first English settlers came ashore from New England to New York in something like 1643. Clarence (Clarie to his family) left the real estate to his son, John W. Mackay in 1938.
Here's a picture of the 50 room house and gardens probably taken in the 1910s or 20s. The problem for his son was that his father hadn't left him enough money for upkeep and taxes. The estate was closed. All the staff (once numbering 200 or more) went on to other things. The house became fair game for vandals. And finally the house and all the associated buildings were bull dozed sometime between 1947-1950. I found the overgrown foundation of the mansion in 1954. In 1956 the grounds were sold off to a developer and now there is a community of very nice homes on "Harbor Hill".



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© John Crellin 2009