John Morley.

Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) online

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"When young Gray was but twelve years of
age, he had received three or four months of dis-
trict schooling and the usual industrial training
given to farmers' lads of his age and condition of
life. Over forty years ago his father died, leav-
ing Elisha in a large measure dependent upon his
own resources for a living. When fourteen years
of age he apprenticed himself to a blacksmith,
and partly mastered that trade, but, his strength
being greatly overtaxed, he was forced to give it
up and joined his mother, who had removed to
Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Here he entered the
employ of a boat-builder, serving three and a-
half years' apprenticeship, learning the trade of

"At the end of this time he was a first-class
mechanic and began to give evidence of his



inventive genius. He was handicapped, how.
ever, by the meagreness of his education, and
was little more than able to experiment with the
simplest contrivances. The testimony of one
who knew him intimately at this time indicates
that he had a consciousness of his own resources
and was of the belief that Nature had destined
him to accomplish some important work in life.
He had a great desire to acquire that funda-
mental knowledge which would open for him the
way to intelligent research, investigation and
ultimate achievements.

"While working as an apprentice, he formed
the acquaintance of Prof. H. S. Bennett, now
of Fisk University, then a student at Oberlin
College, Ohio, from whom he learned that at
that institution exceptional opportunities were
afforded to students for self-education; and
immediately after he had completed his term of
service he set out for the college, with barely
enough money in his possession to carry him to
his destination. He arrived in Oberlin in the
summer of 1857, at once going to work as a
carpenter, and supported himself by this means
during a five-years course of study in the college.
As a student he gave especial attention to the
physical sciences, in which he was exceptionally
proficient, his ingenuity being strikingly mani-
fested from time to time in the construction ot
the apparatus used in the classroom experiments.
His cleverness in constructing these various
appliances made him a conspicuous character
among the students. While pursuing his college
course he was not fully decided as to what pro-
fession he would take up, and, at one time, he is
said to have contemplated entering the ministry,
finally deciding, however, not to do so. Perhaps
the course of his life was decided by a remark of
the mother of the young lady who afterwards
became his wife. This was in a joking spirit,
to the effect that ' it would be a pity to spoil a
good mechanic to make a poor minister.' In
fact, to this casual remark the now famous in-
ventor has declared himself to be, in great meas-
ure, indebted for what he has since accomplished.
Truly, the worthy lady must have been of a
sound and discriminating judgment, to discover

the hidden worth of the young man, and she,
doubtless, more than any one else, in his earlier
days, fanned the latent sparks of genius into the
flame which, in later days, revealed to his brain
the contrivances which have made his name
famous, and which have proved of inestimable
value to civilization.

"From 1857 to 1861 the Professor devoted
himself to unremitting toil and study, and the
result was that his naturally delicate constitution
was impaired by the great strain upon his mental
powers. In 1861, just when the future was
brightening with the promise of success, and
when he thought his days of struggling were
past, he was stricken with an illness from which
he did not recover for five years. After his mar-
riage, in 1862, to Miss Delia M. Sheppard, of
Oberlin, and, with a view to the betterment of
his health, Mr. Gray devoted himself for a time
to farming as an occupation. This experience
was disappointing, both in its financial results
and in its effects upon his health, and he returned
to his trade, working in Trumbull County, Ohio,
until he was again prostrated by a serious illness.
Following this, came two or three years of strug-
gle and privation; of alternate hope and disap-
pointment, during which he experimented with
various mechanical and electrical devices, but
was prevented by his straitened circumstances
from making any headway in profitable invention.
Pressed by his necessities, he was once or twice
on the point of giving up his researches and
investigations entirely and devoting himself to
some ordinary bread-winning industry; but he
was stimulated by his faithful and devoted wife
and her mother, both of whom had an abiding
faith in his genius, and who aided him in his
work with all the means at their command, and
to whose influence was largely due the fact that
he continued his efforts in the field of invention.

"In 1867 a more prosperous era dawned upon
him, with the invention of a self-adjusting tele-
graph relay, which, although it proved of no
practical value, furnished the opportunity of in-
troducing him to the late Gen. Anson Stager, of
Cleveland, then General Superintendent of the
Western Union Telegraph Company, who at once



became interested in him and furnished him facil-
ities for experimenting on the company's lines.
Professor Gray then formed a co-partnership with
E. M. Barton, of Cleveland, for the manufacture
of electrical appliances, during which time he
invented the dial telegraph.

" In 1869 he removed to Chicago, where he
continued the manufacture of electrical supplies,
General Stager becoming associated with him.
Here he perfected the type-printing telegraph, the
telegraphic repeater, the telegraphic switch, the
annunciator and many other inventions which
have become famous within the short space of a
few years. About 1872 he organized the West-
ern Electrical Manufacturing Company, which is
still in existence and is said to be the largest
establishment of its kind in the world. In 1874
he retired from the superintendency of the elec-
tric company and began his researches in teleph-
ony, and within two years thereafter gave to
the world that marvelous production of human
genius, the speaking telephone. Noting one day,
when a secondary coil was connected with the
zinc lining of the bath tub, dry at the time, that
when he held the other end of the coil in his left
hand and rubbed the lining of the tub with his
right, it gave rise to a sound that had the same
pitch and quality as that of the vibrating contact-
breaker, he began a series of experiments, which
led first to the discovery that musical tones could
be transmitted over an electrical wire. Fitting
up the necessary devices, he exhibited this inven-
tion to some of his friends, and the same year
went abroad, where he made a special study of
acoustics and gave further exhibitions of the
invention, which he developed into the harmonic,
or multiplex, telegraph. While perfecting this
device, in 1875, the idea of the speaking tele-
phone suggested itself, and in 1876 he perfected
this invention and filed his caveat in the Patent
Office at Washington. That another inventor
succeeded in incorporating into his own applica-
tion for a telegraph patent an important feature
of Professor Gray's invention, and that the latter
was thereby deprived of the benefits which he
should have derived therefrom, is the practically
unanimous decision of many well informed as to

the merits of the controversy to which conflict-
ing claims gave rise; and the leading scientists
and scientific organizations of the world, accord-
ing to a certain periodical, have accredited to him
the honor of inventing the telephone. In recog-
nition of his distinguished achievements, he was
made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor at the
close of the Paris Exposition of 1878, and Amer-
ican colleges have conferred upon him the degrees
of Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Science.

"For several years after his invention of the
telephone he was connected with the Postal Tel-
egraph Company, and brought the lines of this
system into Chicago, laying them underground.
He also devised a general underground telegraph
system for the city, and then turned his attention
to the invention of the 'telautograph,' a device
with which the general public is just now becom-
ing familiar through the public accounts of its
operation. On March 21, 1893, the first exhibi-
tions of the practical and successful operation of
this wonderful instrument were given simultane-
ously in New York and Chicago, and on the
same day the first telautograph messages were
passed over the wires from Highland Park to
Waukegan, Illinois. The exhibitions were wit-
nessed by a large number of electrical experts,
scientists and representatives of the press, who
were unanimous in their opinion that Professor
Gray's invention is destined to bring about a
revolution in telegraphy.

"One of the beauties of electrical science is the
expressiveness of its nomenclature, and among
the many significant names given to electrical
inventions none expresses more clearly the use
and purpose of the instrument to which it is
applied than the term, 'telautograph.' As its
name signifies, it enables a person sitting at one
end of the wire to write a message or a letter
which is reproduced simultaneously in fac simile
at the other end of the wire. It is an agent
which takes the place of the skilled operator and
the telegraphic alphabet. Any one who can
write can transmit a message by this means, and
the receiving instrument does its work perfectly,
without the aid of an operator. The sender of
the message may be identified by the/at simile of



his handwriting which reaches the recipient, and
pen-and-ink portraits of persons may be as
readily transmitted from one point to another as
the written messages. In many respects the
telautograph promises to be more satisfactory in
its practical operations than the telephone. Com-
munications can be carried on between persons at
a distance from each other with absolute secrecy,
and a message sent to a person in his absence
from his place of business will be found awaiting
him upon his return. These and many other
advantages which the telautograph seems to
possess warrant the prediction that in the not
very distant future telautography will supplant
in a measure both telephony and telegraphy.
The transmitter and the receiver of the telauto-
graph system are delicately constructed pieces of
mechanism, each contained in a box somewhat
smaller than an ordinary typewriter machine.
The two machines are necessary at each end of a
wire, and stand side by side. In transmitting a
message an ordinary feed lead pencil is used. At
the point of this is a small collar, with two eyes
in its rim. To each of these eyes a fine silk cord
is attached, running off at right angles in two
directions. Each of the two ends of this cord is
carried round a small drum supported on a ver-
tical shaft. Under the drum, and attached to
the same shaft, is a toothed wheel of steel, the
teeth of which are so arranged that when either
section of the cord winds upon or off its drum, a
number of teeth will pass a given point, corres-
ponding to the length of cord so wound or un-
wound. For instance, if the point of the pencil
moves in the direction of one of the cords a dis-
tance of one inch, forty of the teeth will pass any
certain point. Each one of these teeth and each
space represents one impulse sent upon the line,
so that when the pencil describes a motion one
inch in length, eighty electrical impulses are sent
upon the line. The receiving instrument is prac-
tically a duplicate of the transmitter, the motions
of which, however, are controlled by electrical
mechanism. The perfected device exhibited by
Professor Gray, and now in operation, is the
result of six years of arduous labor, an evolution
to which the crude contrivance used in his earliest

experiments bears little resemblance. The man-
ufacture of the instruments will be carried on by
the Gray Electric Company, a corporation having
offices in New York and Chicago and a large
manufacturing establishment just outside the
limits of the suburban village of Highland Park,
Illinois, of which place Professor Gray has been
for many years a resident. Here, in addition to
his workshop and laboratory, the renowned
inventor has a beautiful home, and his domestic
relations are of the ideal kind.

' ' The title by which Professor Gray has been
known for so many years came to him through
his connection with Oberlin and Ripon (Wis-
consin) Colleges as non-resident lecturer in
physics, and his general appearance is that of the
college professor or the profound student. He
has none of the eccentricities which are the con-
spicuous characteristics of some of the great
inventors of the age, and, when not absorbed in
his professional work, he is delightfully genial
and companionable.

"When the World's Congress of Electricians
assembled in the new Art Institute in Chicago,
on the 2ist of August, 1893, there were gathered
the most noted electricians of all the world. The
congress was divided into two sections, one of
which termed the official section was com-
posed of representatives designated by the vari-
ous Governments of Europe and the Americas,
and was authorized to consider and pass upon
questions relating to electrical measurement,
nomenclature and various other matters of import
to the electrical world. To the other section of
the congress were admitted all professional elec-
tricians who came properly accredited, and they
were permitted to attend the sessions and partici-
pate in the deliberations of the congress, although
they were not allowed to vote on the technical
questions coming before it.

' 'When it was determined that the convening
of international congresses of various kinds
should be made one of the leading features of
the Columbian Exposition, a body, which became
known as the World's Congress Auxiliary of the
World's Columbian Exposition, was organized
for the purpose of promoting and making all


necessary preparations for these gatherings. To
Prof. Elisha Gray, of Chicago, this body as-
signed the task of organizing the congress of
electricians, and placed upon him the responsi-
bility of formulating the plans and making all
initiatory preparations for what was, unquestion-
ably, the most important and interesting conven-
tion of electricians ever held in this or any other
country. While the Professor called to his assist-
ance many distinguished members of his profes-
sion, by virtue of his official position, he was the
central and most attractive figure 1*1 this great

"Professor Gray is a member of the Union
League Club of Chicago. Politically, he is a
Republican. He has traveled extensively, not
only in this country but throughout Europe.
He is now in his sixty-first j'ear, and he stands
as an illustrious example of the general rule, for,
although not yet an old man, he is one of the
few prominent in the early days of electrical
development who maintained their prominence
and added to their reputation in the rapid strides
which have been made during the last decade.

But few of the early workers in the electrical
sciences have maintained their prominence in the
later development. This is undoubtedly due to
the lack of plasticity which is usually attributed
to maturer years, the possession of which in
younger men often gives them the advantage in
the rush for supremacy in new adaptation and
under ever-changing conditions. Where, how-
ever, this plasticity has been preserved during
maturer years, as has been the case with the
subject of this sketch, the maturer judgment and
riper experience which those years have enabled
him to bring to bear upon the newer problems
have in many cases resulted in inventions and
improvements of the utmost importance to man-
kind and the cause of civilization. Professor
Gray is a man of fine personal appearance, pleas-
ing address, commanding bearing, and a man
who will attract attention in any assembly, and
who, on account of his great electrical skill and
general scientific attainments, and because of his
pleasing and affable manner, has won for him-
self many friends and admirers."


the most successful physicians and most
highly respected citizens of Chicago, passed
away at his home on Everett Avenue, in that
city, June 25, 1891. He was descended from a
long line of American ancestors, who were dis-
tinguished as physicians and gentlemen.

The founder of the family in this country was
Adam Miller, who was born near Metz, France
(now included in the German Empire), and from

whom the subject of this biography was a de-
scendant in the eighth generation. He settled
with his family in Frederick, Maryland, and be-
came a large planter. He was noted as a man
of wealth, culture and refinement, and held many
slaves. These were liberated by his bequest on
his death, and their loss at that time almost beg-
gared his heirs; but they honored his behest.
The family continued to reside in Maryland for
several generations. The great-grandfather of

8 4


Dr. Benjamin C. Miller moved to Shelbyville,
Kentucky, where his son, Dr. Henry Miller, be-
came an extensive planter. The latter was a
tall and fine-appearing man, a noted physician
and a man of affairs. He died at Shelbyville, of
old age.

Dr. Jefferson Miller, son of the last-named,
was bern in Gallatin County, Kentucky, No-
vember 29, 1807, and was educated in Virginia.
Through over-confidence in his friends, he lost
much of his property, and then took up the study
of medicine with Dr. Clarke, a noted physician
of his native State. While still a young man, he
settled in the practice of his profession at Rush-
ville, Indiana, and became widely known for his
skill in the healing art. He united with the
Methodist Church there in 1839. As a Chris-
tian, he was liberal to all churches. As a citizen,
he was public-spirited, and was much loved and
respected by all. As a physician, he was un-
usually successful, and was a man of extraordin-
ary worth and usefulness in all relations of life.
November 20, 1832, he married Eliza A. Stand-
ford, of Greencastle, Indiana, and two of their
children grew to maturity, namely: Dr. Benja-
min C. and Henry Miller, the latter now a resi-
dent of Ladoga, Indiana. The father died at
that place, November 5, 1885, and his wife sur-
vived him about five and one- half years, passing
away in May, 1891.

Benjamin C. Miller was born April 30, 1846,
in Rushville, Indiana, and went with his parents
early in life to Montgomery County, in the same
State, receiving his primary education at Ladoga.
In the spring of 1862, when he was barely six-
teen years of age, he ran away from school at
Battle Ground, Indiana, and enlisted as a private
in the Eleventh Indiana Cavalry, then in camp
at Indianapolis, preparatory to service in the
Civil War. As this enlistment was made with-
out the consent of his father, the latter was en-
abled to claim him, which he did, and conducted
the ambitious boy back to school. Before the
father had reached home on the return from this
duty, the son was again in camp, and he was
this time permitted to have his way. He joined
Company K, of the Eleventh Cavalry, of which

he was made Sergeant, and participated in the
service of that organization until December 19,
1863, before the completion of his eighteenth
year, when he was mustered out as a First Lieu-

One day soon after this, a handsome young man,
some six feet, six and one-half inches in height,
bronzed by exposure in the line of military duty,
and dressed in the handsome uniform of a Lieu-
tenant, called at the home of his parents in La-
doga. On learning the number of his regiment,
they plied him with questions about Company K,
and inquired if he knew young Benjamin Miller.
He replied in the affirmative. At this moment
his favorite dog came into the room, and, upon
being spoken to by his young master, gave the
most extravagant expressions of joy, bringing
tears to the eyes of Mrs. Miller, who could scarcely
forgive herself for failing to recognize her son
until after this faithful animal had shown her his

Entering Rush Medical College of Chicago,
young Miller was graduated with honor on the
9th of February, 1869. He passed the competi-
tive examination, and was appointed House Phy-
sician and Surgeon of Cook County Hospital,
serving a year and a-half. He was then made
County Physician, in which capacity he served two
years. He was immediately made Superintendent
of Public Charities, having charge of the County
Hospital, Insane Asylum and Alms House.
After filling this position about eighteen months,
he was appointed Sanitary Superintendent of
Chicago by Mayor Medill, and was continued in
that office by Mayor Colvin. During this period
he was very useful in the community by his skill-
ful management of the cholera epidemic of 1873.
In 1875 he was made Surgeon, with the rank of
Major, on the staff of Gen. A. C. Ducat, Com-
mander of the Illinois National Guard. In 1876
Dr. Miller resigned the position of Sanitary Su-
perintendent and went abroad. He spent about
a year in studying in hospitals at Aberdeen and
Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England.
Returning to Chicago, with added knowledge
from these observations, he was enabled to com-
mand a large share of the most difficult and re-


munerative medical and surgical practice of the
then metropolitan city. In 1889 he was ap-
pointed by the United States Government a Pen-
sion Examiner, and continued to fulfill the duties
of this position until his death.

December 24, 1872, Dr. Miller was married to
Miss Etta Barnet, of Chicago. She, with one
daughter, survives him. The latter, Miss Mary
Etta Miller, is a bright Chicago girl. She is
possessed of marked literary and artistic tastes,
and her work as a pen-and-ink artist has attracted
considerable attention. Mrs. Miller is a daugh-
ter of the late George Barnet, a sketch of whose

career will be found on another page of this

Dr. Miller's character was summed up in a
few heartfelt and well-chosen words by his con-
temporary, Dr. Pagne, as follows: "A man of
extraordinary talent and attainments was Dr.
Miller. While City Physician, he inaugurated
the system of newsboys' picnics and outings. His
friends were many, by reason of his greatness of
heart. Chicago loses a good citizen, and the pro-
fession an able member."

The last sad rites over his remains were con-
ducted by South Park Masonic Lodge, and his
body was interred in Oakwoods Cemetery.


oldest residents of Chicago, having come
G) here as early as 1836, is a descendant of an
old and influential New England family, which
originated in Ireland, the family name having
been spelled in that country Hannah. The
great-grandfather of James M. Hannahs was the
first member of the family to leave his native
land for the New World. He settled in Litch-
field, Connecticut, where he was an active and
influential citizen, and later became a zealous
patriot. On the breaking out of the War of the
Revolution, that contest with the Mother Coun-
try which tried the mettle of her sons so sorely,
he made his adopted country's cause his own,
and was made a member of the Committee of
Safety formed at that time.

Daniel Hannahs, son of the foregoing, and the
grandfather of the subject of this notice, was a
soldier in the War of 1812. He was wounded at

the battle of Oueenstown, and for his services
enjoyed a pension from the Government until his
death, which occurred in 1842. Leaving Con-
necticut, he moved with his family to central
New York, settling in the wilderness near the
Mohawk River. Undaunted in courage, and of
a fine, soldierly physique, he was well fitted by
nature for the Herculean task of founding a home
in the primeval forests, and in his wife he found
a willing helpmate. The latter was Elizabeth
Gordon, a cousin of Lord George Gordon, the
hero of the "Gordon Riots" of 1798, for his
leadership in which he was imprisoned in Lon-
don and tried for treason, but finally acquitted.

Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Hannahs became the
parents of four children, all sons: Chauncey,
Marvin, William and Daniel. Of these, Marvin
removed to Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan,

Online LibraryJohn MorleyAlbum of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) → online text (page 12 of 111)