Albert B. Chandler
(The Successful American)
Chandler, Albert Brown, of Brooklyn, N. Y., was born in West Randolph, August 20, 1840, and is the youngest son of William Brown Chandler, a man whose life, covering almost ninety years, was marked by an eminently Christian spirit that embodied in its law both of these great principles that were declared as embodying all the law and the prophets; and whose wife, Electa Owen, was a woman of rare merit, possessing uncommon intellectual endowments as well as high character; she lived to seventy years old, and both, throughout their long lives, were sincerely respected and loved. Albert Chandler's first ancestor in America was William Chandler, who settled in Roxbury, Mass., in 1637. From the three sons of this man came the New England branches of the family, among the members of which were several men who distinguished themselves in civil or military life in colonial times. The Hon. Zachariah Chandler of Michigan, United States Senator from that state and Secretary of the Interior under President Grant, was a descendant of William, the eldest of the three; the Hon. William E. Chandler, senator from New Hampshire, who was Secretary of the Navy under President Hayes, and Commander Benjamin F. Chandler, an officer in the navy, are descendants of Thomas another of the three. Albert B. Chandler is a descendant of the third brother, John, and he numbers also among his ancestors, in a direct line, Mary Winthrop, daughter of John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts, and sister of John Winthrop, founder of New London and the first Governor of Connecticut.
Of studious tastes, Mr. Albert B. Chandler made effective use of the opportunities afforded him for securing an academic education, and in the intervals between school proved his native industry by working as a compositor in a printing office in his native town and in Montpelier. There was a telegraph office located in a bookstore at West Randolph in connection with the printing office in which he worked, and this enabled him to acquire the art of telegraphy. For a time, he was telegraph messenger and operator. In October 1858, through the influence of his brother, William Wallace Chandler, he was appointed manager of the Western Union telegraph office at Bellaire, O. In February 1859, he was promoted to a position in the office of the superintendent of that Railway Co., at Pittsburg, and on May 1 of the same year he was appointed agent of that company at Manchester, opposite Pittsburg. He occupied this position with much credit until the end of May 1863, and there became familiar with the various branches of railway service. On the 1st of June, 1863, he entered the U. S. military telegraph service as cipher operator in the War Department at Washington, D. C. In October of the same year he was made disbursing clerk for Gen. Thomas T. Eckert, superintendent of the Department of the Potomac, in addition to his duties as cipher operator. Here he became personally acquainted with many officers of the government, and particularly with President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton.
Early in August 1866, before the general consolidation of the several telegraph interests into one company had become fully organized, he removed to New York City and became chief clerk of the general superintendent of the Eastern division, and was also placed in charge of the trans-Atlantic cable traffic, which had then just commenced. In addition to these duties, Mr. Chandler was appointed, on the first of June, 1869, superintendent of the sixth district of the Eastern division. He continued in this service until January 1875, when, soon after the election of General Eckert as president and general manager of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Co., Mr. Chandler was made the assistant general manager of that company. In June of the same year he was appointed secretary, and the following year he was made a member of the board of trustees, and subsequently treasurer and vice president. In December 1879, after the resignation of General Eckert, Mr. Chandler was elected president, continuing in that position until the complete absorption of the Atlantic and Pacific company by the Western Union in 1882. The property was combined with that of the Western Union, as to its operation, in the spring of 1881, and his duties in connection therewith, after that time, were only such as were made legally necessary by its separate corporate existence. In the summer of 1881, he acted as treasurer of the Western Union company during the absence of that officer.
In October 1881, he accepted the presidency of the Fuller Electrical Co., which was one of the first to undertake the development of the arc system of electric lighting. He remained actively in that position until May 1884. During the summer and fall of that year, having had more than twenty-five years incessant service, he spent three months in Vermont, but performed during this period of relaxation, a variety of services for the Electrical company, and also for the Commercial Cable Co., whose system was then in course of construction.
Early in December, 1884, he was employed as counsel by the Postal Telegraph and Cable Co., at the instance of Mr. John W. Mackay, and acted in that capacity until June 1, 1885, when he was appointed receiver of the property of that company by the Supreme Court of New York, and had charge of the operation of its lines and the management of its business while the foreclosure suits, which resulted in the sale of the property in January 1886, were pending. Upon its reorganization, he was elected president of the company. In connection with his care of the property of the Postal Telegraph Co., the general management of the newly organized United Lines Telegraph Co., was assigned to him, that company having purchased the lines formerly known as the Bankers and Merchants. This property subsequently became a part of the Postal. In the meantime he had been made a director, a member of the executive committee and a vice-president of the Commercial Cable Co., and of the Pacific Postal Telegraph Co., and a director, and subsequently president of the Commercial Telegram Co. Mainly through his efforts the control of the plant of the latter company was sold to the New York Stock Exchange for the purpose of enabling that institution to make simultaneous distribution of its quotations to its members, and Mr. Chandler became vice president and general manager of the New York Quotation Co., which assumed control of the business in the interest of the stock exchange. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Brooklyn District Telegraph Co., of which he was president during the first three years of its existence.
Immediately after the Western Union Co. acquired possession in October 1887, of the telegraph system which had been built up by the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Co., Mr. Chandler was invited by reason of his well-known views on the subject of telegraphic competition, and the necessity for it, to confer with certain of the principal owners and officers of the Western Union Co., the conference resulting in an arrangement for the discontinuance of rate cutting, rebating and other destructive methods of competition which had previously prevailed whenever any telegraph interest attained considerable extent. This condition has ever since continued, with great benefit to the telegraph companies, and to the public. Under it, non-paying rates were of course discontinued; but a still larger number of rates were reduced, the aim being to equalize the charges and place the public on a uniform basis as to telegraph rates, discriminating neither for nor against any one, and making excellence of service, in speed and accuracy, the means of influencing patronage. This has produced a telegraph service which is far superior to any that has ever before been performed, and to Mr. Chandler, more than to any other one person, the credit of establishing such conditions, both in connection with land lines and trans-Atlantic service, unquestionably belongs–negotiations respecting the latter having been intrusted to him, after the merit of the principles involved had become well assured by experience on the land lines. An authority on the history of the telegraph in this country fittingly alludes to Mr. Chandler as "a man of much prudence and conservative judgment, having an engaging courtesy and refinement."
To Albert B. Chandler the American public is very largely indebted for the comparative inexpensiveness of telegraphic communication in these days when the most sanguine ideas that Samuel F. B. Morse could have indulged in have been more than realized. From boyhood, Mr. Chandler has been connected with the telegraph business, and for many years he has been prominently identified with enterprises and movements that have been fruitful in bringing this immense interest into its present profitable and useful condition. During the last five years that Professor Morse lived, Mr. Chandler was well acquainted with him, and he has had the personal friendship of almost every one of the prominent promoters, investors, owners, managers, etc., of telegraphic interests and of electrical enterprises generally, which have revolutionized the modern world. He is at the present time president and general manager of the Postal Telegraph Cable Co., vice-president of the Commercial Cable Co., and president of several local companies in different cities that are allied to those interests. The magnificent new Postal Telegraph building erected during the past two years, on the corner of Broadway and Murray streets, opposite the New York City Hall, is the most recent of Mr. Chandler's important enterprises. He selected the site, conducted the negotiations which secured it, was chairman of the committee which had charge of its construction and which now controls it. The building is of limestone, gray brick and terra cotta, fourteen stories in height over basement and cellar, and is recognized as one of the handsomest, as well as most commodious, well-appointed and well-lighted office buildings in the world. The steam and electrical machinery are of most recent design, of the highest order of merit, and are so extensive and complete as to command the admiration of experts and scientists as well as less skillful critics. The value of land and building is about two and a half millions of dollars.
In addition to these important trusts, Mr. Chandler has been called upon to give much time and careful attention to the management of a large estate in Brooklyn of which he is the executor.
Mr. Chandler married Miss Marilla Eunice Stedman, of West Randolph, Oct. 11, 1864, and three children have been born of the marriage. The first, a daughter named Florence, died in early childhood; the others are two sons, Albert Eckert and Willis Derwin.
Mr. Chandler owns a handsome residence on Clinton avenue, Brooklyn, and has a commodious country home in his native town where his family passes the summer. He is a man of extremely pleasant manner, very approachable, and amid his many cares and responsibilities finds time to cultivate the graces of social life. His domestic attachments are strong and he is a lover of music and literature, cultivating his tastes quite freely in both these directions. He wields a ready pen in literary and historical work, and among his diversions has been the preparation of a genealogical record of his family that would do credit to a professional searcher. One of his peculiar faculties is a remarkable memory for names, faces, and dates, and this, with his ease in conversation, his wide range of information and his companionable ways, makes him a very interesting man to meet and to know.
Source: Jacob G. Ullery, compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, (Transcript Publishing Company, Brattleboro, VT, 1894), Part III, pp. 30-34.