When you use a telephone, or visit the drive-in at the bank (if they use pneumatic tubes), played a phonograph, spoken on an analog telephone, or if you are old enough to have used a telegraph to send or receive a message, then you have directly benefited from the work of one amazing Kingston New Hampshire man–George Bartlett Prescott.
My regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that he is my cousin (since I’m cousin to everyone)–actually my 6th cousin 3x removed through his mother’s Bartlett line. However for the purposes of this story I will only trace his Prescott surname line.
George B. Prescott’s biography is extensive, and to quote Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography 1600-1889: “PRESCOTT, George Bartlett, electrician, b. in Kingston, N.H., 16 Sept 1830. He was educated at private schools in Portland, Me., and from 1847 till 1858 was manager of telegraph offices. He became in 1858 superintendent of the American and in 1866 of the Western union telegraph companies’ lines, and in 1869 electrician of the Western union telegraph company. Mr. Prescott was also electrician of the International ocean telegraph company from 1873 till 1880. In 1873 he visited Europe in the interest of the Western union telegraph company for the purpose of investigating the various systems of telegraphy in operation there, with a view of incorporating any improvement that he might discover into the system in the United States. He found many important objects of recommendation, and among others that were adopted was the system of transmitting messages in cities by pneumatic tubes which he introduced in New York in 1876. Mr. Prescott also introduced the duplex and quadruplex telegraphs in 1870 and 1874. He was vice-president, director, and member of the executive and finance committee of the Gold and stock telegraph company in 1873-’81, and president of the American speaking telephone company in 1879-’82, also director and member of the executive committee of the Metropolitan telephone and telegraph company, and of the Bell telephone company of Philadelphia. His inventions include an improvement in telegraph insulators (1872) and an improvement in quadruplex telegraphs (1876), which he patented in the United States and Great Britain. Mr. Prescott has contributed many articles to periodicals, and has published “History, Theory, and Practice of the Electric Telegraph” (Boston 1860); “The Proposed Union of the Telegraph and Postal Systems” (New York 1869); “The Government and the Telegraph” (1872); “Electricity and the Electric Telegraph” (1877); “The Speaking Telephone, Talking Phonograph, and other Novelties” (1878); “The Speaking Telephone, Electric Light, and other Recent Electrical Inventions” (1879); “Dynamo-Electricity; its Generation, Application, Transmission, Storage, and Measurement” (1884); and “Bell’s Electric Speaking Telephone: its Invention, Construction, Application, Modification, and History” (1884).
The newspapers often mentioned him in articles about his business and electrician work. —Newspapers—-
New York Tribune, New York; 19 Jan 1894, page 3
OBITUARY. GEORGE BARTLETT PRESCOTT.
“George Bartlett Prescott, the well-known electrician and author of works on the telegraph and the telephone, died in his apartments in the Rockingham Hotel yesterday afternoon from heart failure. Mr. Prescott was sixty-four years old. He had been sick only two weeks.”
“Mr. Prescott was born in Kingston, N.H. where he received his early education. From his boyhood he was interested in the study of electricity. He was manager of the telegraph office at New Haven, Springfield and Boston from 1847 to 1858. In the latter year he was appointed superintendent of the lines operated by the American Telegraph Company. In 1866 he was called to the same position in the Western Union Telegraph Company and in 1973 to 1881 he was vice-president of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company. He was one of the corporators of the Metropolitan Telegraph and Telephone Company, and became president of both the Manhattan Telegraph and the American Speaking Telephone companies. On both the telegraph and telephone he made many useful improvements, and was a joint owner with Thomas A. Editor in all the quadruple patents in this country and Europe. The quadruple telegraph was introduced by him. He first advanced the theory that the Aurora Borealis was of electrical origin, and published accounts of interesting experiments connected with it. He was strongly opposed to Government control of the telegraph.”
“He wrote the following well-known works on electrical subjects: “The History, Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph” 1860: “Electricity and the Electric Telegraph” 1877; “The Speaking Telephone” 1878; Dynamo Electricity” 1884; “Bell’s Electric-Speaking Telephone, Its Invention, Construction, Application, Modification and History,” 1884; and “The Electric Telephone” 1896. “
“He married Miss Eliza Curtis Parsons of Massachusetts, the granddaughter of General Israel Parsons, of that State, who served in the Revolutionary War. Mr. Prescott retired from active business in 1882 and devoted himself to literary pursuits. He leaves a wife and one daughter, Mrs. Philip V.R. Van Wyck, Jr. Funeral services will be held at the Buckingham Hotel on Sunday at 3 pm. The burial will be at Springfield Mass on Monday.”
The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Maryland, 20 Jan 1894, page 1
“George Bartlett Prescott, one of the pioneers of the science of electricity in America, died at his home, at the Buckingham Hotel, in New York, on Thursday, in his sixty-fourth year. He introduced the duplex and quadruplex systems of telegraphy. He wrote many books on electricity. He married Eliza Curtis, a granddaughter of Gen. Israel Parsons of revolutionary fame.”
Nashville Banner, Nashville TN 24 Jan 1894, page 4
“George Bartlett Prescott who died recently, was one of the pioneers in electrical science. He was a partner with Edison in the ownership of all the patents in the quadruplex system in this country and England.”
Norfolk Daily News, Norfolk Nebraska, 14 June 1904, page 4
“George Bartlett Prescott was one of the pioneers of the science of electricity in America. He began the study of electricity in 1846, when he was sixteen. With Edison, he owned all the patents in the quadruplex system both in this country and in Great Britain. He introduced the duplex system in 1876 and the quadruplex two years later. Prescott made certain that the aurora borealis was an electrical display, and while in the Boston office on one occasion he disconnected the batteries and operated the wires with the atmospheric electricity.”
Special Thanks to the Kingston (NH) Historical Museum who provided the photograph of this extraordinary man. They are in the process of publishing a new and updated town history, so please contact them if you have Kingston NH ancestors or relatives.
=====PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF GEORGE B. PRESCOTT=====
James Prescott b 1642 England, d. 23 Nov 1728 Kingston NH. He m. Mary Boulter. She b. 15 May 1648 in Exeter NH and d. 4 Oct 1736 in Kingston NH
Jonathan Prescott b 6 Aug 1675 Hampton NH, d. 6 Jan 1755 Kensington NH; m. 23 Dec 165 in Hampton Falls NH to Elizabeth Pulsipher. She was b 4 Dec 1669 in Ipswich MA
Benjamin Prescott b 11 Feb 1700 Hampton NH; d 1755; m. Mehitable Dalton, b. 1713
Philemon Prescott b 1729 d 1774; m. Elizabeth Taylor 1732-1772
Mark Prescott b 1771, d. 1817; m. Mary Bean
Mark Hollis Prescott, son of Mark & Mary (Bean) Prescott, b 6 Aug 1807 in Kingston NH d 9 Dec 1887 in El Dorado, Butler Co. KS, buried Belle Vista Cemetery, El Dorado KS.
He m. 4 Dec 1826 in Plaistow NH to Priscilla Bartlett, daughter of David & Dorothy (Young) Bartlett. She b 25 Nov 1806 in Kingston NH and d 9 Feb 1875 in Ottawa, ILL
Occupation: patent supporter (1850 census). In 1870 a shoe dealer in Ottawa, Illinois.
1850 US Census > NH > Columbia, Hudson
Mark H Prescott 44
Priscilla Prescott 44
Fernander Prescott 22
George Prescott 20
Alphonzo Prescott 18
Lavra Prescott 21
Harriet Prescott 16
Hollis Prescott 14
Ulvilda Prescott 12
Ellen Thomson 2
Children of Mark H. & Priscilla (Bartlett) Prescott:
1. Fernando Cortez Prescott, b 1826 Rockingham Co. NH; d. 1874. He m1) 1848 to Maria Jane Greenleaf. He m2d) 1857 to Juliette Estelle Clark.
2. Floretta “Flora” Prescott, b 1828 New Hampshire; She m. 08 May 1848 in Portland Maine to Aaron Thompson. Child, Nellie Thompson b abt 1849 Maine.
3. +George B. Prescott, b 18 Sep 1830 Kingston NH
4. Alphonso Prescott, b 1832 Kingston NH; d. 1910. He m. Harriet A. Decker. Civil War veteran.
5. Laura Prescott b abt 1829
6. Harriet W. Prescott, b 1834, d. April 1920 at Kansas City, MO; m. 1 Dec 1856 in Ottawa IL to Edward R. Brandow. Had lived in St. Joseph MO. Children: (sons) E.R. Brandow, Ben R. Brandow, H.P. Brandow; daughter Mary (Brandow) Muzzarelli.
7. Capt. Mark Hollis Prescott, b 1836, d. 1948 m. Corinne Clark. During American Civil War was Capt in Union Army (Illinois), Battery C, of 1st LA Artillery.
8. Ulvilda Edes Prescott, b 1838 New Hampshire; d. 1880 Ottawa Illinois; buried Ottawa Avenue Cemetery. She m1) 1859 to Edward L. Anthony; She m. — Beam.
George Bartlett Prescott, son of Mark H. & Priscilla (Bartlett) Prescott, b 16 Sep 1830 in Kingston NH, died 13 January 1894 in New York City. Buried Springfield Cemetery, Springfield MA. He married 9 Dec 1958 om Springfield MA to Elia Curtis Parsons, dau of Israel M. Parsons. She was b 16 Nov 1831 in MA and d. 8 March 1909 buried with her husband. Famed electrician, inventor and author. This article is about him, see above.
Passport issued 12 Feb 1873. At age 42 he stood 6ft 2 inches tall, high forehead, black eyes, straight nose, full mouth, round chin, gray hair, dark complexion, oval face.
Child of George B. & Eliza C. (Parsons) Prescott:
1. +Florence Wadworth Prescott, b 25 June 1867
Florence Wadsworth Prescott, daughter of George B. & Eliza C. (Parsons) Prescott was born 25 June 1867; d 13 Aug 1951; m. 24 Nov 1891 All Souls Church, NY to Phillip Van Rensselaer Van Wyck Jr. Buried Springfield Cemetery, Springfield MA
Children of Phillip V.R. & Florence Wadsworth (Prescott) Van Wyck:
(a) Priscilla Van Wyck, b 23 Dec 1893 Manhattan NY, d. July 1981. She m1) 26 June 1917 in NY to Colonel Wade Hampton Carpenter. She m2d) Count Andrea di S. Barnaba Soranzo. He d. in 1964. She is buried in West Point (US Military Academy)
(b) Katrina Van Wyck b 15 July 1897; d. 22 Nov 1984 Gwynedd PA; She She m1) 14 Sep 1920 in Manhattan NY to Hulbert Dymoke Bassett. She 2d) 5 Jan 1931 in Jakob, Stockhom Sweden to Ture Vilhelm Schoultz. (a fake name, he was a scam artist). They divorced in Dec 1931. She m. 29 Sep 1938 in NYC to Alexander Ogilvie Cushny. son Theodorus. She by 1952 to — French. She m May 1958 to Bruce Alexander Goron.
(c) Prescott Van Wyck, b 27 Jan 1899 Plainfield NJ, d. 14 Apr 1957
(d) Phillip Van Wyck, b. abt 1903 Plainfield NJ; m. 23 Oct 1926 in Geneva NY to Kathleen Hall Grant, dau of William N. & Cornelia K. (?) Grant. According to newspapers he was a “playboy” sculptor. He was adjudged insane in 1938. In his will he left money to girl friends (including show girls) museums and his family. The newspapers show his former wives as Lolita Cordoba and Mozellecita Stapp. (they were not mentioned in his will)
(e) George Van Wyck, b 22 Jan 1905; d. June 1975 in Vermont. He m. Katherine Vancleve. 3 children, Florence, George and Katherine
(f) Kathleen Van Wyck, m. John Mayo Brown