Site Logo


Telegraphers in the War Department

You have heard of Western Union, right? The fledgling company, organized in 1855, had opened the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861. What's this got to do with Vermont? Two people, Albert Brown Chandler of Randolph and Charles Almerin Tinker of Chelase. Both were telegraphers in the War Department during the war; Tinker was an acquaintance of Lincoln before the war. Both of them ended up playing significant roles post-war in the rapid expansion of Western Union.

President Lincoln in the War Department Telegraph Office,
drafting the Emancipation Proclamation

(Library of Congress)

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 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, inventors, 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.



Albert Brown Chandler, 84, a former head of the Postal Telegraph company, died at his home in Randolph February 1.

Mr. Chandler was educated in the village schools and learned telegraphy and printing. In 1864 he married Matilda Stedman of Randolph, who died in 1907. In 1920 he married Miss Mildred Vivian of New York.

He was appointed manager of the Western Union office in Bellaire, O., in 1858 and in 1859 agent of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh railroad in Manchester, near Pittsburgh. In 1863 he entered the United States military telegraph service in the war department.

He was brought into almost daily contact with President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton. In 1867 he was made chief clerk to the general superintendent of the eastern division of the Western Union and then appointed superintendent of the sixth district of the eastern division.

In 1875 he was made assistant general manager of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph company, and afterwards became successively secretary, treasurer, vice-president and president of that company. In 1884 he became connected with the Postal Telegraph Cable company and served in various capacities until 1886, when he was chosen its president. In the meantime, he had been made a director, a member of the executive committee and a vice-president of the Commercial Cable company and of the Pacific Postal Telegraph company.

Source: Vermont Journal, February 16, 1923.
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.

Charles E. Tinker

(Men Of Vermont)


Tinker, Charles Almerin, of Brooklyn, N. Y., descended from John Tinker, one of the early settlers of Windsor, Conn. His grandfather removed to Vermont previous to the Revolution and was one of the volunteers who went to the defense of Bennington. His father and mother, Almerin Tinker and Sophronia B. Gilchrist, lived for many years at Chelsea, where Charles A. Tinker, their oldest son, was born Jan. 8, 1838.

Mr. Tinker was taken by his parents, in infancy, to Michigan, where he had only the advantage of a common school education, but returning to his native state in 1851, established their residence in Northfield. He subsequently attended school at Newbury Seminary, but owing to sickness did not complete his course. In 1852 he obtained a position as clerk in the postoffice at Northfield, and was there taught the Bain system of telegraphy. In 1855 he obtained a position as operator with the Vermont & Boston Telegraph Co. at Boston, and soon after with the Cape Cod Telegraph Co. in the Merchants' Exchange, having in the meantime acquired a knowledge of the Morse system. In January, 1857, he went to Chicago, accepting a position there in the office of the Caton lines, and soon after became manager of the Illinois & Mississippi Telegraph Co.'s office at Pekin, Ill.

During this period he made the acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln. At Mr. Lincoln's request, Mr. Tinker explained to him the methods of the telegraph system, and an intimacy thus begun was renewed later when Mr. Lincoln was President, and Mr. Tinker was employed as telegraph operator in the War Department at Washington. Mr. Lincoln was a frequent visitor at Mr. Tinker's office during the war, and received from him the first news of his re-nomination as President and that of Andrew Johnson as Vice-President. A word uttered by Mr. Lincoln on this occasion, intimating his preference for Mr. Hamlin was recalled in later years by Mr. Tinker, and was the means of settling the important controversy that arose after Mr. Hamlin's death.

In the summer of 1857 Mr. Tinker returned to Chicago from Pekin, Ill., and entered the service of the Chicago & Rock Island R. R. Co., and two years later that of the Galena & Chicago Union R. R. Co., as bookkeeper and telegraph operator. During this period he joined the Chicago Light Guard, and served with his company as escort to Stephen A. Douglas to the Wigwam where he made his last great speech for the Union, and two weeks later as guard of honor in the procession which laid his remains away to rest on the banks of Lake Michigan.

At the breaking out of the war he was offered the lieutenant-colonelcy of a regiment, but declined the proffered honor. He soon after entered the United States military service in the War Department at Washington, and was almost immediately ordered to service in the field under General Banks, and opened the military telegraph office at Poolesville, Md. He performed similar services under General Wardsworth at Upton Hill, where he was selected as one of the eight operators to serve under General McClellan on the steamer Commodore, and afterwards in the army headquarters in front of Yorktown, and before Richmond. He was present at the evacuation of Yorktown, and at the battle of Williamsburg, and finally at General Heintzelman's headquarters at Savage Station after the battle of Fair Oaks. During his services at the front he lost his health, and returned to Vermont for one month, when he had regained health, and was then appointed by Major Eckert to the responsible position of cipher operator in the War Department at Washington, having for one of his associates A. B. Chandler of West Randolph. Here he remained until the close of the war, when he was appointed manager of the U. S. Military Telegraph, continuing until it was closed up and its lines turned over to the telegraph companies.

He was then appointed manager of the Western Union Washington office, serving therein until January, 1872, when he became superintendent of telegraph and general train dispatcher of the Vermont Central R. R., at Saint Albans, with jurisdiction over the lines of the Western Union and Montreal Telegraph Cos. on that railway system. In 1875 he was appointed general superintendent of the Pacific Division of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Co., with headquarters at Chicago. In 1879 this company having fallen under the control of the Western Union company, he resigned and accepted the management of the telegraph lines of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. While holding this position he became one of the incorporators with Jay Gould, of the American Union Telegraph Co., and received from Mr. Gould a check for two and a half millions of dollars to pay for his subscription to its capital stock. He was also superintendent of a division of that company. In 1881, after the consolidation of the Western Union and American Union Telegraph Cos., he was recalled to the service of the Western Union Telegraph Co., and on Feb. 1, 1882, he was made general superintendent of the Eastern division, comprising all the territory from Washington, D. C., north to the Canada line, west to the Ohio river and east to Cape Breton. This position he still holds.

He is vice-president of the American District Telegraph Co., of New York City, and a director and vice-president of the Vermont and Boston Telegraph Co., and an officer of numerous other telegraph and telephone companies.

He has for some years been prominent in the religious and social circles of Brooklyn. He was one of the organizers and is now vice-president of the Brooklyn Society of Vermonters; he is a member of the Illinois Society of the Sons of Vermont, and has been for several years an officer and trustee of the Washington Avenue Baptist Church and of the Lincoln Club of Brooklyn.

He was married, in 1863, to Miss Lizzie A. Simkins, of Ohio, who deceased in April, 1890, leaving three grown children, two others having died in infancy.

He is a man of fine physique, still in the prime of manhood, capable of great endurance, and fully equal to the arduous and responsible duties connected with his position.

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, p. 156.


Friend of Lincoln Dead

Charles Tinker Once Was Telegraph At War Department

News of the death of Charles Almerin Tinker, aged eighty, a close friend of President Lincoln while the former was stationed here as a Government code telegrapher, was received here today from WInnepeg, Canada.

The friendship of President Lincoln and Mr. Tinker began before the latter was stationed in the War Department here. Mr. Tinker was long before the civil war employed at Pekin, Ill., where he first met Lincoln.

In 1861 Mr. Tinker entered the military telegraph corps, and soon after came to Washington. In 1881 Mr. Tinker entered the service of the Western Union Company, and later became general manager of the Eastern division.

The Washington Times, March 18, 1917, Sunday Evening Edition, Page 12.

Tinker died in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 12 March 1917. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.