Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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John William Mackay

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John William Mackay of the Commercial Cable Co

John William Mackay (November 28, 1831 - July 20, 1902) was an American industrialist, born in Dublin, Ireland. Mackay was one of the four Bonanza Kings, a partnership which capitalised on the wealth generated by the silver mines at the Comstock Lode.

In 1884, with James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Mackay formed the Commercial Cable Company - largely to fight Jay Gould and the Western Union Telegraph Company - laid two transatlantic cables, and forced the toll-rate for transatlantic messages down to twenty-five cents a word.

In connection with the Commercial Cable Company, he formed in 1886 the Postal Telegraph Company as a domestic wire telegraph company so that Commercial would not need to rely on Western Union to collect and distribute telegraphic messages. Until Mackay and Bennett entered the field, all submarine cable traffic between the United States and Europe went over cables owned by the American financier Jay Gould. A rate war followed that took almost two years to conclude. Jay Gould finally quit trying to run John Mackay out of business. He was quoted as saying, "You can't beat Mackay, all he has to do when he needs money is go to Nevada and dig up some more"

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