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British Industrial History

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George Gray Ward

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George Gray Ward (1844-1922)

1922 Obituary [1]

GEORGE GRAY WARD was born at Great Hadham, Hertfordshire, on the 30th December, 1844.

He developed a taste for telegraphy at an early age and while still at school received a prize for knowledge of the art. After completing his education he entered the service of the Electric Telegraph Company and soon attracted attention because of his aptness and industry. His promotion was rapid.

In 1865 he entered the Egyptian Government Telegraph Service and for some three years was stationed at Alexandria. He was one of the few Europeans to stick to his post during the cholera epidemic of 1865, and his valuable services were specially recognized by the Viceroy, Ismael Pasha.

He resigned from the Egyptian service in 1869, joined the first French Atlantic Cable Company, and was assigned to accompany the s.s. "Great Eastern" as a member of the electrical staff during the laying of that company's cable. Later, as superintendent of the Direct United States Cable Company, he organized that company's system in the United States. There he made his first great impression upon the industry, to the furtherance of which he was to devote his entire life. Through his efforts the transmission of messages between New York and London was so greatly accelerated that arbitrage transactions between the Stock Exchanges of the two cities were enabled to take place, a feat which had not been possible before.

He also accelerated the transmission of news dispatches between the old world and the new, and it was he who introduced the system of registered addresses which since has been adopted throughout the world and has saved the cabling public considerable expense.

In 1884 he became general manager of the Commercial Cable Company and in 1890 was elected vice-president, positions which he held until his death. In this new field he was even more successful than he had been in earlier positions. His sound judgment and business ability, together with his power to maintain discipline, while holding the respect and affection of his subordinates, were assets of the utmost value.

In 1906 after the laying of the Commercial Pacific Cable he was decorated by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of Commander of the Rising Sun.

He died on the 15th June, 1922. One outstanding feature of his lovable nature was the absolute simplicity of his character. He was a man who, by reason of his ability and personal charm of manner, was persona grata everywhere and in all classes of society. Everything he touched in the business world was crowned with success, and a feeling grew up among his colleagues that anything to which he put his hand might be counted an accomplished fact. Few men would have been proof against such an unchequered career, but we, who knew him so long and so intimately, knew that he retained to the end of his life the same untarnished simplicity. It is but right to say that the example of his noble life has left its impress on the company, and happy shall we, who are left, be in our endeavours if we can but carry on the tradition of his high ideals.

He was elected an Associate Member of the Institution in 1874, and a Member in 1877, and served as Local Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for the United States of America from 1876 to 1922.

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