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John William Mackay

John William Mackay (November 28, 1831-July 20, 1902) was an American capitalist, born in Dublin, Ireland.

Biography

His parents brought him in 1840 to New York City, where he worked in a shipyard. In 1851 he went to California and worked in placer gold-mines in Sierra County. In 1859 he went to Virginia City, Nevada, and there, after losing all he had made in California, he formed a business partnership with fellow Irishmen James Graham Fair, James C. Flood, and William S. O'Brien. The four dealt in mining stocks and operated silver mines on the Comstock Lode, and in 1873 discovered the great ore body known as the "big bonanza" in the Consolidated Virginia and California mine, an orebody more than 1,200 feet deep, which yielded in March of that year as much as $3,876 per ton (America: Past & Present, Vol. II, pg. 497), and in 1877 nearly $190,000,000 altogether. The four-way partnership, although formally called "Flood and O'Brien," was more commonly known as the Bonanza firm. Together they also established the Bank of Nevada in San Francisco.

In 1866, he married Marie Louise Hungerford, a native New Yorker. Snubbed by New York society, Louise moved to Paris where Mackay purchased a large mansion for her where his wealth enabled her to became a noted society hostess, entertaining royalty and throwing lavish parties for two decades.

In 1884, with James Gordon Bennett, 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 the Postal Telegraph Company. 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".

Once Mackay had conquered the Atlantic with the Commercial Cable Company and the vast land mass of North America with the Postal Telegraph Company he turned his sights on laying the first cable across the Pacific. He subsequently formed the Commercial Pacific Cable Company in partnership with the Great Northern Telegraph Company and the Eastern Telegraph Company and although he died in 1902 before this part of his vision was completed, his son Clarence Mackay, saw the project through to completion in 1904.

The Mackay System expanded under Clarence H. Mackay's leadership until it was bought out in 1928 by International Telephone and Telegraph. The Mackay System continued to be the chief rival of Western Union until it merged into Western Union in 1943.

Mackay was famous for fair dealings with his employees, and gave generously, especially to the charities of the Roman Catholic Church, and endowed the Catholic orphan asylum in Virginia City, Nevada. In June 1908 the Mackay School of Mines was presented to the University of Nevada, as a memorial to him, by his widow and his son, Clarence H. Mackay. A statue of John Mackay by Gutzon Borglum stands in front of the mining building on the university campus in Reno, Nevada.

Mackay died on July 20, 1902 in London. The Mackay Mountains in Antarctica were named after him.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN WILLIAM MACKAY (1831-1902), American capitalist, was born in Dublin, Ireland; on the 28th of November 1831. His parents brought him in 1840 to New York City, where he worked in a ship-yard. In 1851 he went to California and worked in placer gold-mines in Sierra county. In 1852 he went to Virginia City, Nevada, and there, after losing all he had made in California, he formed with James G. Fair, James C. Flood and William S. O'Brien the firm which in 1873 discovered the great Bonanza vein, more than 1200 ft. deep, in the Comstock lode (yielding in March of that year as much as $632 per ton, and in 1877 nearly $19,000,000 altogether); and this firm established the Bank of Nevada in San Francisco. In 1884, with James Gordon Bennett, 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 connexion with the Commercial Cable Company he formed the Postal Telegraph Company. Mackay died on the 10th of July 1902 in London. He gave generously, especially to the charities of the Roman Catholic Church, and endowed the Roman Catholic orphan asylum in Virginia City, Nevada. In June 1908 a school of mines was presented to the University of Nevada, as a memorial to him, by his widow and his son, Clarence H. Mackay.


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