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Business heroes: Theodore Vail

The American serial entrepreneur Theodore Newton Vail was part of a generation of entrepreneurs who changed the face of America and the ...

By Theodore Newton Vail . 01 September 2004

he American serial entrepreneur Theodore Newton Vail was part of a generation of entrepreneurs who changed the face of America and the world at the turn of the 20th century. It was the era of the electrical revolution and the pioneering spirit of men like Vail sparked the transformation from the steam age to the electrical age.
Business heroes Theodore VailThe American serial entrepreneur Theodore Newton Vail was part of a generation of entrepreneurs who changed the face of America and the world at the turn of the 20th century. It was the era of the electrical revolution and the pioneering spirit of men like Vail sparked the transformation from the steam age to the electrical age.

Theodore Newton Vail (1845-1921) was born in Carroll County, Ohio. His father, of Quaker descent, and Dutch mother had only settled there temporarily however. Two years later the family returned to New Jersey where they remained until 1866 when they moved to a farm in Iowa.

The young Vail found farming life mundane and longed for a life of adventure. Before long he was headed west across America. Back in New Jersey Vail had been taught telegraphy by his uncle Alfred who had helped finance FSB Morse’s invention and development of the telegraph. Vail put this knowledge to good use landing a job as a telegraph operator in a Union Pacific boxcar.

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