Morristown in Morris County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Birthplace of the Telegraph
— Historic Speedwell —
At Speedwell, the Whippany River cuts a deep ravine that was easily dammed to power an early saw mill, bloomery forge, and slitting mill. A dwelling house was built on the hillside overlooking the river. In the late 1700’s, the property was owned by Thomas Kinney, one of Morristown’s wealthiest citizens. The land near the river was acquired by Stephen Vail in the early 1800’s, and became the famed Speedwell Ironworks. Vail gradually increased his holdings to include the tract of land on the west side of Speedwell Avenue that contained the old Kinney House. By the 1840’s he had become a successful businessman and the owner of a large estate. Now in his 60’s, Stephen Vail converted the old house into a conservative but comfortable home for his old age. A man of modest taste, he rejected the latest styles in favor of a traditional Georgian
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In 1807, Stephen Vail, a Morristown blacksmith, along with partners William Campfield and Isaac Canfield, started building an Ironworks at Speedwell. By 1815 Vail had become the sole proprietor and gradually increased his holdings. During most of the early years he lived in what was called the Brick House, on the west side of Speedwell Avenue close to the Ironworks. A skilled machinist and entrepreneur, Stephen had the hand of a well-grounded businessman who always had capital to invest, even at times of economic depression. A man of vision, he was involved in the construction of the S.S. Savannah, the first steam powered ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He financed the development of the telegraph and was an early proponent of railroads. A prominent citizen, he was a Justice of the Peace, a Judge, a Jacksonian Democrat and a slave owner. He married three times. Stephen Vail died in 1864 at the age of 84.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNotable Buildings.
Location. 40° 48.875′ N, 74° 28.859′ W. Marker is in Morristown, New Jersey, in Morris County. Marker can be reached from Speedwell Avenue (U.S. 202), on the right when traveling north. Marker is located at Historic Speedwell. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 333 Speedwell Avenue, Morristown NJ 07960, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Homestead Carriage House (within shouting distance of this marker); 1849 Carriage House (within shouting distance of this marker); Vail Homestead Farm (within shouting distance of this marker); The Granary (within shouting distance of this marker); L’Hommedieu House (within shouting distance of this marker); Wheel House (within shouting distance of this marker); Ford Cottage (within shouting distance of this marker); Water Power at Speedwell (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Morristown.
More about this marker. The bottom left of the marker features a drawing of “The front façade of the newly renovated Vail Mansion as it appeared in an insert on an 1850 map of Morristown.” Next to this is a map of Historic Speedwell. The sidebar contains several photos of the Vail House. A painting of Stephen Vail is on the lower right of the marker. It has the caption “In 1837, Stephen’s son Alfred worked at Speedwell with Samuel F.B.Morse to perfect the electromagnetic telegraph. During one of his visits, Morse, a portrait artist, painted Stephen and his first wife Bethiah. Today the paintings still hang in the hall of the Vail House.”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the markers found at Historic Speedwell.
Also see . . . Historic Speedwell - "Birthplace of the Telegraph". (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 11, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 575 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 11, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. 5, 6, 7. submitted on June 11, 2016, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.