J. Casale W2NI
Part Two

E. S. Greeley & Co.

General Edwin S. Greeley

General Edwin S. Greeley

Edwin Seneca Greeley was Luther Tillotson's primary partner since the beginning of the firm L.G. Tillotson & Co. He was born on May 20, 1834 in Nashua, New Hampshire where he attended common schools. When he was twelve, he had to work on a farm and in a cotton mill to help support his parents. His father, Seneca, was a cousin of the famous New York Tribune publisher, Horace Greeley. His grandfather, Joseph Greeley, advanced from the rank of private to Colonel in the New Hampshire Militia during the American Revolution.

Young Edwin S. Greeley trained to be a machinist, first in Manchester, N.H. and later in Schenectady, N.Y. where he completed his technical education. He was employed at the Schenectady Locomotive Works and the Rogers Locomotive Works in Paterson, N.J. as a machinist before moving to New Haven, Conn. in 1855. He worked for the railroad in New Haven until the start of the Civil War. During this time he assisted in building the first locomotive built in New Haven.

He was one of the first to respond to the call of troops in New Haven at the beginning of the Civil War. He followed a path that was very similar to his grandfather's military service by enlisting as a private on August 31, 1861. Two months later, on October 22 he was promoted to first lieutenant and helped organize the 10th Connecticut Infantry Regiment.

Greeley advanced through the ranks as a field commander during the war and saw heavy combat action. In December of 1862, he marched to join with the famous Goldsboro Expedition participating in the battle of Kinston where the Regiment received heavy casualties. In 1863, then Major Greeley, commanded the 10th Regiment at the siege of Charleston.

On June 15, 1864, Lt. Colonel Greeley and the 10th Connecticut were at the front based by the James River during the assault on Petersburg, Virginia where he filed this report: We engaged the enemy, and drove him from his rifle-pits; taking as prisoners three commissioned officers and twenty six men, with thirty stands of small arms. We then advanced, and took possession of the enemy's main works....I then brought up my reserves, and again advanced the skirmish-line; and, after a sharp engagement, drove the enemy from this line, and took possession of it also. Later in 1864, Greeley was promoted to the rank of full Colonel and by March of 1865 was brevetted Brigadier General. He was honorably discharged from the military on September 5, 1865 and returned to New Haven.

Shortly after his return home, he became associated with Luther Tillotson. With his background and connections in the military and railroad industry, General Greeley seemed to be a good match to compliment Tillotson in a business venture. They formed a partnership and on November 1, 1865 reorganized the firm of Tillotson & Co. as L.G. Tillotson & Co. The first factory for L.G. Tillotson & Co. was originally established and run by their shop superintendent, Edward Pierson in New Haven, Conn. but within a year it was moved to New York City.

Several Inventors Sponsored

During the years of 1865-1885, Tillotson and Greeley had three respected telegraph inventors on their staff. In addition to Jesse H. Bunnell, who was with them 1875-1878, (mentioned in Part 1) they also had Miles W. Goodyear and Henry Splitdorf.

Phillips Key

A Walter P. Phillips key manufactured by L. G. Tillotson & Co.
Goodyear was the manager of their "Electrical Department." Both Goodyear and Bunnell jointly filed for a patent in 1877 that helped to speed up the manufacturing of inexpensive sounders used primarily on practice sets. Their patent called for the magnet cores, frame and standards to be built as one assembly and the lever and armature made from one piece of cast iron. Goodyear also patented a sounder design where the armature-lever pivoted directly on top of one of two magnet cores. This patent was the basis of L.G.Tillotson & Co.'s "Excelsior" instruments.

Henry Splitdorf, who previously was a partner with James Clark, patented a box sounder design that was marketed as the "Tillotson's Patent Combination Key on Base." This design elevated a small box above a wooden base so it could resonate in all direction when stuck by a lever and not be smothered on the bottom by being mounted on a base like most box sounders. Tillotson's regular box sounder, though, was the model preferred the U.S. Army-Signal Service in 1872.

L.G. Tillotson & Co. were dealers for several companies. They also became agents for inventors who patented new telegraph key designs during the 1880s; partly because of the competition they were feeling from Partrick & Carter and J.H. Bunnell & Co.

Tillotson responded to this competition by introducing new telegraph key designs by their own staff inventor Miles Goodyear and by inventors; Walter P. Phillips, (The Phillips Patent Key) George Cumming, (The Cumming Periphery Contact Key) Edgar G. Stevens (Steven's Top Contact Key) and Emery M. Hamilton. (Victor Key)

Goodyear actually filed for a telegraph key patent on February 16, 1881, the day after Jesse H. Bunnell received his historic and very successful steel lever key patent. Goodyear's key looked almost identical to Bunnell's but he used a brass lever with steel pins pressed into the axle of the lever as the bearing points.

As it turned out, Tillotson's most successful key of this group was the Victor Key. Emery Hamilton's design eliminated traditional trunnion screws and bearing points all together and instead used a lever that pivoted on a rib and corresponding groove.

Victor Key Ad

A catalog cut of Victor Keys offered by both
L. G. Tillotson and E. S. Greeley companies.
Greeley Relay

A Morse relay ca. 1890 by The E. S. Greeley & Co.

The E.S. Greeley & Co. Era

Luther Tillotson passed away on January 31, 1885 at age 50. General Greeley took over the business with the initial plan to keep the Tillotson name for the firm but the name soon changed to E.S. Greeley & Co. Some ads though still showed L.G. Tillotson & Co. for several months after Luther's passing. Many of the Greeley instruments manufactured during this period were marked "E.S. Greeley & Co. successors to L.G. Tillotson & Co." Greeley later made a subtle change to the name by formerly adding "The" making it "The E.S. Greeley & Co."

Two years after Luther Tillotson passed away, shop superintendent, Edward Pierson retired due to ill health. His son, Henry G. Pierson, who had been working with his father since 1882, took over the manufacturing responsibilities for General Greeley. All during this time, General Greeley was on the board of directors for several companies, many of them located in New Haven. He was the president of the New Haven Car-trimming Co. in New Haven. They made coach lamps, signal lanterns and railroad car accessories. Many of these items were included in the E.S. Greeley & Co. product line.

Greeley Wheatstone Bridge

An English Post Office pattern Wheatstone Bridge
made by E.S. Greeley & Co. This was a common
piece of test equipment used in telegraphy.
They expanded their product line to the point that the 23rd edition of the E.S Greeley & Co. catalog was now over 550 pages. In addition to railway supplies, it included telegraph, telephone, electric light and power equipment, and fire and burglar alarms.

General Greeley also purchased The Electric Manufacturing Company of Troy, N.Y. and its factory in Greenbush, N.Y. This firm, established in 1884, gave Greeley a line of high quality electrical test instruments including a variety of expensive galvanometers. This firm was known as the "Greeley Electrical Laboratory."

The Depression of the 1890s

The American economy went into a nose-dive during the 1890s. Several railroads went into receivership, and some of them were customers of E.S. Greeley & Co.

Both L.G. Tillotson and E.S. Greeley relied heavily on the railroads for their business. In the 1890s, they also faced heavy competition from J.H. Bunnell & Co. and Western Electric. The Panic of 1893 and the years of depression that followed, caused numerous bank failures, foreclosures and liquidations. The E.S. Greeley & Co. was one of the casualties of this depression. General Greeley also had internal accounting problems. It was discovered that the secretary of The E.S. Greeley & Co., James W. Sands, a close friend, had been falsifying the books for years.

By the end of 1896, it was the opinion of New York courts that E.S. Greeley & Co. ...became financially embarrassed to such an extent that, in the opinion of its officers and directors, it was practically insolvent, and, being of the opinion that a further effort to prosecute its business could only operate still more disastrously for all concerned, its officers and directors decided to wind up its affairs.

The disposal of their assets and liabilities was somewhat complicated and had to be resolved by the courts. The firm had considerable property in New York including their factory, a leased building on 5&7 Dey Street, tools, raw materials, manufactured and partly manufactured articles, and cash in the bank. But the company was incorporated in the state of Connecticut. The courts allowed E.S. Greeley & Co. to complete the manufacture of articles under contract. They were also allowed to work up any of their raw materials and partly manufactured goods into finished products.

After nearly 32 years first as L.G. Tillotson & Co. then as E.S. Greeley & Co., the firm officially ended operations on May 1, 1897. General Greeley was appointed to sell the uncollected claims of the insolvent concern at a public auction.

Two firms emerged and benefited from the failure of E.S. Greeley & Co. First, The Manhattan Electrical Supply Co. of New York (Mesco) acquired most of Greeley's inventory. Their ads in August of 1897 stated: We have purchased the entire stock of telegraph instruments, and about 75 percent of the entire stock from the assignee of the late E.S. Greeley & Co....We can supply nearly all the goods illustrated in the Greeley catalogue at very low prices. The acquisition of this inventory appears to have catapulted Mesco as an important supplier of telegraph instruments and electrical supplies.

Secondly, the manufacturing assets and factory of The E.S. Greeley & Co. were acquired by Greeley's former employees:
Charles Freeman, George L. Foote and shop superintendent, Henry G. Pierson. Together they formed the successful firm of
Foote, Pierson & Co.

After E.S. Greeley & Co., General Greeley remained active for several years in other businesses and as an officer in the Yale National Bank of New Haven, Conn. He passed away at age 87 on January 10, 1920 and left an estate valued at nearly $400,000.00

L.G. Tillotson & Co. / E.S. Greeley & Co.


L.G. Tillotson & Co. and E.S. Greeley & Co. addresses and years of operation:

1859-1861  No Listings
    1862      Tillotson & Co. with James S. Keeling occupying a small part of store at 262 Broadway.
05/01/1864 Tillotson & Co. Ad 262 Broadway/ with James S. Keeling/ "R.R. Supplies & Telegraph."
11/28/1864 "Late, Tillotson & Co."/ 16 Broadway / James S. Keeling (only)
05/01/1865 Both James Keeling and Luther Tillotson listed as "merchants" at 16 Broadway.
11/01/1865 Tillotson & Co. re-organized as L.G.Tillotson & Co. with partners General E.S. Greeley and                  W.H. Holt at 26 Dey St.
11/15/1865 A business Ad announces the formation of L.G.Tillotson & Co. at 26 Dey St.
12/01/1865 James S. Keeling (only) continues as "Late, Tillotson & Co."/ 16 Broadway
12/01/1865 Opposing full page ads for Keeling's, "Late, Tillotson & Co." and L.G. Tillotson & Co.
10/01/1866 Last James S. Keeling, "Late, Tillotson & Co." Ad / 16 Broadway
11/01/1866 W.H. Holt retires.
1865-1868  L.G. Tillotson & Co. 26 Dey St.
05/02/1868 L.G. Tillotson & Co. moves to 11 Dey St.
11/02/1868 L.G. Tillotson Ad shows the addition of G.B. Gavett Jr. to the firm.
1868-1870  L.G. Tillotson & Co. 11 Dey St.
06/01/1870 L.G. Tillotson & Co. moves to 8 Dey St.
1870-1879  L.G. Tillotson & Co. 8 Dey St.
04/16/1879 L.G. Tillotson & Co. moves to 5 & 7 Dey St.
1879-1885  L.G. Tillotson & Co. 5 & 7 Dey St.
01/30/1885 L.G. Tillotson dies.
1885-1897  E. S. Greeley & Co. 5 & 7 Dey St.
                 Even though the firm was re-organized as E.S. Greeley & Co. soon after L.G. Tillotson's death, some                  ads still showed L.G. Tillotson & Co. for several months.
                 Ads in May of 1887 started to show E.S. Greeley & Co. as "Successors to L.G. Tillotson & Co."
05/01/1897 Official ending date for The E.S. Greeley & Co.

The factories for L. G Tillotson & Co. were located at the following addresses:
1865-1866 New Haven, Conn.
1866-1871 137 & 139 Elm Streets
1871-1878 141 Centre Street
1878-1887 143 Centre Street
*During the years 1864-1866, Luther Tillotson maintained his position as the Superintendent of Telegraphs for the Erie Railway Company.

Sources:  New York City Directories, "The Telegrapher" and the "Journal of the Telegraph."

Follow this link to see ads of The E. S. Greeley & Co. ---->     E.S. Greeley & Co. Ads

To Part One: L. G. Tillotson & Co.

Back to the Telegraph Manufacturers Page

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Sources for Parts 1&2:

The Telegrapher, 8-5-1871
The Telegraph and Telegraph Age, 4-16-1917
Journal of the Telegraph, 6-1-1868, 11-2-1868, 3-15-1869, 8-1-1870,
8-5-1871, 8-1-1881, 12-20-1883, 1-1-1884, 8-2-1897
The Electrician and Electrical Engineer, March 1885
The Electrical Engineer, 8-12-1897
The Telegraph in America, James D. Reid, 1879
New York Times: 2-1-1885, 6-17-1882, 12-16-1889, 1-1-1886, 6-9-1897
Manual of Telegraphy, Prof. J.E. Smith, 14th Edition ca.1880
Between The Ocean And The Lakes, Edward Harold Mott, 1899
A National Register of the Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Louis H. Cornish, 1902
Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut,J.A. Spalding, 1891
The City of Troy and its Vicinity, Arthur James Weise, 1886
The Military & Civil History of Connecticut During the War of 1861-1865, Croffet&Morris, 1869
A Manual of Military Telegraphy for the Signal Service, U.S. Army, 1872
Circuit Court, Southern District, New York, February 6, 1897
New Haven Register, 1-10-1920.
The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, Vol. 2, Rutgers, 1991
The Reckless Decade, H.W. Brands, 1995
U.S. Patents of J.H. Bunnell, M.W. Goodyear, H. Splitdorf, E.G. Stevens and E.M. Hamilton

A version of this article was originally
published in the January 2009 issue
of "The AWA Journal," the quarterly journal of
The Antique Wireless Association.
( A nonprofit historical society )

Copyright (c) by John Casale - W2NI
Troy, New York