Austin, a pioneer telegrapher, who was in charge of the station at the
[U.S.] Capitol as early as 1870; who covered the national convention in
which General Grant was nominated for President; who sent the first
bulletins on the assassination and death of President Garfield, and
received the first bulletin on the shooting of McKinley, has retired.
Mr. Austin is
further distinguished as having been associated in the organization of
the United Press, and in 1878 operated the first duplex set installed in
He was one of the
best known telegraphers in the U.S.
He has gone to
Hagersville, Ontario, near his birthplace, for the summer, and will
make his permanent residence with his son-in-law in South Bend,
Mr. Austin has
been a member of Pentalpha Lodge, No. 23, F.A.A.M., since 1873, and
treasurer of that lodge since 1906. He is active in the National
Union, and a member of Esther Chapter, No. 5, Order of the Eastern
In 1871 he was
sent to the republican national convention, and next to the democratic
convention at Baltimore.
Mr. Austin was
born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, November 2, 1846, and educated in the
public schools of that town, first entering the service of the
Montreal Telegraph Co., at Simcoe, March 6, 1862.
He left there in
July 1865, going first to Sturgis, Mich., for the United States
Telegraph Company, thence in September to Toledo, Ohio, for the same
company, and in the fall of 1866 to Meadville, Pa.
When the company
was absorbed by the Western Union Telegraph Company the next year,
Mr. Austin went to Franklin, Pa., for that corporation.
From there he was
sent to Oil City, and in the fall of the succeeding year to Erie, Pa.,
where he remained until January, 1870, when he came to Washington, and
was put in charge of the Western Union commercial office at the
Capitol. He worked at the main office at night.
Six years later,
when the Phelps printing telegraph system was introduced, Mr. Austin
took up the study of it and worked at it with A. J. Lombard and
Frederick Royce for six years. About 1878 the first duplex set was
installed at the Washington office and he was the first to operate the
sending apparatus, and a year later was one of the first four men to
operate the quadruplex set.
Mr. Austin was
the first to forward news of both the shooting and of the subsequent
death of President Garfield.
In 1883 he went
into service for the United Press, which was then being organized by
Walter E. Philips and for several years he and another operator were
doing the day and night work at the main office and looking out for
the Capitol during the time that Congress was in session.
Three years later
saw him cashier of that company in which capacity he served until the
company collapsed in 1897.
The New York
Associated Press was absorbed by the United Press in 1893, and Mr.
Austin submitted plans for the new office in the Washington Post
building, which so favorably impressed the architect that he used
The devices in
the plans were entirely original and when the building was completed
eminent telegraph men and electricians visited the office and
commended the construction of the lines.
Changes in the
companies resulted in the formation of the United Press Association.
During his service with this company he received the first bulletin
announcing the death of President McKinley.
In July 1909, Mr.
Austin retired from the service of the press association and returned
to the Western Union Company which immediately placed him in charge of
the office at the Capitol, which he had occupied forty years before.
He took up the
study of the use of both the Phillips code and the typewriter when
they became necessary to the knowledge of a man in his position.