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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Henry Weaver
by Steven Roberts

Henry Weaver (1826-1893)

Henry Edward Weaver (he never used the ‘Edward’) was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on May 5, 1826. He joined the service of the Electric Telegraph Company around 1848; he remained with the ‘Electric’ (as it was colloquially known) until its appropriation by the government in 1868. By 1853 he was clerk-in-charge of the Hull telegraph station in the north-east of England. Weaver obtained his biggest opportunity in 1853 when he was posted to be clerk-in-charge of the International Telegraph Company’s station at The Hague in the Netherlands. This was at the eastern cable end of four circuits that the International company, a subsidiary of the Electric’s, completed from East Anglia to Holland during 1853. It was a vital management post as it handled all of traffic on the circuits of the continent for the Electric, by far the largest telegraph company in Britain. He earned £250 a year and was responsible for eight British and Dutch clerks, two messengers, a line-man and a battery & instrument man. In September 1855 the office was moved to the share the premises of the Rijkstelegraafkantoor (National Telegraph Office) in Amsterdam, Weaver supervised the move and the laying of new overhead wires from the cable-end.

In 1857 Weaver was promoted to become secretary and manager of the International Telegraph Company, and, simultaneously, District Superintendant for London with the Electric company.  This position was located at the Electric’s head office in Moorgate Street, London. The London District managed two-thirds of the company’s traffic. The Superintendant was responsible for all operational and engineering issues. The International company managed all of the Electric’s continental and domestic cables. It was a job only second in responsibility in the company’s hierarchy.  In this role he continually developed the continental connections through the German-Austrian Telegraphic Union, which included the Netherlands, Russia and Turkey, as well as all the German states. Direct circuits were negotiated to Berlin, St Petersburg and Constantinople through Amsterdam.

On January 1, 1864 Henry Weaver became Secretary and Manager of the Electric & International Telegraph Company, the senior salaried position. In this he consolidated the company’s landward extensions east towards India and China, but also engaged the Electric for the first time with the development of the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s cable from Ireland to Newfoundland and America. In 1866 the Electric, on his advice, acquired a financial interest in the cable, it having been left to the competitive Magnetic Telegraph Company previously. He secured for the two largest domestic company’s sole message rights on the successful Atlantic cable on November 13, 1867.

With the approaching appropriation of the domestic circuits in 1867, Henry Weaver became part of the promotion of the Indo-European Telegraph Company, which planned a circuit from London across the North Sea, Prussia, Russia, and Persia to India. The Indo was projected by the directors of the Electric company with the support of Siemens & Halske in Berlin. On its launch Weaver became Secretary and Manager of its business in London.

In 1871 Weaver “changed direction” and was appointed Secretary and Manager of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, which then owned all of the hugely profitable underwater cables to Canada and the United States. In this position he settled for the rest of his life, becoming a significant shareholder and eventually Managing Director.

In the later 1870s he joined the board of directors of the West India & Panama Telegraph Company.

Weaver married in 1853 and had three children, one of which was born during his posting to Amsterdam. His connection with the Netherlands lingered; his eldest daughter was to marry a Hollander and move to The Hague. His only son became a successful barrister-at-law. At least one of his in-laws became a clerk with the telegraph companies. For most of his life in London he lived at Albert Square in Lambeth, but died in Portman Square on September 20, 1893.

Last revised: 24 December, 2009

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