Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Stearns, Joseph Barker

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STEARNS, Joseph Barker, electrical engineer, b. in Weld, Me., 28 Feb., 1831. As a youth he worked on a farm, but became a telegraph operator, and in 1855-'67 was superintendent of the Boston fire-alarm telegraph company. During this time he made many inventions that were of value in developing the fire-alarm telegraph as it is now used in the United States. In 1868 he invented and patented the duplex system of telegraphy, which is now used throughout the world, and for which he obtained royalties from the British, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Indian governments, and from the several submarine cable companies. In 1879-'80 he was employed as engineer by the Mexican telegraph company in making, laying, and putting into operation the cables of that company between Galveston, Tex., and Vera Cruz, Mexico, and in 1881 he performed a similar service for the Central and South American telegraph company, whose cables extend from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico to Callao, Peru, in all between 4,000 and 5,000 miles. This work he completed in 1882; and he has for some years resided in Camden, Me., where his residence contains a library of 10,000 volumes, and his collection of Chiriqui pottery, which has been exhibited at the Smithsonian institution in Washington; and his collection of carved ivories at the Metropolitan museum of art in New York. The latter is among the largest collections of the kind ever made.