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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
John Thomson


JOHN THOMSON, engineer and inventor, was born October 25, 1853, in Fochabers, Morayshire, Scotland, the eldest son of Alexander Thomson and Elizabeth Hay, and was brought to America when a child. His relatives and ancestors were farmers, artisans, merchants, physicians and mechanics, located or hailing from the shires of Banff and Moray. He was educated in the common school, Wayne County, N. Y., and later made a special study of mathematics and mechanical drawing in Rochester, N. Y., where he was engaged as a watch-maker, at which art he became an adept.

For more than thirty-five years, Mr. Thomson has engaged successfully in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering; also in the design and manufacture of water-meters, printing presses and electric furnaces. He formerly practised considerably as a solicitor before the United States Patent Office, and has been granted more than 200 patents in this country and Europe. He has also often been retained as an expert in patent litigations before the Federal Courts and has made numerous investigations with respect to the probable validity of patents and the merits of engineering and manufacturing enterprises. He was Chief Engineer of the primary Electrical Subway Commission, New York, 1886, which built along Sixth Avenue the first underground conduit containing cabled telegraph and telephone wires. The system then established has been widely adopted. He was associated for upward of twenty-five years with the Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, Hartford, Conn., in the design and manufacture of printing presses adapted for the highest grade of letter-press, half-tone and color printing; also for embossing, stamping, and for paper-box cutting and scoring. Having purchased the Colt’s Company’s interest, the business is now conducted under the corporate title of John Thomson Press Company, its factory being in Long Island City, N. Y. It also undertook large contracts for munitions for use by the Allies in the European War.

Mr. Thomson is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (and was at one time Treasurer) ; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the American Institute of Mining Engineers; the American Electrochemical Society; the Franklin Institute; the Engineers’ Club of New York (of which he is a Past-President); the Union League Club of New York; the Pilgrims Society; and the Royal Thames Yacht Club and the American Luncheon Club of London, England. He is also Past-President of the Burns Society, New York; member of the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York; honorary member of the Organization of Officers, First Regiment, U. S. Volunteer Engineers (Spanish War); and a life member of the U. S. Navy League. Mr. Thomson has written and discussed many papers relating to engineering subjects, published in the Transactions of various technical societies, and has been a considerable contributor to the daily press.

In 1877, Mr. Thomson married Miss Alice Elizabeth McKee, born at Canandaigua, N. Y. She is as young as her daughter; time has not dimmed her een and she ‘s still "as bonnie as the heather." They have two sons and one daughter: Ralph Moore, graduate civil and mining engineer, Cornell University, who served as assistant under John Findley Wallace, C. E;, when Chief Engineer on the Panama Canal; John Edgar, graduate mechanical engineer, Cornell, Vice-President and active manager of the John Thomson Press Company; and Edith McKee, who married Spencer M. Maben, a member of the New York Stock Exchange. There are five grandchildren. He furthermore, has several score of "nephews," many of whom are older than himself, begotten by their voluntary bestowment of the affectionate title of "Uncle John." Mr. Thomson makes his home at Hotel Biltmore, New York City: his business address is 253 Broadway, New York City.


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