Cyrus W. Field (1819-1892)
Cyrus Field was born into a large family in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. At age 15 an older brother helped him find a job in a New York dry goods store. In 1840 he became junior partner in a paper company. When the firm failed a year later, he took it as a personal duty to repay all creditors. He then formed his own paper company which succeeded due to his integrity, salesmanship and entrepreneurial skills. By 1852 he had amassed a modest fortune and retired. Early in 1854 a chance encounter by another brother led Field to take over a bankrupt project to build a telegraph line across Newfoundland. Field had bigger idea: extend the line all the way to Britain.
This 1853 letter from a creditor’s bank acknowledged Field’s repayment of his company’s debt:
“Resolved: That in the full payment of a debt by the junior partner, having been contracted in the commencement of his business life & by misfortunes rendered him unable to pay the same; is a mark of strict honesty & integrity and is worthy of all commendation.”