Samuel L Insull Jr

Born 1859, Died 1938

The son of an English dairyman, Samuel L. Insull Jr. operated the first telephone switchboard in England before coming to America in 1892 to become the top assistant to Thomas Edison.1

Once arriving in Chicago, he rose quickly. Taking over a number of suburban electric companies, he was able to provide reliable electricity 24 hours a day for the first time in the area.2 Insull also took over several railroads, making them all profitable.

In 1926 Insull essentially bought Frank Smith a seat in the US Senate. During that decade, Insull controlled electric and gas utilites, elevated railways, and commuter rails between Chicago and the suburbs. Indeed, by 1929 he was the president of 15 corporations, chairman of 56, and board member of 81.3 When the depression came it broke Insull, leading him to officially resign on July 5, 1932. He then fled to Europe in order to avoid prosecution for mail fraud and bankruptcy laws. He would eventually return to Chicago in 1934, be tried three times for the above offenses, and subsequently be acquitted three times.4

After the depression ruined him, all that was left of his millions was an $18,000 pension.5

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License