Thompson's scrapbook, reveals an interest in California, Nebraska and
Oregon local history, the history of American telegraphy, and an active
involvement with a considerable extended family. Most of the materials to be
found here are newspaper clippings, although the scrapbook also contains a few
photographs and pieces of correspondence. Few items are dated or identified by
source, but internal evidence enables one to estimate their time of collection
as extending from about 1889 through 1928.
John Waldo Thompson (1841-c1930) was born in Michigan and worked all of
his adult life as a telegrapher. Thompson was one of the gang that helped to
string the first transcontinental telegraph line. He began work in Omaha
(1861), made his way to Ruby Valley, Nev. (1863), Petaluma, Calif. (1863),
various cities in Oregon (1864-1865), and Nevada (1866), Marysville and Yreka,
Calif. (1866), before finally settling in San Diego (1874-1909). Thompson was
the first manager of the San Diego Western Union office and, in the early
1880s, he installed the first telephone in that city. He married there, and one
of his daughters, Emma, enjoyed brief fame as an opera diva in southern
California during the last decade of the nineteenth century. In 1909, J.W.
Thompson took his final post in San Francisco. His wife, Hortense Eubanks
Thompson, died there in 1928. When Thompson retired in 1923, he was the oldest
telegrapher in the United States.