Frederick Perry Fish
|President of American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation|
|Preceded by||John Elbridge Hudson|
|Succeeded by||Theodore Newton Vail|
|Born||January 13, 1855|
Taunton, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||November 6, 1930 (aged 75)|
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Clara Perkins Livermore
(m. 1880; her death 1914)
|Children||Erland F. Fish|
Harvard Law School
Frederick Perry Fish (13 January 1855 – 6 November 1930) was an American lawyer and executive who served as president of American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation from 1901 to 1907. One of the leading patent attorneys of his age representing such famous clients as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and The Wright Brothers, by the time of his death he was believed to have appeared in more patent cases at the Supreme Court than any other lawyer. He was the founder of the law firm now known as Fish & Richardson.
He was born on 13 January 1855 in Taunton, Massachusetts. He was a son of Frederick L. Fish (1813–1892) and Mary Jarvis (née Perry) Fish (1833–1910). Among his siblings were brothers Nathaniel J. W. Fish, the mayor of Taunton, and engineer Charles Henry Fish.
His paternal grandparents were Simeon Fish and Judith (née Rayder) Fish and his maternal grandparents were the Rev. Clark Perry and Mary Jarvis (née Stone) Perry.
He worked at the law firm of Thomas L. Livermore and Senator Bainbridge Wadleigh in Boston. During his lifetime, the law firm was successively named Wadleigh & Fish (1878); Livermore & Fish (1885); Livermore, Fish & Richardson (1889); Fish, Richardson & Storrow (1890); Fish, Richardson, Herrick & Storrow (1899); Fish Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1900); Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1901); Fish, Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1907); and Fish, Richardson & Neave (1916). In 1969, after Fish's death, the firm adopted its current name, Fish & Richardson.
Fish's specialty was patent law. He was involved in key patent litigation during development of the telephone, the air brake, the steam turbine, the automobile, the airplane and the radio, as well as other electric appliances.
In 1901, Fish took leave from the law practice to serve as the president of AT&T. During his tenure at AT&T, Fish oversaw completion of a unified network of telephone lines nationwide.
He turned down the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and returned to law in 1907. That year, Fish first credited Thomas Edison with suggesting "hello" as a more efficient telephone greeting than "Are you there?" or "Are you ready to talk?" Alexander Graham Bell had proposed "ahoy".
In 1906, Fish helped the Wright Brothers secure their patent on wing warping. In 1913, Fish helped the Wright Brothers prevail over Glenn Curtiss in an infringement case involving the 1906 “Flying Machine” patent. Wilbur Wright's last known letter before his death was to Frederick Fish.
Volunteer work and legacy
He served as Vice-President of the Bar Association of the City of Boston from 1909 to 1920, and President of the Massachusetts State Bar Association for the year 1919–1920. He served on the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Governing Board of Radcliffe College. He was also an Overseer of Harvard College, a trustee of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and Chairman of the Massachusetts State Board of Education.
Firm partner William King Richardson wrote a eulogy about Fish as follows: “He was a great lawyer and a great scholar, but above all he was a great human being. Each of the thousands who came in contact with him during his extraordinarily active life is better for having known him. He radiated kindliness, sympathy and courage.”
On April 7, 1880, Fish was married to Clara Perkins Livermore (1851–1914), a daughter of Leonard Jarvis Livermore, a minister, and Mary Ann Catherine (née Perkins) Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Together, they were the parents of two children, Margaret A. Fish and Erland Frederick Fish (1883–1942), a Major General and commander of the Massachusetts State Guard who served as President of the Massachusetts Senate.
- Times, Special to The New York (7 November 1930). "FREDERICK P. FISH, NOTED LAWYER, DIES; Was President of American Telephone and Telegraph Co. for Many Years. AN OVERSEER OF HARVARD Also a Leading Member of Massachusetts "Tech's" Board anda Bank Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Leonard, John William; Marquis, Albert Nelson (1908). Who's who in America. A.N. Marquis. p. 625. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Marquis, Albert Nelson (1915). Who's who in New England: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men and Women of the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. A.N. Marquis. p. 404. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Hughes, Thomas Patrick; Munsell, Frank (1895). American Ancestry: Giving Name and Descent, in the Male Line, of Americans Whose Ancestors Settled in the United States Previous to the Declaration of Independence, A. Munsell. p. 32. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Grimes, William (5 March 1992). "Great 'Hello' Mystery Is Solved". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Johnson, James Clayton. Flights Past: The Wright Brothers' Legacy and Dayton, Ohio,. Dissertation, Western Michigan University. p. 97 n. 90. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- Thwing, Walter Eliot (1902). The Livermore Family of America. W.B. Clarke Company. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
- TIMES, Special to THE NEW YORK (19 February 1942). "GENERAL ERLAND FISH FATALLY HURT BY TAXI; Ex-Head of Yankee Division Hit Leaving Boston Street Car". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2020.