Henry Marison Byllesby

Henry Marison Byllesby (1859 - 1924) was one of the most prominent electrical engineers of his time. Around 1881, after Byllesby earned an engineering degree, he was hired by Thomas Edison to help build an electrical station in Manhattan. In 1885 he was hired by George Westinghouse to manage his electrical company. Byllesby moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1891 to run an electrical company. He formed a power company in 1909 and changed the name of the company to Northern States Power in 1916. The company supplied power throughout Minnesota. He formed H.M. Byllesby & Co. a Chicago-based conglomerate that owned steamships, streetcars and utility companies across the United States. He was also an officer and director of many public gas and electric utility companies.

Soon after Germany started World War I Byllesby became a prominent supporter of the Allies. Beginning in April 1917 he began working full-time as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Branch of the National Security League. This was a public service organization founded in 1914 to lobby for increased and improved preparation for America's defense against enemies at home and abroad. Byllesby was primarily responsible for the inauguration of a patriotic speaking campaign which opened in Minneapolis in September, 1917 with Samuel Gompers and Clarence Darrow as principal speakers. In 1917 Byllesby accepted a commission as a major and served in the Signal Corps and was later promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He also served in London as the purchasing agent for the American Expeditionary Force. Clarence Darrow knew Byllesby and served with him on the Chicago Branch of the National Security League. Darrow also conferred with Byllesby about investments in gas utilities.

Photo from volume 4 of Josiah Seymour Currey, Chicago: Its History and Its Builders (1918).