Wheelwright, William (1798–1873)

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Wheelwright, William (1798–1873)

William Wheelwright, a transportation entrepreneur, was born on March 16, 1798, in Massachusetts. A merchant mariner stranded in Buenos Aires in 1822, Wheelwright arrived in 1824 in Chile, where he established himself as the operator of a merchant vessel sailing between there and Panama. Following a short stay in Ecuador, he returned to Chile, where he founded another maritime company, which operated out of the nation's most important port, Valparaíso. In 1835 the Chilean government awarded Wheelwright a monopoly to operate a steamship line in Chilean waters. Wheelwright established the Pacific Steam Navigation Company in Britain, and had two steamships built there, the Chile and the Peru. They arrived in Chilean waters in 1840 and instituted the first regular steamship service along the Pacific Coast of South America, serving especially the northern mining ports of Caldera, Huasco, and Coquimbo, Chile, as well as Callo, the port for Lima, Peru.

Wheelwright is often credited with constructing a railroad between Santiago and Valparaíso, but the Chilean government never granted him a contract to construct the line. He later shifted his emphasis in the transportation industry by helping to build the first rail lines connecting the northern port of Caldera with the mining center of Copiapó. He also helped establish telegraph service connecting the capital with Valparaíso. He subsequently left Chile for Argentina, where he again became involved in railroading. Wheelwright died on September 26, 1873.

See alsoRailroads .


Duncan, Roland E. "William Wheelwright and Early Steam Navigation in the Pacific, 1820–1840." The Americas 32, no. 2 (1975): 257-281.

Kinsbruner, Jay. "The Business Activities of William Wheelwright in Chile, 1829–1860." Ph.D. diss. New York University, 1964.

Kinsbruner, Jay. "Water for Valparaíso: A Case of Entrepreneurial Frustration." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 10 (1968): 653-661.

                                   William F. Sater

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Wheelwright, William (1798–1873)

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