Joseph Eastman Farnsworth, telephone executive, was horn to Simeon Dow and Jennie Ambrose (Eastman) Farnsworth on January 31, 1862, at Manchester, New Hampshire. As both of his parents died before he was six years of age, he was raised by a guardian in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he attended public schools and graduated from high school in 1880. Two years later he moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he entered the newspaper business as a reporter. He soon moved to Austin and became a reporter for the Austin Statesman while working as the legislative correspondent for the San Antonio Express and Waco Examiner. In addition, he operated a printing business.
In 1885 he was hired as an auditor by the Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph Company in Austin. Within two years he had risen to the position of general auditor of the company. He remained in this post until 1896, when he was promoted to superintendent of the organization's North Texas division and moved to Dallas. He continued his progress in the company when he was made general superintendent and general manager of the division; in 1902 he became general manager of the company. In 1905 Farnsworth also became vice president of the Bell Telephone Company, the parent corporation of Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph. He retired from his position as general manager in 1912, but maintained the vice presidency. In 1919 he became president of the Dallas Telephone Company. His success as an executive brought him appointment to the boards of directors of a number of local businesses, including the Texas Employees Accident Insurance Company and the Liberty Building and Loan Association, both of which he served as vice president. Farnsworth was an Episcopalian, Democrat, Freemason, and Elk. He married Laura Maas of Austin on October 30, 1890. The couple raised one child.