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The History of the Telegraph



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The average person could spend hours looking up the ten most important inventions of the 19th century. He/she would probably never find any invention regarding any type of telegraph on one of those subjective lists but it should be placed on at least a top one hundred list of important inventions and/or contributions representing the 19th century. Gathering
information from www.nps.gov, I found an interesting correlation between "ancient" telecommunication from that era and our current means of communicating with one another in the 21st century. That site stated that the construction of the telegraph and the railroad occurred at the same time. The telegraph provided an important long distance connection which was absolutely necessary for the expansion of people and their possessions who were living during that time period just as the computer has done for our present age. That interesting site also provided this intriguing information. "Today's computers were originally programmed based on the same code that the Morse code of the telegraph first sent across the wires." Amazing.

It is now 2008. We are sadly cognizant of the brutal fact that our soldiers and sailors are involved in yet another war. People fight wars and people report them. Technology has played a part in this vicious cycle for a long time now. A strange, eclectic triangle enabled those pioneering war correspondents to carry out their tasks. Horses, steamboats and telegraphs. The cataclysmic event for mankind was the Mexican-American War. That war occurred between 1846 and 1848. Commercial news from the warfront, utilizing the telegraph, was usually much quicker than the military dispatches that had been sent to Washington D.C. The use of the electromagnetic telegraph had an immediate and profound impact on American History. I obtained some intriguing information from www.mysite.du.edu. The contents were startling. The first telegraph customers were stock brokers and lottery sharps. They obtained advance information regarding lottery numbers and the Philadelphia stock exchange. The News Organizations were the best customers though . Private citizens would not have been able to afford such an expensive luxury as a means of normal communication. Originally, telegraph charges were solely based on the number of words contained in a telegraph. Later, Western Union was able to organize all aspects of pricing due to its virtual monopoly of this genre of technology. In the beginning of commercial telegraph use, the charges were extraordinarily high. Some people probably compared the pricing system to extortion.

There are several different types of telegraphs. The optical telegraph was invented by Claude Chappe in 1794. The electromagnetic telegraph involved two other men and this event occurred several decades later. Alfred Lewis Vail was an inventor. You may be very unfamiliar with his name. But this was the gentleman who made improvements to a crude prototype developed by another gentleman. That man's name is quite familiar to most knowledgeable people. History and Science buffs alike would hold him in high esteem. That famous man was Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Mr. Morse invented the telegraph in 1837. Although Mr. Vail was instrumental in the success of the telegraph lines, he left the venture because he was incredibly underpaid for his hard work and Herculean efforts. These two amazing men were pioneers in the early years of the history of the telegraph. Samuel F.B. Morse should have gone down in history due to his artistic talents not his scientific ones. He'd even been appointed as a Professor of Painting and Sculpture. I found this out at www.rod.beavon.clara.net. I also need to include two British pioneers. According to www.distantwriting.co.uk/cookewheatstone/aspx, William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone obtained a patent for the electric telegraph on June 10, 1837. As in the United States, the railways were rapidly connecting English cities to one another. Mr. Wheatstone also showed a keen interest in underwater telegraphy. He was a busy man whose time was consumed by many other important inventions.

I must also relate some other important facts regarding Samuel F.B. Morse and one of his associates. An article written by an informative author named Alonzo B. Cornell can be found at www.history-world.org. His father was named Ezra Cornell. Ezra was actually the first man who built the Morse telegraphs. If Alonzo B. Cornell's father had never met Samuel F.B. Morse then Ezra Cornell would never have become wealthy enough to have co-founded Cornell University. Information provided by this site www.lgny.org states that due to his
impoverished condition, Morse's model was made of old and/or homemade components. This site comments on his love of painting and politics. But we are interested in his scientific side. In 1843, with Congressional funding, Samuel F.B. Morse built the first telegraph line in the United States. It ran from Baltimore, Maryland to Washington D.C. Within three decades, the telegraph had enveloped every continent across the globe. Our world had become truly connected. The telegraph definitely changed the history of our world. Forever. From that time on, we were forced to shed our former state of isolation and ignorance.

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