Inpsiring Inventions: The Telegraph

Thanks to the telegraph, smoke-signals, drum beats, marathon runners, and Pony Express riders on horseback-all inhibited by weather, distance, and geography-were no longer the sole means of communicating across country.

The telegraph revolutionized communication, and while its demise came with the invention of the telephone and the radio, it paved the way for many inventions.

The telegraph itself is basic: “a key, a battery, wire, a line of poles between stations, and a receiver.”

Video courtesy of

Here’s a brief history of the telegraph:

  • 1832-36 Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale, and Alfred Vail develop the telegraph which “worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations.”
  • 1830s Morse, with Vail, develops a code that “assigned a set of dots and dashes to each letter of the English alphabet and allowed for the simple transmission of complex messages” across long distances.
  • 1837 Morse files a patent for the telegraph!
  • 1843 Morse & Vail receive funding from U.S. Congress to test their telegraph system.
  • 1844 The very first message was sent via the telegraph. It read: “What hath God wrought!”–something that Vail often said to Morse.
  • 1845 A small group of investors purchased a license from Morse, Vail, & Leonard for the telegraph for $15,000. They formed The Magnetic Telegraph Company (later known as Western Union).
  • 1846 The first commercial telegraph line was completed. It ran from Washington, D.C. to New York City.
  • 1860 U.S. Congress passed The Pacific Telegraph Act approving the construction of a transcontinental telegraph line (in part because of the looming Civil War).
  • 1861 Western Union laid the first transcontinental telegraph line!
  • 1866 The first permanent telegraph cable was laid across the Atlantic Ocean with help from the U.S. Navy vessel the “Niagara.”
  •  1874 Thomas Edison made an improvement to the telegraph. Edison introduced the “Quadraplex system, which allowed for 4 messages to be transmitted simultaneously using the same wire.”
  • 1906 S.O.S. (…_ _ _…) is established as the worldwide emergency signal of distress. While S.O.S. was not an abbreviation of a saying, it was chosen for being easy to remember and differentiate, in popular usage, it came to mean “Save Our Ship,” “Save Our Souls,” and “Send Out Succor.” The most famous S.O.S. message sent was by the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912 when it hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. and then sank.

The telegraph  was a truly remarkable invention STOP


“Morse Code & The Telegraph” on 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s