Essay on the History of the Telegraph

Essay on the History of the Telegraph

“The Industrial Revolution occurred in the mid-eighteenth century in Britain” (Kishlansky). “The Industrial Revolution was a continuing period of economic growth and change which were caused by technological innovations in the process of manufacturing” (Kishlansky). One of the greatest inventions during the Industrial Revolution was the telegraph. “Samuel Morse in 1832 was assisted by Alfred Vail who created the idea for an electromechanical telegraph, which he called the “Recording Telegraph” (History Wired). In 1837 the telegraph began to get remodeled into a working mechanical form by Morse, Vail, and a colleague, Leonard Gale. “Joseph Henry provided electricity in 1836 with his “intensity batteries,” which were sent over a wire” (History Wired). The electric flow in the wire was disrupted for some short and long periods by pressing down on the device. In 1838 Morse put together a corporation and made Vail and Gale his partners. Morse began receiving funds from Congress to start an illustration where the line would be between Washington and Baltimore. Morse was not a businessman so naturally he had no plan to put together a line. This led to Morse switching to a construction of telegraph poles which was much more successful. “In 1845 Morse hired Amos Kendall as his agent to locate potential buyers. Kendall had no problem for convincing others of the profit and had a small group of investors that put up $15,000. The investors form the Magnetic Telegraph Company” (History Wired). The competition for a telegraph began heading up and there were over 50 telegraph companies competing in the United States. “Judge Samuel L. Selden had the House telegraph patent suggested that they should acquire all of the companies west of Buffalo and unite them to a single system” (History Wired). This led to the creation of a company called “New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company” which later became the Western Union Telegraph Company. “In 1870 William Vanderbilt tried to get control of the major telephone patents and the new telephone industry” (History Wired). “Through the remainder of the 1800s, the telegraph became one of the most significant factors in the development of social and commercial life of America. Two new inventions, the telephone (1800s) and the radio (1900) began to replace the telegraph as the leader of communication” (History Wired). “In 1908, AT&T got control of Western Union which helped Western Union because it allowed the companies to share lines when needed, but then AT&T separated itself to prevent the government from invoking antitrust laws” (History Wired). Even with all the ups and downs Western Union survived and was one of the first communication empires. Western Union to some was the considered to beginning of what Americans should expect in the future of communication.

“The first advancement of the telegraph occurred during the 1850’s when operators realized that the clicks of the recording instrument portrayed a sound pattern which was understandable by the operators as dots and dashes. This led for the operator to be able to hear the message by ear and simultaneously write it down” (History Wired). These advancements were only some that altered the telegraph into a quick and accessible system. Another huge advancement was the invention of Duplex Telegraphy that let two messages be delivered over a wire at the same time, one in each direction. “Thomas Edison created the Quadruplex which let four messages be transferred over the same wire at the same time” (History Wired). One more improvement was “Buckingham’s Machine Telegraph that was improvement to the House System. It printed received messages in plain Roman letters quickly and legibly on a blank message that was ready for delivery” (History Wired). Historically, it’s obvious that the telegraph was such an important invention during the Industrial Revolution. The telegraph changed communication and allowed people from all over the world to connect with one another.

One of the greatest technological advances was from the telegraph to the telephone. “The telephone came as a result of Alexander Graham Bell’s direct result of his attempts to improve the telegraph” (Bellis). Bell started working with electrical signals. When Bell began working the telegraph had already been a highly successful system for over 30 years. “One downfall to the telegraph was it was limited to sending and receiving one message at a time” (Bellis). With Bell’s understanding of music it allowed him to communicate multiple messages over the wire at the same time. Bell later on began to work with electricity allowed him to put work on his “harmonic telegraph”. Bell began to work with Thomas Watson which led for them to prove that the electric strength of an electric current in a wire could vary based on different tones. This led to them creating a working transmitter that could allow a receiver and electronic currents to replicate the variation in frequencies. “Bell’s greatest success was achieved on March 10, 1876 marked not only the birth of the telephone but the death of the multiple telegraph” (Bellis). One of the big improvements of the telephone over the telegraph was that anyone could use the telephone. In order to use the telegraph you would have to understand the Morse code or have to travel to a nearby office. Another improvement was the telephone allowed people from all over the world to communicate with one another. The telephone was a very orchestral in a business setting which allowed them to communicate with their salesmen and customers. The telephone and telegraph were a huge boast in the economy during the Industrial Revolution. “The telephone and telegraph also helped society, business, and the military which would suffer if we were still using methods such as the Pony Express and steamboats to communicate” (Bellis). The telephone and telegraph were such great inventions because they allowed people to communicate with one another and changed the speed in which people were able to communicate. This is why the telephone and telegraph changed communication and allowed for people all over the world to connect with one another.

The telegraph was the main reason for the improvement of communication during the Industrial Revolution. The improvement of communication in the world led to regional and local areas being merged into larger national ones. “In some areas, small firms grew, merged, and vertically integrated into large, multifunctional firms coordinating various functions or stages of economic activity internally” (Yates 149). The telegraph helped businesses economically by reducing the time and cost for communication of long distance which led to the emergence of efficient and large markets. Yates argues that “ the telegraph encouraged the growth and vertical integration of firms by forwarding the emergence of national market areas to absorb local and regional market areas” (Yates 150). This allows for the big markets to get new quicker and easier. “The telegraph expanded the area within which goods could be bought and sold under the influence of market forces” (Yates 151). This permitted people to almost instantaneously get information and produce transactions. The increased production of telegraphs led to postal rates dropping and led to communication being less expensive. Another important economic impact was with the increase in demand of telegraphs led to more jobs being available. These are all reasons why the telegraph had a huge economic impact on the economy.

The political effect the telegraph had was with arrival of sound broadcast. The government was required because of there resources to purchase the radio transmitters. “While owning the transmitting stations they could then be used for national propaganda purposes” (Marconi). One of the first to see how important the radio was was the military. The first to actively use radiotelegraph equipment in 1903 were the British naval ships. The use of the radio in the military was very slow at first because it was inefficient. The first time Marconi wireless telegraphy was used in battle was in the Boer war. A later improvement of antenna performance allowed for a later development of radio use in battle. The aforementioned instances in history are the reasons the telegraph had such a great political effect.

I believe where the telegraph had its greatest impact was on its social effect. First off the telegraph promoted the growth of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. Another thing the telegraph did was separate communication from transportation. Until the telegraph was invented communication was something that was hard to come by. Since the telegraph was created, it allowed for messages to be relayed on to other people. The telegraph also led to the creation of the telephone. Both the telephone and telegraph changed communication in the world today. The communication let people from everywhere be able to receive and send messages. These reasons show why the telegraph had a big social impact on the economy.

As you can see the telegraph had a big effect during the Industrial Revolution. The telegraph changed communication and allowed for people all over the world to connect with one another. I believe that its clear to see why the improvement of the telegraph into the telephone had such a big impact.


Bellis, Mary. "The History of the Telephone ." Inventors. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. .

Kishlansky, Mark. Civilization in the West Since 1555. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey Pearson Education, 2006. Print.
"Political Impact of Radio on Society." TESCONET. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. .

Smithsonian Institution. "HistoryWired: A few of our favorite things." HistoryWired: A few of our favorite things . Web. 16 Apr. 2011. .