Although the telegraph had fallen out of widespread use by the start of the 21st century, replaced by the telephone, fax machine and Internet, it laid the groundwork for the communications revolution that led to those later innovations. While scientists and inventors across the world began experimenting with batteries and the principles of electromagnetism to develop some kind of communication system, the credit for inventing the telegraph generally falls to two sets of researchers: Sir William Cooke (1806-79) and Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-75) in England, and Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale (1800-83) and Alfred Vail (1807-59) in the U.S.

In the 1830s, the British team of Cooke and Wheatstone developed a telegraph system with five magnetic needles that could be pointed around a panel of letters and numbers by using an electric current. He reportedly had become intrigued with the idea after hearing a conversation about electromagnetism while sailing from Europe to America in the early 1830s, and later learned more about the topic from American physicist Joseph Henry (1797-1878).

In collaboration with Gale and Vail, Morse eventually produced a single-circuit telegraph that worked by pushing the operator key down to complete the electric circuit of the battery. In 1843, Morse and Vail received funding from the U.S. Congress to set up and test their telegraph system between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.

On May 24, 1844, Morse sent Vail the historic first message: “What hath God wrought!” The telegraph system subsequently spread across America and the world, aided by further innovations. Another improvement, by the famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) in 1874, was the Quadruplex system, which allowed for four messages to be transmitted simultaneously using the same wire. Rather than taking weeks to be delivered by horse-and-carriage mail carts, pieces of news could be exchanged between telegraph stations almost instantly. Although the telegraph has since been replaced by the even more convenient telephone, fax machine and Internet, its invention stands as a turning point in world history.

Electrical telegraph

Electrical telegraph

Early system for transmitting text over wires. Morse Telegraph.

[1] At the sending station switches connected a source of current to the telegraph wires. It was the first electrical telecommunications system and the most widely used of a number of early messaging systems called telegraphs, that were devised to communicate text messages more rapidly than by physical transportation.

The first category consists of needle telegraphs in which a needle pointer is made to move electromagnetically with an electric current from a battery or dynamo passing down the telegraph line. The first commercial system, and the most widely used needle telegraph, was the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph, invented in 1837. Early equipment sets used five needles to point to the letter being transmitted, but the cost of installing wires was more economically significant than the cost of training operators so a single-needle system with a code that had to be learned became the norm.

The archetype of this category was the Morse system, invented by Samuel Morse in 1838, using a single wire. At the sending station, an operator would tap on a switch called a telegraph key, spelling out text messages in Morse code. In 1865, the Morse system became the standard for international communication with a modified code developed for German railways. However, some countries continued to use established national systems internally for some time afterwards.

By the latter half of the century, most developed nations had created commercial telegraph networks with local telegraph offices in most cities and towns, allowing the public to send messages called telegrams addressed to any person in the country, for a fee. Early work [ edit ].

From early studies of electricity, electrical phenomena were known to travel with great speed, and many experimenters worked on the application of electricity to communications at a distance. [10] Telegraphs employing electrostatic attraction were the basis of early experiments in electrical telegraphy in Europe, but were abandoned as being impractical and were never developed into a useful communication system. [14] Also that year, André-Marie Ampère suggested that telegraphy could be achieved by placing small magnets under the ends of a set of wires, one pair of wires for each letter of the alphabet.

First working systems [ edit ]. The lines were connected at both ends to revolving dials marked with the letters of the alphabet and electrical impulses sent along the wire were used to transmit messages.

It had a transmitting device that consisted of a keyboard with 16 black-and-white keys. These served for switching the electric current. The two stations of Schilling's telegraph were connected by eight wires; six were connected with the galvanometers, one served for the return current and one for a signal bell. Pavel Schilling subsequently improved its apparatus by reducing the number of connecting wires from eight to two. Gauss combined the Poggendorff-Schweigger multiplicator with his magnetometer to build a more sensitive device, the galvanometer. As a result, he was able to make the distant needle move in the direction set by the commutator on the other end of the line.

Diagram of alphabet used in a 5-needle Cooke and Wheatstone Telegraph, indicating the letter G. The patent recommended five needles, which coded twenty of the alphabet's 26 letters.

Morse key and sounder. Samuel Morse independently developed and patented a recording electric telegraph in 1837.

Morse and Vail developed the Morse code signalling alphabet. Commercial telegraphy [ edit ]. Cooke and Wheatstone system [ edit ].

The first commercial electrical telegraph was the Cooke and Wheatstone system. [36] Cooke and Wheatstone had their first commercial success with a system installed on the Great Western Railway over the 13 miles (21 km) from Paddington station to West Drayton in 1838. This was a five-needle, six-wire[36] system.

The Electric Telegraph Company, the world's first public telegraphy company was formed in 1845 by financier John Lewis Ricardo and Cooke. Wheatstone developed a practical alphabetical system in 1840 called the A.B.C. This consisted of a "communicator" at the sending end and an "indicator" at the receiving end. Against each letter was a key that could be pressed.

A transmission would begin with the pointers on the dials at both ends set to the start position. The transmitting operator would then press down the key corresponding to the letter to be transmitted.

Morse system [ edit ]. [47] The international Morse code adopted was considerably modified from the original American Morse code, and was based on a code used on Hamburg railways (Gerke, 1848).

Foy–Breguet system [ edit ]. In that year the Foy-Breguet system was replaced with the Morse system.

Wheatstone automated telegraph network equipment. There were many experiments with moving pointers, and various electrical encodings.

The first system that did not require skilled technicians to operate was Charles Wheatstone's ABC system in 1840 in which the letters of the alphabet were arranged around a clock-face, and the signal caused a needle to indicate the letter. The House machine was used on four main American telegraph lines by 1852. The system allowed for automatic recording on the receiving end.

The next improvement was the Baudot code of 1874. The first practical automated system was patented by Charles Wheatstone.

The message (in Morse code) was typed onto a piece of perforated tape using a keyboard-like device called the 'Stick Punch'. Early teletypewriters used the ITA-1 Baudot code, a five-bit code. The first wide-coverage Telex network was implemented in Germany during the 1930s[65] as a network used to communicate within the government. Automatic teleprinter exchange service was introduced into Canada by CPR Telegraphs and CN Telegraph in July 1957 and in 1958, Western Union started to build a Telex network in the United States. These various frequencies, referred to as harmonics, could then be combined into one complex signal and sent down the single wire. Oceanic telegraph cables [ edit ].

Soon after the first successful telegraph systems were operational, the possibility of transmitting messages across the sea by way of submarine communications cables was first proposed. The telegraph lines from Britain to India were connected in 1870.

(Those several companies combined to form the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1872.). From the 1850s until well into the 20th century, British submarine cable systems dominated the world system. Cable and Wireless Company [ edit ].

The Eastern Telegraph Company network in 1901. The Eastern Telegraph Company [78]. The Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies[79].

Telegraphy and longitude [ edit ]. The telegraph was very important for sending time signals to determine longitude, providing greater accuracy than previously available. Telegraphy in war [ edit ].

American Civil War [ edit ]. Before the war the Government saw no need to connect lines within city limits, however, they did see the use in connections between cities. Within 6 months of the start of the war, the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps (USMT) had laid approximately 300 miles (480 km) of line.

First World War [ edit ]. During World War I, Britain's telegraph communications were almost completely uninterrupted, while it was able to quickly cut Germany's cables worldwide. Second World War [ edit ].

End of the telegraph era [ edit ]. In America, the end of the telegraph era can be associated with the fall of the Western Union Telegraph Company.

Western Union was the leading telegraph provider for America and was seen as the best competition for the National Bell Telephone Company.



The first transmitters and receivers. Application of the battery to telegraphy was made possible by several further developments in the new science of electromagnetism. Morse’s original transmitter incorporated a device called a portarule, which employed molded type with built-in dots and dashes.

The type could be moved through a mechanism in such a manner that the dots and dashes would make and break the contact between the battery and the wire to the receiver. The first demonstration of the system by Morse was conducted for his friends at his workplace in 1837.



Ancient signalling systems, although sometimes quite extensive and sophisticated as in China, were generally not capable of transmitting arbitrary text messages. It was first taken up in Britain in the form of the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph, initially used mostly as an aid to railway signalling.

Telegrams became a popular means of sending messages once telegraph prices had fallen sufficiently. However, telegrams were never able to compete with the letter post on price, and competition from the telephone, which removed their speed advantage, drove the telegraph into decline from 1920 onwards. Contrary to the extensive definition used by Chappe, Morse argued that the term telegraph can strictly be applied only to systems that transmit and record messages at a distance.

While the signalling was complex (for instance, different-coloured flags could be used to indicate enemy strength), only predetermined messages could be sent. Tacticus's system had water filled pots at the two signal stations which were drained in synchronisation.

Polybius (2nd century BC) suggested using two successive groups of torches to identify the coordinates of the letter of the alphabet being transmitted. Holzmann and Pehrson, for instance, suggest that Livy is describing its use by Philip V of Macedon in 207 BC during the First Macedonian War. [9][10]: 26–29 Possibly the first alphabetic telegraph code in the modern era is due to Franz Kessler who published his work in 1616.

At the time of its discovery in Africa, the speed of message transmission was faster than any existing European system using optical telegraphs. Early proposals for an optical telegraph system were made to the Royal Society by Robert Hooke in 1684[12] and were first implemented on an experimental level by Sir Richard Lovell Edgeworth in 1767.

[13] The first successful optical telegraph network was invented by Claude Chappe and operated in France from 1793. During 1790–1795, at the height of the French Revolution, France needed a swift and reliable communication system to thwart the war efforts of its enemies. In 1790, the Chappe brothers set about devising a system of communication that would allow the central government to receive intelligence and to transmit orders in the shortest possible time. The first means used a combination of black and white panels, clocks, telescopes, and codebooks to send their message. In 1792, Claude was appointed Ingénieur-Télégraphiste and charged with establishing a line of stations between Paris and Lille, a distance of 230 kilometres (140 mi). [15] A decision to replace the system with an electric telegraph was made in 1846, but it took a decade before it was fully taken out of service.

However, they were highly dependent on good weather and daylight to work and even then could accommodate only about two words per minute. The early ideas for an electric telegraph included in 1753 using electrostatic deflections of pith balls,[17] proposals for electrochemical bubbles in acid by Campillo in 1804 and von Sömmering in 1809. [22]: 16, 37 France had an extensive optical telegraph dating from Napoleonic times and was even slower to take up electrical systems.

An early experimental system (Schilling, 1832) led to a proposal to establish a telegraph between St Petersburg and Kronstadt, but it was never completed. [24] The first operative electric telegraph (Gauss and Weber, 1833) connected Göttingen Observatory to the Institute of Physics about 1 km away during experimental investigations of the geomagnetic field. [26] In July 1839, a five-needle, five-wire system was installed to provide signalling over a record distance of 21 km on a section of the Great Western Railway between London Paddington station and West Drayton. Cooke extended the line at his own expense and agreed that the railway could have free use of it in exchange for the right to open it up to the public.

[29][30] The Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph, in a series of improvements, also ended up with a one-wire system, but still using their own code and needle displays. [31] However, Great Britain and the British Empire continued to use the Cooke and Wheatstone system, in some places as late as the 1930s.

Wigwag was used extensively during the American Civil War where it filled a gap left by the electrical telegraph. Although the electrical telegraph had been in use for more than a decade, the network did not yet reach everywhere and portable, ruggedized equipment suitable for military use was not immediately available. Permanent or semi-permanent stations were established during the war, some of them towers of enormous height and the system for a while could be described as a communications network.

US Forest Service lookout using a Colomb shutter type heliograph in 1912 at the end of a telephone line. At some point, a morse key was added to the apparatus to give the operator the same degree of control as in the electric telegraph. Miles' enemies used smoke signals and flashes of sunlight from metal, but lacked a sophisticated telegraph code. [37] The heliograph was ideal for use in the American Southwest due to its clear air and mountainous terrain on which stations could be located. Use of the heliograph declined from 1915 onwards, but remained in service in Britain and British Commonwealth countries for some time. Australian forces used the heliograph as late as 1942 in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II.

A chemical telegraph making blue marks improved the speed of recording (Bain, 1846), but was delayed by a patent challenge from Morse. [40] The Baudot code was used on the earliest ticker tape machines (Calahan, 1867), a system for mass distributing stock price information. The advantage of doing this is that messages can be sent at a steady, fast rate making maximum use of the available telegraph lines.

Underwater, a good insulator that was both flexible and capable of resisting the ingress of seawater was required, and at first this was not available. A solution presented itself with gutta-percha, a natural rubber from the Palaquium gutta tree, after William Montgomerie sent samples to London from Singapore in 1843. The new material was tested by Michael Faraday and in 1845 Wheatstone suggested that it should be used on the cable planned between Dover and Calais by John Watkins Brett. The idea was proved viable when the South Eastern Railway company successfully tested a three-kilometre (two-mile) gutta-percha insulated cable with telegraph messages to a ship off the coast of Folkstone.

A cable laid in 1858 worked poorly for a few days (sometimes taking all day to send a message despite the use of the highly sensitive mirror galvanometer developed by William Thomson (the future Lord Kelvin) before being destroyed by applying too high a voltage. [48] The company finally succeeded in 1866 with an improved cable laid by SS Great Eastern, the largest ship of its day, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Australia was first linked to the rest of the world in October 1872 by a submarine telegraph cable at Darwin. [53] During World War I, Britain's telegraph communications were almost completely uninterrupted while it was able to quickly cut Germany's cables worldwide. In 1843, Scottish inventor Alexander Bain invented a device that could be considered the first facsimile machine. Frederick Bakewell made several improvements on Bain's design and demonstrated a telefax machine.

In 1855, an Italian abbot, Giovanni Caselli, also created an electric telegraph that could transmit images. Around 1900, German physicist Arthur Korn invented the Bildtelegraph widespread in continental Europe especially since a widely noticed transmission of a wanted-person photograph from Paris to London in 1908 used until the wider distribution of the radiofax. Its main competitors were the Bélinographe by Édouard Belin first, then since the 1930s, the Hellschreiber, invented in 1929 by German inventor Rudolf Hell, a pioneer in mechanical image scanning and transmission. At the end of 1894, the young Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi began working on the idea of building a commercial wireless telegraphy system based on the use of Hertzian waves (radio waves), a line of inquiry that he noted other inventors did not seem to be pursuing. After many breakthroughs, including applying the wired telegraphy concept of grounding the transmitter and receiver, Marconi was able, by early 1896, to transmit radio far beyond the short ranges that had been predicted. [59] Having failed to interest the Italian government, the 22-year-old inventor brought his telegraphy system to Britain in 1896 and met William Preece, a Welshman, who was a major figure in the field and Chief Engineer of the General Post Office.

A series of demonstrations for the British government followed—by March 1897, Marconi had transmitted Morse code signals over a distance of about 6 km (3+1⁄2 mi) across Salisbury Plain. On 13 May 1897, Marconi, assisted by George Kemp, a Cardiff Post Office engineer, transmitted the first wireless signals over water to Lavernock (near Penarth in Wales) from Flat Holm.

][citation needed] His star rising, he was soon sending signals across the English Channel (1899), from shore to ship (1899) and finally across the Atlantic (1901). In 1904, Marconi began the first commercial service to transmit nightly news summaries to subscribing ships, which could incorporate them into their on-board newspapers. A telegram service is a company or public entity that delivers telegraphed messages directly to the recipient.

Earlier optical systems were largely limited to official government and military purposes. [65]: 276 Messages sent by telegraph could be delivered faster than mail, and even in the telephone age, the telegram remained popular for social and business correspondence.

[67] Where telegram services still exist, the transmission method between offices is no longer by telegraph, but by telex or IP link. Western Union gave up their patent battle with Alexander Graham Bell because they believed the telephone was not a threat to their telegraph business.

[65]: 277 In the modern era, the telegraph that began in 1837 has been gradually replaced by digital data transmission based on computer information systems. Starting in Germany and the UK, electric telegraph lines were installed by railway companies. The electric telegraph freed communication from the time constraints of postal mail and revolutionized the global economy and society.

[73][74] By the end of the 19th century, the telegraph was becoming an increasingly common medium of communication for ordinary people. According to author Allan J. Kimmel, some people "feared that the telegraph would erode the quality of public discourse through the transmission of irrelevant, context-free information.".

Henry David Thoreau thought of the Transatlantic cable "...perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.". Telegraphy facilitated the growth of organizations "in the railroads, consolidated financial and commodity markets, and reduced information costs within and between firms". [65]: 274–275 This immense growth in the business sectors influenced society to embrace the use of telegrams once the cost had fallen. [75] Media language had to be standardized, which led to the gradual disappearance of different forms of speech and styles of journalism and storytelling. The shortage of men to work as telegraph operators in the American Civil War opened up the opportunity for women of a well-paid skilled job. Poems include Le Telégraphe, by Victor Hugo, and the collection Telegrafen: Optisk kalender för 1858 by Elias Sehlstedt [sv][77] is dedicated to the telegraph.

In novels, the telegraph is a major component in Lucien Leuwen by Stendhal, and it features in The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. An illustration declaring that the submarine cable between England and France would bring those countries peace and goodwill. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in praise of submarine telegraph cables; "And a new Word runs between: whispering, 'Let us be one! '"[78] Kipling's poem represented a widespread idea in the late nineteenth century that international telegraphy (and new technology in general)[79] would bring peace and mutual understanding to the world.

It is the harbinger of an age when international difficulties will not have time to ripen into bloody results, and when, in spite of the fatuity and perveseness of rulers, war will be impossible.

What Is Telegram, and Why Are Iran and Russia Trying to Ban It

What Is Telegram, and Why Are Iran and Russia Trying to Ban It

Although Telegram was founded by a Russian, Pavel Durov (more on him later), the messaging app rejects any affiliation with Russia.

Inventor Samuel Morse sends the first US telegram

He used equipment of his own invention, which was very different from that created a few years earlier across the Atlantic, when William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone pioneered the use of the electric telegraph in Great Britain. Their electric telegraph – a forerunner of the telephone – made its first appearance on 25 July 1837, and used electromagnetism to point needles at alphabetic symbols to spell out messages.

After the Second World War, however, as the telephone network expanded, and with it the option of cheap calls across Britain, the relatively expensive medium of telegrams lost its lustre. But they were spotted by the captain who sent a telegram to Scotland Yard in time for a police officer to board a faster boat to Canada, and arrest Crippen on arrival. On a lighter note, when American author Mark Twain heard that his obituary had accidentally been published in the US in 1897, he sent a telegram from London saying: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”. American journalist Robert Benchley, meanwhile, famously sent a droll telegram to his editor at The New Yorker upon arriving in Venice for the first time: “Streets full of water.

How Samuel Morse and the Telegraph Still Influence Your Life

How Samuel Morse and the Telegraph Still Influence Your Life

Described by biographer Carleton Mabee as “the American Leonardo,” Morse was a man of varied talents and diverse interests. Trained as a visual artist, Morse became one of the early republic’s finest painters and an early adopter of daguerreotype photography.

He did, however, show promise as an artist. To develop this promise, Morse embarked on a costly, multi-year course of artistic study in Europe. He also developed the idea for the telegraph while returning from the continent.

Get your history fix in one place: sign up for the weekly TIME History newsletter. It would be years before this device reached maturity.

The device Morse brought before the public was a far cry from latter-day telegraphs. … Morse was the man who was publically experimenting, in our midst, on this subject … who besieged the doors of Congress for an appropriation to enable him to demonstrate the practicability of his invention … who, in 1844, laid down the first line of Electric telegraph in this country, from Washington to Baltimore, and sped the first aerial message on its electric path.

… If others knew that electricity could be used for recording language at a distance, and kept the knowledge from the public … we think they are too late to claim the credit, after another, by labor and devotion, has accomplished the work. His invention, quite literally, reached around the world – with telegraphic cables stretching across Eurasia, the Bering Strait, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean. In recent years, scholar Trish Loughran has argued that the telegraph pushed America toward Civil War by forcing readers in the North and South to grapple with profound differences in how they viewed the nation and its future.

Civil War Innovations

Civil War Innovations

Submarines were not the only innovation to come out of the Civil War, which some call the first "modern" war. Telegraph.

This allowed Union guns to be repositioned and fired accurately at troops more than three miles away-a first in military history. The Civil War was the first war to use railroads, encouraged by President Lincoln — himself a former railroad lawyer — who understood how vital they were for moving men and supplies.

While the South's rail system was weak, they were the first to use trains to their advantage, transporting supplies and soldiers to vital areas. Army ambulance corps. To this day the military bases its ambulance system on Letterman's ideas. Weapons and Ships. It was not used extensively during the Civil War. At the start of the Civil War the North had a distinct naval advantage as the South didn't have a dedicated Navy.

The History of the Electric Telegraph and Telegraphy

The History of the Electric Telegraph and Telegraphy

In 1828, the first telegraph in the USA was invented by Harrison Dyar, who sent electrical sparks through a chemically treated paper tape to burn dots and dashes. In 1825, British inventor William Sturgeon (1783-1850) introduced an invention that laid the foundation for a large scale revolution in electronic communications: the electromagnet. Sturgeon demonstrated the power of the electromagnet by lifting nine pounds with a seven-ounce piece of iron wrapped with wires through which the current of a single cell battery was sent. He used pulses of current to deflect an electromagnet, which moved a marker to produce written codes on a strip of paper. Before the line had reached Baltimore, the Whig party held its national convention there and nominated Henry Clay on May 1, 1844. The news was hand-carried to Annapolis Junction, between Washington and Baltimore, where Morse's partner Alfred Vail wired it to the capitol.

sent by "Morse Code" from the old Supreme Court chamber in the United States capitol to his partner in Baltimore officially opened the completed line on May 24, 1844. Morse allowed Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a friend, to choose the words of the message and she selected a verse from Numbers XXIII, 23: "What hath God wrought?".

Morse's early system produced a paper copy with raised dots and dashes, which were translated later by an operator. In 1913, Western Union developed multiplexing, which made it possible to transmit eight messages simultaneously over a single wire (four in each direction). By 1879, patent litigation between Western Union and the infant telephone system ended in an agreement that largely separated the two services.

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