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History of the Telegraph in Communications

After the introduction of the European semaphore lines in 1792, the world’s desire to further its ability to communicate from a distance only grew. People wanted a way to send and receive news from remote locations so that they could better understand what was happening in the world around them – not just what was going on in their immediate town or city. This type of communication not only appealed to the media industry, but also to private individuals and companies who wished to stay in touch with contacts. It was the European optical telegraph, or semaphore, that was the predecessor of the electrical recording telegraph that changed the history of communication forever in America. In an effort to bring the option of long distance communication to the United States, American inventors began working on their own versions of the telegraph.

Building on the success of the optical telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse completed a working version of the electrical recording telegraph in 1837. Nearly half a century later after communication by telegraph had already been possible in Europe. Before Morse finished his electrical recording telegraph, also known as the Morse telegraph, there were other inventors who had also designed working versions of a telegraph. For example, Pavel Schilling completed an early version of a telegraph that used electromagnetic telegraphy in 1832. Additionally, there were German, Swedish and other inventors around the world that also had invented their own successful models of the telegraph, as well; theirs were the first telegraphs that were used for sending personal messages across long distances.

There are four primary types of telegraph machines: optical telegraphs, electrical telegraphs, Morse telegraphs, and wireless telegraphs. Eventually, transcontinental telegraph lines were established for worldwide communication, too. In 1872, the last country to become connected by telegraph was Australia, which then made it possible for news to spread worldwide.

One of the most common uses for telegraphs in the United States was for the railroad lines. Telegraphy made it possible to know when trains were leaving and when they should be expected to arrive, which in turn streamlined the railroad industry. Additionally, the military also utilized telegraph machines in much of its day-to-day communication. Initially, the cost to send each message was expensive, which meant sending personal messages by telegraph was not a common luxury that everyone had. However, the price did drop and the delivery rate of the messages also became more stable as advancements were made. Eventually, the teletypewriter was introduced. It offered an automated way to receive and send messages, which completely changed telegraphic encoding forever.

Although the telegraph that Samuel F. B. Morse successfully tested in 1837 is no longer in use today, its fall did give rise to many other forms of long distance communication. For example, wireless telegraphy, also known as radiotelegraphy or radio, is still a very important part of society.


Telegraph Information

The Invention of the Telegraph
Telegraph Lines in Arizona
Overview of the Telegraph
Who Invented the Telegraph?
Comprehensive History of the Telegraph in the United States
What is the Morse Telegraph?
The Invention of the Telegraph
Uses for the Electromagnetic Telegraph
How the Telegraph was Developed
How Communication has Evolved
The Conception, Refinement and Evolution of the Telegraph
Interesting Facts about the Telegraph
Pictures of Early Telegraphs
Telegraph Speed and Factors that Impact It
Timeline of the Telegraph
The Telegraph in the 19th Century
History of the Telegraph in Wisconsin

Telegraph Educator Materials

Activities to Help Learn about the Telegraph
Designing a Telegraph System Project
How to Build a Telegraph
Telegraph Communication for Kids
Explanation of the Telegraph for Kids
Diagram of a Basic Circuit
How to Build a Telegraph Set at Home
Song about a Telegraph
The Telegraph in the 1860′s
Video about the History of the Telegraph
How to Make a Telegraph Machine
History, Diagrams and Other Information about the Morse Telegraph
Interactive Morse Code Machine for Kids

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