To Wire the World: Perry M. Collins and the North Pacific Telegraph Expedition

To Wire the World: Perry M. Collins and the North Pacific Telegraph Expedition

To Wire the World: Perry M. Collins and the North Pacific Telegraph Expedition

To Wire the World: Perry M. Collins and the North Pacific Telegraph Expedition

Synopsis

In the 1850s, American entrepreneur Perry M. Collins envisioned a world connected by an overland telegraph line. Western Union shared his vision, and, with Russia and England willing to be partners in the venture, it seemed possible to complete the massive undertaking. This is the story of how Collins helped to deploy a "telegraph army" to British Columbia, modern day Alaska, and Siberia. Supported by a "telegraph navy," these men surveyed, explored, and operated in dangerous--sometimes even life-threatening--environments to build the line from 1865 to 1867, only to have their attempts made obsolete by completion of the Atlantic cable in 1866.

Excerpt

I was sitting there, minding my own business, reading Walter McDougall's epic history of the North Pacific, Let the Sea Make a Noise, when I came to the part about Perry M. Collins and his North Pacific telegraph scheme. Hmmm. Interesting. Here was a subject with sufficient scope and drama and adventure to warrant a book. Besides, my mother's maiden name is Collins. More than enough motive to proceed. And that's pretty much how it began.

My goal was to tell the story of this nineteenth-century multicountry, trans-Pacific adventure in its entirety, with a primary focus on first-hand accounts of experiences in British Columbia, Russian America, Siberia, and at sea, by those who participated in exploring, surveying, and building Western Union's North Pacific telegraph line.

What intrigued me, among other things, was the fact that quite a few of these men were fresh from Civil War battlefields. Having survived, what would prompt them to reenlist in the "telegraph army" being organized in San Francisco; to board ships for a potentially dangerous sea voyage; to deploy to the wilds of British Columbia, Russian America, and eastern Siberia and their remote, sometimes hostile environments? I found the answer in Reindeer, Dogs, and Snowshoes, expedition veteran Richard J. Bush's book about his service with the telegraph army in Si-

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