Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Article excerpt

How the Telegraph Changed the World

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse sent the first official telegraph message from the Supreme Court room in Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. In less than 10 years, as shown on an 1853 map of telegraph stations (below), all states east of the Mississippi, except for Florida, were linked by telegraph lines. Like today's e-mail and social media, the telegraph enabled nearly instant communication, so it's no wonder the telegraph spread as quickly as it did.

A family tragedy had spurred Morse to work on developing better long-distance communications. An artist, Morse was painting a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette in Washington, D.C., when he received a letter from his father informing him that his wife and child back home in New Haven, Connecticut, had died. The letter didn't reach Morse until it was too late for him to attend their burials.

The telegraph, transmitting a code that Morse developed, delivered messages in minutes rather than days or weeks. The telegraph enabled President Lincoln to stay up to date on battlefield activities during the Civil War and send his commanders orders about battle tactics and changes in strategy. In 1861, the newly created U.S. Military Telegraph Corps began to string thousands of miles of telegraph wire and train more telegraph operators to send messages to and from the battlefield.

Later, thanks to the telegraph, news of Lincoln's assassination appeared in the next day's newspapers. When the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable connected the United States to Europe in 1866, newspapers joined forces to fund news collected and telegraphed from overseas. …

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