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The telegraph is a machine that electronically transmits messages along a system of wires from a transmission point to a receiving point in a separate location. The telegraph allowed for rapid communication which was once impossible. The telegraph enabled greater economic and personal opportunities and relationships to flourish.

Telegraph Machine

With the rise of railroad systems across Europe and America, the need to transmit and communicate messages faster began to grow. Prior to the telegraph, communication could only travel as fast as the fastest train or horse. Following the invention, the barriers of space and time no longer prevented an individual or organization from communicating in a timely and efficient manner.

During the 1830s, an inventor named Samuel Morse developed a communication system that worked by sending electronic pulses along a wire network. These electronic pulses would evolve into the now famous “Morse Code”. His system devised a way for each letter of the alphabet to correspond to a “dot or dash” electronic impulse, that when learned, could become easily discernible to the receiver.

This groundbreaking invention became known as the telegraph and created the basis for the modern international communication network. The telegraph revolutionized how companies were run and how wars were fought, and also allowed people to become closer despite geographic location. Although the telegraph has become an antique in the 21st century, it very much paved the road for the modern telephone and internet systems that we rely on today.

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Significant Telegrams Throughout History

  • Samuel Morse’s First Telegram
  • The Zimmerman Telegram
  • Titanic’s Final Message
  • Air Raid on Pearl Harbor “This is Not a Drill”
  • D-Day
Learn more about inventions and discoveries that have changed the world in our Picture Encyclopedia of Innovations!
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