The county’s first telegraph was “the miracle of the age” | Information, sports activities, jobs

Photo dated March 13, 1849 Warren Allegheny Times This article certainly seems to capture a sense of excitement the community felt about the connection of their first telegraph line.

When this was the only way to get to Warren County in the 1840s, this must really have felt like an isolated place to live, especially for those who came from more populated and closely connected metropolitan areas.

But there was technology on the horizon that could change all of that – technology that could take weeks to correspond with, say, someone in New York City and communicate with them almost instantly.

Alexander Graham Bell was decades in the future, so I don’t mean the phone, but the form of communication that put the phone down – the telegraph.

Rumors of a telegraph line from Fredonia to Pittsburgh circulated months before the project became a reality.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton This is a photo of a telegraph relay key in the collection of the Warren County Historical Society. It is designed to pick up and amplify weak telegraph signals. The Tidewater Pipe Company, which operated an oil pipeline in the late 19th century, used this device. The first telegraph arrived in Warren County in 1849.

“Most of the post-setting work will be outsourced to this location and we are informed by Mr. Pew, the contractor, that the line will be ready in four weeks by now.” the Warren Allegheny Mail newspaper reported on December 5, 1848.

“We should have a station and then of course be close to New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Washington and other neighboring cities!”

There was a lot of joy – and a considerable amount of hype – in the same newspaper the following March when the line went live.

From the March 13, 1849 edition: “The Fredonia to Pittsburgh telegraph line has at last been completed to this point, and we are now in close contact with all parts of the Union. The first lightning came last week.

Here is the exaggeration: “Time and space are destroyed. The famous Magnetic Telegraph – the miracle of time, the admiration of millions, the triumph of genius – now in its unobtrusive way spreads its advantages far and wide. What a subject to ponder! The fast-winged lightning bolts are torn from their home in the air, disarmed of their horror, harnessed in wire and made available to the people of Warren! Who says where the invention ends or when the miracles end! “

I sincerely hope that if I ever write something like this my editors will hit the delete key hard!

While the language is certainly flowery, the meaning of the line connecting Warren County was certainly incredibly important to the people who lived in the county at the time. The interest was so great that the newspaper tried to produce a weekly paper “Telegraphic report.”

Because Warren is connected, there is evidence that other communities in Warren County envisioned a ward in the months and years that followed.

The Warren Allegheny Mail reported a meeting in Columbus in September 1849 at which the organizer – a WP Pew – heard from a committee in Columbus that found their fellowship “Such a telegraph line, which deserves the attention and patronage of the citizens of this village and the surrounding area, and which your committee believes would be of great public benefit when completed.”

This committee decided that the telegraph as a technology “is one who can no longer be called doubtful.”

The line – called the “Allegheny & Erie Telegraph” 19n a Nov. 6, 1851 Warren Mail – to continue expanding.

“We have no doubt that this will be beneficial to our citizens doing business there. It’s cheaper and faster than before “, they reported.

While that line was perhaps the first, Schenck’s History of Warren County describes it as a total commercial flop.

Just a little less than five years ago, the Mail said the line “Is certainly in very bad shape, especially between this place and Jamestown. We cannot say whether this line north of Jamestown is in operation or not. If the line can be maintained in the future, we think it can pay a little more than the cost. “

Obviously, this has not proven to be a reality on site.

“It was a bad investment for shareholders, however, as every dollar invested was lost.” Schenck wrote in the 1880s. “The following year the line to Pittsburgh was completed; and that was only five or six years after the electrical telegraph first came on stream in the United States – on an experimental wire stretched from Baltimore to Washington, DC. “

But that doesn’t mean that technology didn’t play a prominent role in the development of the nation until the 1940s, because it definitely did.

“The travel time from New York City to Cleveland in 1800 was two weeks, with an additional four weeks to reach Chicago. By 1830 these travel times had halved, and by 1860 it only took two days to reach Chicago from New York City. “ according to an article by the Economic History Association. “With the telegraph, however, messages could be transmitted between these two cities almost instantly. This section examines three cases in which the Telegraph affected economic growth: railways, high-throughput companies, and financial markets. “

You write that the telegraph and the railroad “Were natural partners in retail. The telegraph needed the right of way that the railroads provided, and the railroads needed the telegraph to coordinate the arrival and departure of trains. “

Ultimately, the phone would kill the telegraph.

“The Telegraph flourished in the 1920s, but the Great Depression hit the industry hard and it never bounced back to its previous position.” according to this article. “In 1938, AT&T had 18%, Post 15%, and Western Union 64% of telegraph traffic. In 1945, 236 million domestic messages were sent for $ 182 million in revenue. This was most of the messages sent over the telegraph network in the United States in a year. By then, Western Union had integrated over 540 telegraph and cable companies into its system. “

They describe the important role that the telegraph played in a holistic sense.

“The Telegraph accelerated the speed of business transactions in the late 19th century and contributed to the industrialization of the United States. Like most industries, it faced new competition that ultimately proved its downfall. The phone was easier and faster to use, and the telegraph eventually lost its cost advantages. In 1988, Western Union separated from its telegraph infrastructure and focused on financial services such as money orders. A Western Union telegram is still available and currently costs $ 9.95 for 250 words. “

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