|Telegraph :: 1887 :: The Progressive Era|
The Progressive Era: Crash Course US History #27
The Dreyfus Affair and Anti-Semitism: AP Euro Bit by Bit #36
1897: Upon published reports of his death, Mark Twain sends a telegram from London stating "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
1887 :: The Progressive Era
- Gould's Western Union succeeds in hostile take over of Baltimore & Ohion Telegraph
- Congress passes the Interstate Commerce Act, establishes the Interstate Commerce Commission, delegating legislative and executive authority to an expert agency commission
- 49th Cong. Sess 2 Chapt 136 An act for the construction of a military telegraph line from Sanford, Florida, to Point Jupiter, Florida, and the establishment of a signal station.
- Average salary Western Union telegraph operators NYC: Male - $71.56; Female - $36.75. [Testimony of Norvin Green, March 1, 1890 at 22]
- Pacific Railroad Act amended, giving authority to ICC over telegraph
- In Florida, as measured by miles of wire, WU had 53% of the domestic market, South Florida Telegraph had 23% of the market (South Florida Telegraph will be acquired by Western Union in 1902), and eight other companies had 24% of the market. Generally, in the markets where WU was present, it did not have competition. WU was in 15 counties; only three of those counties had competitors. As is typical of telecommunications markets, many small companies provided service to small markets where the dominant providers had failed to provide service. As is typical, WU's domestic service was very different from international service: while WU had 812 domestic wire miles, International Ocean Telegraph Company, as assessed by Florida, had 3798 wire miles. [Statement Showing the Assessment of Railroad and Telegraph Property for the Year 1888, Florida Senate Archive]
- WU Stock valued at $86,199,852.06. [Encyclopaedia Britannica 1889 at 652]
- Blizzard disrupts all communications out of NYC except via undersea cable [Banker's Magazine at 652]
188950th Cong. Sess. II Chapt. 280: An act granting the right of way to the Fort Smith, Paris and Dardanelle Railway company to construct and operate a railroad, telegraph, and telephone line from Fort Smith, Arkansas, though the Indian Territory, to or near Baxter Springs, in the State of Kansas.
- Western Union and Postal Telegraph collude and agree to set rates for domestic service. Western Union testified that it reduced or harmonized rates in offices regardless of whether that office was competing with Postal Telegraph [Testimony of Norvin Green, March 1, 1890 at 29 ("When we reduced our rates a year ago along with the Postal Telegraph Company , we reduced a great number of non competing offices . Our rates were originally inade by squares , but necessarily , as the rates were cut at the competing offices and left at the non - competing offices , there grew up inconsistencies ; but the rates have been revised , so that the non competing offices and out of the way offices , with very few exceptions , and mostly where they were on branch lines belonging to somebody else the rates were made uniform for like distances")]
- John Wanamaker appointed 38th Postmaster General. Will renew call for a government owned Postal Telegraph. [John Wanamaker, USPS] Immediately attempts to reduce the government rate for telegraph service pursuant to the Post Roads Act. Apparently the 10 word rate to the public excluded the address and the signature (so that in effect, with all words counted, it was a 20 word rate); the govt rate long ago set by the Postmaster General was per word regardless of whether it was address or content of the message (in effect canceling out the government discount) [Testimony of Norvin Green, June 9, 1890 at 10 (citing correspondence from the Postmaster General)] Apparently part of the incentive of Wanamaker was discovering that Associated Press was getting a better telegraph rate than the U.S. Government.[Testimony of Norvin Green, June 9, 1890 at 9]
- [Ohio 1889 at 1094 (WU stock value $86m; total miles of wire: 616,248; 17,241 offices; 28,340 employees)]
1890 :: Sherman Act passedSen. John Sherman, author of the Post Roads Act, rectifies its fatal flaw by introducing the Sherman Act and creating the first anti-trust authority. Sherman created the remedy which his Post Roads Act lacked. This will lead to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911, which will in turn lead to AT&T agreeing to the Kingsbury Commitment, divesting itself of Western Union, and becoming a government regulated monopoly.
- Hearing of the House Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, Testimony of Postmaster General John Wanamaker, Feb. 11, 1890, [For a Postal Telegraph.; Postmaster General Wanamaker's Bill Before Committee. NY Times Feb. 12, 1890 (Noting that Green and Chandler were invited but did not appear)]
- Report of the Postmaster General of the United States to Congress, Washington GPO 1890, Appendix G: Argument for a limited post and telegraph (Testimony from September 25)
- Postal Telegraphs, Hearing of the House Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, Statements of Norvin Green, President Western Union Telegraph Company, to the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., Feb. 28, March 1, May 20, and June 9, 1890 [Green 1890 at ] [The Postal Telegraph Bill, NYTimes June 18, 1890 Page 2 ("Dr. Norvin Green, President of the Western Union Telegraph Company, having been unable to get a hearing before the full Committee of the House on Post Offices and Post Roads, has, at the request of the committee, put his argument against the Postal Telegraph bill, submitted by the Postmaster General, in writing. ")]
"[T]his is a great agricultural country and that the farmers and the artisans have no occasion to use the telegraph. Their communications are few and far between. They prefer the mail because it is private and confidential. They have no business to communicate except in case of death. There is not one farmer, one blacksmith, one carpenter, one brick-layer, one stone-mason in a thousand who would use the telegraph once a year if it were five cents a message. They have no occasion to use it. The telegraph is essentially an adjunct to commerce and speculation. That is the nature of it." - Testimony of Norvin Green, March 1, 1890 at 30
"Moreover, ours is a constitutional government, with legislative powers absolutely limited to the specific grants in the Constitution. We have had enough of what has been termed the Constitution with modern improvements. Every amendment made necessary by the civil war, which ended more than twenty - five years ago, has been agreed to by all the States; and if we do not want the Government overloaded with all sorts of business that can be better done by the people, we had better go back to the legitimate objects of its creation, and keep close within the letter of the Constitution." – Testimony of Western Union President Norvin Green, June 9, 1890.
1892 :: Jay Gould Died
- Frank G. Carpenter, Henry Clay on Nationalizing the Telegraph, 154 N. AM. REV. 380, 382 (1892)
- Clark, The Telegraph and Telephone Properly Parts of the Post-office System (Arena, March 1892) ("Asserts that the government lost control of the telegraph only by accident and that there are the best of reasons for its resuming the right. ")
- Franklin Telegraph Co. v. Harrison, 145 U.S. 459 (1892) (dispute over pole attachment agreement)
- United States v. Western Union Tel. Co., 50 Fed. 28, 37 (1892); aff'd, 160 U. S. 1. A railroad may construct a telegraph line for railroad purposes, but not to carry on a general telegraphic business.
1893 :: Norvin Green Died :: Telegraph Peak Demand
- Western Union reaches peak demand of 67m messages per year. Western Union will stagger forward for the next two decades, giving up market share, until World War demand once again increases telegraph usage See Disruption [US Census Historical Statistics Appendix R] [Selden at 319 (stating that 1896 was "the year from which our (WU) last big prosperity wave dated")]
- Western Union President Dr. Norvin Green dies
- Thomas Eckert named President of Western Union. [Gen. Thomas Eckert Elected to Succeed Dr. Green, Western Union's President, New York Times, March 9, 1893] [NY Times Obituary] [Wolff at 287 ("Even more than his predecessors, Eckert 'milked' Western Union for profits rather than reinvesting in growth.")]
- 1890s Western Union carried more than 90% domestic telegraph traffic. [Brands p 2]
- Western Union acquires The American Rapid Telegraph Company. [Smithsonian]
- Dreyfus Affair: Dreyfus, a captain in the War Department in France, was accused of spying for the Germans. Italian coded telegrams, intercepted by the French, either cleared or implicated Dreyfus, depending on how the telegrams were decoded. A later telegram found in a waste basket cleared Dreyfus. [Standage 121] [What is the Dreyfus Affair, History.com] [Panizzardi Telegram] [Adam Gopnik, Trial of the Century, New Yorker Sept. 28, 2009]
1896 Telegraph Around the World
As part of the National Electrical Exposition May 16th, a telegraph was sent around the world, composed by Chauncey M. Depew to Edward D. Adams, over the Western Union Telegraph Company, the Postal Telegraph Company, and the Commercial Cable Company - and many other telegraph companies around the world. The message was received by Thomas Edison. Starting in New York and involving repeaters in Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Galverston, Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Canso, Novia Scotia, Bangor, ME, London. The messages read:
New York May 16th
To Edward D. Adams
God created, nature treasures, and science utilizes electrical power for the grandeur of nations and the power of the world.
(signed) Chauncey M. Depew
To Chauncey M. Depew
Mighty Niagara, nature's wonder, serving man through the world's electric circuit, proclaims to all peoples science triumphant and benevolent Creator.
(signed) Edward D. Adams
[Reports of the Telegraph and Cable Companies on the Long Distance Messages - The Golden Telegraph Key, Electrical Review, Vol. 23, No. 4 July 22, 1896] [Echoes of the Electrical Exposition, Western Electrician, p. 34 July 18, 1896]
1899: Marconi experiments with radio telegraph service.
© Cybertelecom ::
- Western Union Tel. Co. v. Call Publishing Co., 181 U.S. 92, 99-104 (1901) ("the Supreme Court ruled that telegraph companies had a duty – arising out of the common law – to serve all customers in a nondiscriminatory manner as a common carrier". Plaintiff claimed that Western Union was charging Plaintiff and a different paper, the Nebraska State Journal, significantly different rates ($5 per 100 words versus $1.5 per 100 words) for the delivery of Associated Press dispatches) [Call Publishing Co., 181 U.S. at __]
- Thomas Eckert retires as President of Western Union. [NY Times Obituary]
- December 17: Wright Brothers successfully demonstrate flight at Kitty Hawk. Telegraph home their success. Message is intercepted in Norfolk and published in the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot in a "ludicriously inaccurate account" with the headline "FLYING MACHINE SOARS 3 MILES IN TEETH OF HIGH WIND OVER HILLS AND WAVES AT KITTY HAWK ON CAROLINA COAST." [David McCullough, The Wright Brothers, Chapter 6. Section 1] #PRIVACY
1904"The system operated directly by the [Western Union] consists of over 192,000 miles of poles and cables, and over 900,000 miles of wire" [PA RR I, 195 U.S. at 542]
1908: Singularity: Private Electronic Communications Companies Owned by One Company
- AT&T acquires Western Union, divests itself of Western Union in 1913
- US Becomes Member of International Telegraph Union Convention & ITU [ITU List of Member States]
Federal Telegraph Company founded in Palo Alto. In 1928, acquired by the MacKay Companies. [The Perham Collection of Early Electronics at History San Jos�]
1910: Mann Elkins Act
- Mann-Elkins Act places all telegraph service under the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission. [See Pacific Railway Act of 1888, Sec. 3 (giving ICC oversight of compliance of Pacific Railway Act)]
- Marconi establishes American-European radiotelegraph service
- WU Former Pres. Thomas Eckert dies. [GEN. THOMAS T. ECKERT DEAD; Ex-President of Western Union Telegraph Co. Was 85 Years Old., NY Times Oct. 21, 1910]
- "the telegraph plant of this country in 1912 included about 247,000 miles of pole line carrying about 1,800,000 miles of wire. The capitalization of the land wires, segregated, is estimated at $150,000,000; including the ocean wires and submarine cables, the capitalization probably would amount to $220,000,000." [Govt Ownership 1914 at 8]
1913 :: Kingsbury Accord :: Government Regulated Communications Monopolies
- "Western Union developed multiplexing, which it made possible to transmit eight messages simultaneously over a single wire (four in each direction).
Office of the Postmaster General, Government Ownership of Electrical Means of Communication, S. DOC. NO. 399, 63d Cong., 2d Sess. 19 (1914)
- Page 9: "In view of the foregoing it is the opinion of your committee that it would be unwise from a commercial stand point for the Government to acquire the telegraph systems of the country."
- Much of the telegraph lines are constructed along railway ROW. There is a strong symbiotic relationship. The telegraph operators gain access of long rights of way, that connect major population centers. The railroads gain use of the communications network, helping them coordinate train traffic and take advantage of single track lines - instead of two tracks, one for each direction - saving in capital costs. As a result, telegraph companies indirectly benefited from the land grants that the federal government gave to the railroads.
"The original Morse telegraph printed code on tape. However, in the United States the operation developed into sending by key and receiving by ear. A trained Morse operator could transmit 40 to 50 words per minute. Automatic transmission, introduced in 1914, handled more than twice that number.
1917: World War I: USG Nationalizes Communications
Group of Western Union Messengers in Norfolk, Va.Lewis Wickes Hine, photographer, June 1911.National Child Labor Committee Collection. Prints & Photographs Division.
"Direct postal telegraph wire at a truck service station on U.S. 1 (New York Avenue), Washington, D.C." Call Number: LC-USF33- 020650-M1 [P&P]. June, 1940. Public Domain
Telegraph History: Telegram for America
Public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archive
Black and White, maybe 1950s
Telex Machine. ajmexico: Flicker (cc)
1919 June 28: Treaty of Versailles signed
- Western Union and Postal Telegraph enter into unsuccessful negotiations for merger. [TO MERGE WIRE FACILITIES.; Western Union-Postal Telegraph Scheme to be Adopted, NYT November 16, 1918, Page 12] Companies will merge in 1943
- Telegraphers Union Calls Strike Yesterday Against Western Union in Sympathy with AT&T's Telephonists, The commonwealth. (Scotland Neck, N.C.), 06 June 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. ("Employees of the Western Union who joined the Telegraphers Union on the assurance of Postmaster General Burleson that there would be no discrimination in regard to employees joining the union will not be taken back if they strike," Newcomb Carlton President of the Company announced today")
- WU's share of communications market is now declining, giving way to long distance telephone service and airmail service. [Bolter 77] [Field 252 ("Government subsidies to the fledgling air transport industry in the form of contracts for airmail carriage cut deeply into Western Union's overnight letter traffic")] [Egan at 118 (noting in 1947 competition from both telephone service and air mail service)]
- International Telephone & Telegraph established, the owners previously acquiring Puerto Rico Telephone Company in 1914 and the Cuban-American Telephone and Telegraph Company. [ITT History] [ITT Corp History] [ITT Virt. History]
1925: Western Union Teleprinter machines came into use.
1927: Western Union acquires Mexican Telegraph Company. [History of Atlantic Cable]
1928ITT acquires Postal Telegraph (along with the Commercial Cable Company), rebrands it Postal Telegraph & Cable.
1929 Great Depression begins
1931:AT&T introduces teletypewriter exchange service [EHA ("In 1938, AT&T had 18%, Postal 15% and Western Union 64% of telegraph traffic.")] [1934 Com. Study at 8 ("Recently [AT&T] has introduced over its wires a rented " teletype " service which the telegraph companies feel is an invasion of the field of telegraphy.")] [Field 251]
- Communications Act transfers oversight of telegraph to FCC.
- 1934 Com. Study at 5, detailing arguments over government ownership of telegraph.
- Proponents of nationalization argued that government ownership would result in:
- 1. Lower tolls due to (a) the elimination of the present com- munication company profits and excessive overhead costs; (b) the elimination of large " accounting " costs through the use of the post- age stamp in prepaying telegrams; (c) the saving on interest charges upon borrowed funds.
- 2. Better service by the consolidation of the telegraph and tele- phone, both wire and radio services.
- 3. The prevention of discriminatory services.
- 4. The prevention of speculative management.
- 5. The extension of service to the localities not now served.
- 6. The ability to present a united front to foreign systems.
- Opponents of government regulation argued that government ownership is objectionable due to:
- 1. The danger of political domination and interference.
- 2. Government " red tape."
- 3. The charge that the Government does not conduct its business economically.
- 4. The conjecture that Government ownership would discourage initiative, technical research, and advancement.
- 5. The belief that the communication service under Government ownership in foreign countries is inferior to ours under private ownership.
- 6. The belief that the people do not want Government ownership.
- Western Union operates approximately 23,000 telegraph offices in the U.S. [1934 Com. Study at 2]
- ITT operates approximately 2800 telegraph offices in the U.S. [1934 Com. Study at 2]
Market: Two wire telegraph carriers offer nation-wide domestic public-message telegraph service: Western Union Telegraph Co and the Postal Telegraph Cable Corporation. Other carriers - which offerings include teletrype exchange service - Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co, West Coast Telephone Co., Bell System, others. [FCC Report 1935 at 42-44 ]
[FCC Report 1935 at 42-44 ] Telegraph Channel Miles Investment Year 1934 Gross Revenue Net Income Tax Accruals Bell System 1,910,725 Postal Telegraph 678,255 $82,247,420 $21,016,334 $2,521,381 $490.000 Western Union 2,159,286 $328,663,661 $87,230,228 $2,243,084 $3,401,600 Other 22,467
1936: Varioplex enabled a single wire to carry 72 transmissions at the same time (36 in each direction). Two years later Western Union introduced the first of its automatic facsimile devices.
1938: Joseph Egan promoted to Vice President, Western Union. [NYTimes]
1943Western Union merges with Postal Telegraph Company. [Smithsonian] [Smithsonian Guide 1986] [TELEGRAPH MERGER BY OCT. 1 ARRANGED; Heads of Western Union and Postal Agree on the Terms, NYT May 14, 1943] A condition of the merger as approved was that WU would divest itself of its undersea cables. [Western Union Telegraph Co. v. United States of America and FCC, Case. No. 231 (2nd Cir. 1959) (affirming merger condition of divestment of international cable operations)] [FCC Report 1959 at 30] [Field at 252 ("Postal Telegraph, went into receivership between 1935 and 1940, and survived the Depression only with the infusion of $13.5 million of taxpayer funds from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The FCC would subsequently encourage and bless the absorption by Western Union of Postal Telegraph in 1943.")] [Egan at 131 (stating that WU paid nothing for Postal Telegraph, obtained $20m a year in additional revenue, assumed Postal Telegraph's debt of $12.5m which it paid off.)]
- National War Labor Board fines WU, "increasing wage costs by $23m annually in addition requiring retroactive way payments totally $31m." [Egan at 115]
- WU net revenue before taxes: $20m [Egan at 115]
- Operation Shamrock initiated by NSA in cooperation with ITT, RCA, and Western Union, intercepting telegraph traffic entering the United States. Shamrock continues until 1977. [Bamford (according to Bamford, the Presidents of the companies expressed strong concern over the legality of the program and demanded assurance from Pres. Truman)] [#Wiretap]
1947: Post Roads Act repealed.
- In re The Western Union Telegraph Co. General Rate Investigation, Docket 7445 (March 4, 1947) (addressing petition for rate increase for service to Canada, Labrador, and New Foundland)
- $6,258,355 EARNED BY WESTERN UNION; Half-Year Net Is Equal to $5.09 a Share, Against $6,832,438 Loss During 1946 Period, NY Times August 12, 1947, Section FINANCIAL, Page 35
1948: WU Pres. Joseph Egan dies. Walter Marshal, former Executive VP of Postal Telegraph, is named President WU [NYTimes]
Data Network Services
Western Union's network services evolve into financial services, Telex (an early email like service), and data networks. Western Union, which was not restrained from entering the Information Services market as AT&T was, was well positioned to be a first mover in the coming data network revolution. However, consistent with the "innovator's dilemma" and the fact that Western Union was at this point a struggling corporation, Western Unions incumbent incentives led to slow movement and poor decisions - leaving the data network market to other to capture.
1958: WU Gross Landline revenue: $240,729,000, a decline of $4.8m from 1957. Total net income $12,660,000 in 1958, a decrease from $14,194,000 for 1957. Private line telegraph services revenue $40.7m, an increase of $4.5m from 1957. Installed total of 2000 private wire systems, equalling 3 million circuit miles; largest is 25,000 mile system for Air Force. 4.5m miles telegraph circuits; 21,200 telegraph offices. [FCC Report 1959 at 7]
- Western Union inaugurated TELEX, which enables subscribers to the teleprinter service to dial each other directly. Telex was a precursor to email. Telex replaces Morse Code service. [Easterlin] [Jockers] In 1966, Western Union interconnects its Telex service with AT&T's Teletypewriter eXchange service. [Wernikoff]
- Western Union awarded contract for ComLogNet (Autodin) for U.S. Airforce.
1966 Data Networks
Western Union and Computer Inquiries :: Western Union wanted to enter data processing market - and refused to lease circuits to other companies building data services.
In 1966, Western Union was offering a data processing service [U.Penn.L.R. 343 1969 (citing Western Union Telegraph Co. Prospectus, December 5, 1966, at 5, 6, 8-9)][Irwin 1301 1967 ("Western Union already provides customized business information systems; it has established data processing service centers and computerized its switch- ing net. In the near future, besides its present job-finding services, the company will offer computerized credit and securities ratings, library bibliographies, and medical data.")]
AT&T sells TWX to Western Union. [Field 253 ("AT&T's timing could not have been better. The Internet was born in 1969, with the first e-mail messages sent in 1971. With the growth of these systems, and the ubiquity of facsimile transmission over telephone lines, the demand for teletypewriter services withered.")]
"Initially proposed in 1968 and offered to the public in 1970, Mailgram is a joint offering by the Postal Service and Western Union. Although Western Union manages, markets, and controls Mailgram service, it contracts with the Service to provide nationwide delivery services.
"The customer inputs his message by either telephoning Western Union, supplying it with magnetic tapes or discs, or by using his own Telex/TWX equipment. The cost is $1 to $2.80 for a message of 50 words or less. Western Union processes and transmits the message to a postal installation for next business day delivery. Western Union is responsible for accepting, processing, and transmitting the message while the Service is responsible for printing, enveloping, and delivering the output." [Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the US Postal Service, p. 2 August 1982 NTIS Order # PB83-265017]
The USPS will quickly replace this with ECOM, an email servicem of the same design - and email is sent to a destination post office where it is printed and delivered by mail.
Mailgram service was discontinued in 2006 [Mailgram Service Discontinued, USPS]
1971: Network email invented
- Western Union launches Westar I [WU History]
- Western Union awarded DOD contract for Autodin II. Project would be terminated in 1982 in favor of ARPANET
1979 FCC Ends Western Union's Telegraph MonopolyErnest Holsendolph, Western Union's Monopoly Challenged, NYT March 19, 1978, Section F, Page 2 (�The public decided the telegram issue for us,� said Mr. McFall in an interview in the company's Saddle River, N.J., headquarters. �Volume just declined steadily. We modernized offices -- didn't make any difference. We cut the price 25 percent � no improvement, we advertised in 13 cities and didn't generate a single telegram.�)
1982: BT terminates telegraph service. [The Telegraph 2017]
1988: Western Union reorganized; sells off international lines; sells Westar to GM Hughes; sells teletypewriters back to AT&T. Money orders would now be the focus of its business. [Field 253] [Elizabeth Neuffer, Telegrams Are on the Wane NYTimes August 7, 1987, Section A, Page 20 ("About 200 million telegrams were sent in 1929, but only 3 million in 1985, according to the Western Union Corporation. Telegrams are being replaced by the swifter telex, facsimile or telephone." "telegrams now make up only 5 percent of the company's business. ")] [AT&T to Acquire Some Western Union Assets, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1990 ("AT&T;, trying to build up its non-telephone businesses, said it would pay $180 million for Western Union’s electronic mail and Telex businesses, which accounted for 40% of its revenue last year.")]
1997: June 30th KPH - goes offline
1999: July 12th KFS, half moon bay, goes offline ("KFS was the last American ship-to-shore station to transmit in Morse, or "CW" as it was commonly called. Replaced by satellite technology, the era of the marine radio-telegrapher ended. ")
2006: Last Western Union Telegram sent.
2013: India terminates telegraph service [The Telegraph 2017]