The telegraph in the nineteenth-century

As I sit writing this post for my blog, I begin to imagine how I would have done this in a world without internet. Nothing comes to mind. A world without internet is unimaginable. Yet, there was a time, a century or two ago, where this was the case. This was a time where communication between countries was terribly slow and inefficient. This is why the invention of the telegraph, in the early 1800’s was so significant and revolutionary…

The telegraph was first used by both the French government, who wanted to keep a control of their provinces and the military, who used it to keep in touch with other commanders in the field. However, the telegraph eventually made its way to the public and as a result, there was an increase in uses of the telegraph. Standage (1999 pg. 136) states that due to the telegraph, “the general public became participants in a continually unfolding global drama” meaning that citizens were no longer left completely in the dark when it came to global news.  Journalism was one of the principal benefiters of the telegraph, as the telegraph meant that information could travel faster, hence allowing newspapers to report news sooner. In addition to the journalism industry, Tarr, Finholt and Goodman (1987, pg. 41) claim that the telegraph “revolutionized business communications” as it delivered immediate message transmissions and also significantly reduced costs for information and transactions. The telegraph was used, in the business industry, to inform businessmen on market quantities and prices, much like Wall Street does today. Fire and police departments were also part of those who benefited from the telegraph. Prior to the invention of the telegraph, fire and police departments struggled to cope with the various fires and riots (Tarr, Finholt and Goodman, 1987). The introduction of the telegraph was also significant as it eventually led to the invention of the fire alarm telegraph.



In regards to socializing, the telegraph was sometimes used by telegraphers (individuals operating the telegraph) to communicate with one another. They often would play games with each other, chat, gossip and occasionally even fall in love (assuming one was male and the other female). In fact, this use of the telegraph even inspired a genre of literature commonly referred to as “telegraphic romance”.

To sum it all up, without the invention of the telegraph, we wouldn’t be able to be as technologically advanced as we are today and hence would not be able to communicate as easily as we can.


Standage, T 1999, The Victorian Internet, Walker & Company, London, Phoenix

Tarr, J A, Finholt, T & Goodman, D 1987, ‘The City and the Telegraph: Urban Telecommunications in the Pre-Telephone Era’, Journal of Urban History, vol.14, no.1, pp. 38-80



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