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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Telegraph Era - Worldwide

Following upon the 1825 development of an electromagnet by British inventor William Sturgeon, the American scientist Joseph Henry demonstrated in 1830 that an electric current sent along a mile-long wire could activate an electromagnet to ring a bell. This would be considered the birth of the electric telegraph, and the forerunner of what would become a telecommunications industry.

While many applications of telegraphy had been developed in Hudson's Bay Railway line, Manitoba. Note tripod telegraph line.Germany, France and Great Britain, it would be American inventor Samuel F.B. Morse who would be credited with ultimately bring telegraphic technology to the forefront of communications culture. The American inventor, who would eventually develop and give his name to the dots and dashes of international Morse Code, was the first to show the commercial possibilities of Henry’s demonstration.

In 1835, Morse, then a professor of arts and design at New York University, transmitted signals by wire, using pulses of electrical current to deflect an electromagnet, which moved markers attached to the electromagnet. A year later, and with modifications to his telegraph receiver, the markers would be abandoned in favour of embossed code on paper tickertape.

It would be three years before the public would see Morse’s work, and a further five years before the US Congress would approve an expenditure of $30,000 to construct a 40-mile (64 kilometre) telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. The first telegraph message, sent on 24 May 1844, was "What hath God wrought?"

Telegraph signs By 1861, the US was linked by telegraph "from sea to shining sea," and in the early years of American telegraphy, communities were connected by more than 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometres) of wire.

Morse’s system was adopted by several European countries, and in 1858, he was paid 400,000 francs as compensation for its use. Its early application during periods of international armed conflict would be revealed during the Crimean War (1854-56), the American Civil War (1861-65), the Spanish-American War (1898), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).


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