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The Pony Express rides no more

Posted by: | September 15, 2011 | No Comment |

One of the most influential technological advances of the mid to late 19th century was the telegraph. The telegraph had the ability to drastically cut the travel time for news and other information.

Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of Morse code,

Samuel Morse's telegraph (Source: Wikipedia)

along with his assistant, Alfred Vail, created the first electrical telegraph. After several successful small scale tests in 1838, Morse was given $30,000 dollars for more work on his experimental system.

Finally, in 1844, Morse and Vail had reached their moment of truth. Their telegraph line was operational and their first public test was a message sent from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. What was the all-important message? “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT.” Coincidentally, the message was chosen by Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of the first Patent Commissioner, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth.

While the test was succesful, implementation of the machine took some time. It was not until almost 20 years later, in 1861, that the first telegraph line spanned transcontinentally.

Although it took some time, once the telegraph line was available, the Pony Express became obsolete. There was no longer a need for a horse, whose speed ultimately determined the spread of news.  Messages traveled along electrical wires run from one station to another and the contact was instantaneous.

Before long, the Pony Express was phased out. There was simply no way for it to compete.

under: Comm 455
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