Talk:Electrical telegraph

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Initial comments[edit]

Electrical telegraph "The first practical system was built in 1844". So, what in particular was impractical about the slightly earlier Cooke-Wheatstone telegraph? Kwantus 08:02, 2005 Jan 30 (UTC)

The Charles Wheatstone telegraph used five wires. That was impractical as too expensive for long-distance operation to thinly populated regions, where the companies could barely afford to put up one or two copper (usually the cheaper iron or steel) wire on poles 200 feet apart, but the Wheatstone telegraph was apparently economical enought for mainline railroads in Great Britain. There was MUCH less instalation and maintenance cost for one wire with the dot-dash Morse code than for five wires with six galvo needles deflecting. Also, Morae code was easier to send and receive, so less training time for the operators, and hence lower wages were paid to them.Edison 00:10, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
The Schilling telegraph worked between two rooms in his apartment, hardly long distance or practical, and it sounds like a replication of the work of Andre Ampere in 1821 or the work of Joseph Henry in 1831. More documentation is needed (in English please) to show that Schilling's system worked over more than a couple of hundred feet. Otherwise the reference to him should be removed from the introductory paragraph.Edison 04:28, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Sea diver 05:34, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

Global communication[edit]

From the article

Within 29 years of its invention, the telegraph network crossed the oceans to every continent, making instant global communication possible for the first time.

I don't suppose anyone could actually give the real year for this instead? There doesn't seem to be any consensus on when it was invented, and depending on which year you use you can have global commmunication arriving before the first successful transatlantic cable, somehow. This sentence is totally unclear, but I don't have the knowledge to fix it. FunnyYetTasty 19:42, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

I have fixed this by substituting first deployment (at Euston Station) for invention. [User: Neilbarton 11 November 2006]

The rest of this discourse, on the time-value of information etc, while it has some interest, is out of place here. Better just to delete it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:35, 11 November 2010 (UTC)


Added some history of the sequence of invention of the components needed for telegraphy. Once there had been published the details of the voltaic pile (or later batteries), the multiple winding high resistance electromagnet, and the relay, the telegraph was pretty obvious. Morse's role has been decreased too far in recent edits, but he is very important in commercialization of the telegraph in the US, and in the use of his code. Morse was not very knowledgable of electricity, and tried to use a 1 winding Sturgeon magnet and a 1 cell battery, so his system only worked when he used the components invented and demonstrated by Henry. There may be too much emphasis given here to early tinkerers who built impractical short distance telegraphs which were not and could not have been used commercially over tens or hundreds of miles, and which did not influence later development to any great extent. Edison 00:03, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

The article currently says : In 1828, Joseph Henry improved the electromagnet by placing on it several windings of insulated wire, creating a much more powerful electromagnet which could operate a telegraph through the high resistance of long telegraph wires. In January, 1831 he published his work and demonstrated his electromagnetic telegraph to his science classes at the Albany Academy and later at Princeton University. What about valid proofs of Henry's demonstration of telegraph in 1831? I mean : any paper articles, draught of Henry's device or layout of his telegraph apparatuses (transmitter and receiver) etcetera?- Sea diver 02:37, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

My local library has no scientific journals from 1831, so it will take a little digging. The Henry papers were reprinted by the Smithsonian after his death, so they should in principle be accessible. If they are like Faraday's published notebooks, they may be stronger on descriptions than on circuit diagrams. The reference #1 is a good secondary source, as is the book reference 2. Apparently there were numerous students of the early 1830s who saw the demonstrations who were around when tributes to Henry were compiled after he died. Henry was also good at publishing, so there are volumes of his papers. Ref 1 says that Henry was no businessman like Morse, and never sought to market the device, but he demonstrated and published the necessary principles for the building blocks needed to make a long-distance telegraph. Morse himself was lacking in electrical knowledge, but claimed to have independently invented every aspect of the commercially successful telegraph. Henry was content to demonstrate ringing a bell through miles of wire. The Henry circuit was capable of sending Morse-type signals, but I did not see any reference to his having created such a code to send messages other than "ding, ding----ding," The point I seek to make is that a multitude of "inventors" were merely building things they had read about. Often these were only toys which worked from one room to another, but amazed the locals. Then their adherents often claim they "independently rediscovered" things which were at the time available in the few scientific journals. The Morse telegraph required the high resistance (intensity)magnet for the "line" circuit and the low resistance (amplitude) magnets for the "local" circuit developed by Henry to work beyond about 40 feet, but Morse denied him any credit. At the same time, Morse hired capable people (Vail) and was a great promoter, and was unstoppable in getting a federal appropriation and demonstrating long distance telegraphy. Henry would have never done that, and the successful telegraph would have waited for someone else. Edison 23:29, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
So,Henry was capable to demonstrate ringing a bell through miles of wire? Good. This is a demonstration of kind of electric signaling. Henry did not invent some special code for transmitting and receiving telegraphic messages.Other inventors of telegraph (optical or electric telegraph) did it. Sad, but secondary sources are secondary sources. We have only suggestions that Henry invented and demonstrated his electromagnetic telegraph in 1831.- Sea diver 02:59, 18 July 2006 (UTC)
The references cited had far more than "suggestions." Actually it is very rare to have an original publication of an 1831 scientific journal as a reference in a Wiki article. Some have been republished and are available in university libraries, but most such originals are going to be in rare book collections. They are not going to be very accessible to other Wiki editors, unless some helpful person scans them and puts them on a Web site for all to read. A refereed journal article reviewing the history of the field, or abook from a reputable publisher is all you will find for many such matters. They are verifiable sources, and they are available for reading. Princeton University Press and the Smithsonian Institution are reliable and verifiable sources. Add in the factor that some of the primary publications for some electrical researchers are in foreign languages and might only be found in special collections of a library in Russia, say, for scientists. The article writer could claim it says just about anything, and who could spent thousands of dollars to go there and consult the original? Likewise many papers only exist as boxes of papers donated to some library, and only specially qualified scholars are allowed access. If the general public handled the lab journals of some 18th or early 19th century scientist the papers would not survive. It is more reasonable to use as a reference a scholarly article which analyzes the original. This is what I have seen in many articles in encyclopedias such as Brittanica. The scholarly review article's author gets asccess to the original papers, the encyclopedia reader gets access to reprints or review articles. Early writings on electricity are pretty incomprehensible, because the terminology is different from today's, and the units are often different, meaning current in one era may have been in Webers, which is now a magnetic flux unit. The modern units, ohms, amps, farads, henrys, volts only were adopted in the 1880's, although some of the term were used a few years earlier, but with different values.It is helpful to have a more recent reference even if you have the original paper. The Henry book and website reference the original publications. Other Wiki articles have even fewer references, unless the researcher has "fans." Volta only has a reference to "Catholic Encyclopedia, which has no references. Galvani only has secondary sources. User:Edison|Edison]] 14:35, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Telegraph History[edit]

For a British perspective on the history of the electric telegraph in some detail, try:

Comment and corrections are welcome.


Some more photos would be useful, especially of the other types of telegraphs. Here are the very high quality photos: [1] But I don't know their copyright status.

Cheers, Critto

Needs added pics of Morse code keyer and typical telegraph wires strung from poles, perhaps along railway line, from the old days.- 12:41, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Telegraph with a piano keyboard[edit]

In Polish Museum of Technics ( I have seen an old, XIXth century telegraph with what looked like a piano keyboard; as I found out later, it was Hughes Telegraph. It's also presented here: It has a rotating printing head. Any mention about this machine would be useful. Thanks Critto

Main History Missing[edit]

This article covers the tech history, but leaves out almost all of the practical bulk matters, from the main period of 1860-1900. No discussion of the companies and competition, the business side, very important in American and European business history, and the use of telegraphs alongside the railroads - something that proved to be essential for their efficient operation. No annual figures for messages sent and total profits. How many telegraph stations were there in certain countries? Were they open 24 hours a day? Was the cost affordable to the general publis? How did the messages get delivered to the addressee? What was it really like to live with this communication system, in the daily lives of people, especially businessmen and politicians? Maybe a link to EB1911 would help?- 12:50, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

There is not even an article in the Wilipedia on Telegraph company. Futhermore, does this article link to major telegraph companies like the Western Electric Company? Furthermore, the telegraph systems in many countries around the world were operated by the national govenments, mostly directed to the Post Office systems. Following the invention of the telephone in 1874, this lead to the evolution of the Postal, Telephone, and Telegraph (PTT) systems that existed in many countries for more than 100 years. (talk) 02:28, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Names, but no geographic context[edit]

The first large paragraph is largely a collection of names: Sturgeon, Henry, Barlow, et al. But there is not one iota of context here. Where were they from? Britain? Sweden? Uranus? Why were they doing their research? Was it government directed? University? Private investment? A list of names and what they invented tells us very nothing about why and where.

Each one is a Wikilink. Click on it to learn about that particular person or item. Any inadequacies of those articles, kindly note in their talk pages. Jim.henderson 05:17, 14 August 2007 (UTC)


The article says "In 1746... Jean-Antoine Nollet gathered about two hundred monks in a circle about a mile (kilometer) in circumference and connected a battery to the line of men".

A couple of points:

  1. It would be nicer to get a better statement on the size of the circle or number of men: if there were two hundred men linked hand-to-hand, such a circle could not reasonably be more than 1200 feet or 360 metres in circumference.
  2. The battery, or Voltaic pile, was not invented until 1800. Does the article mean "charged Leyden jar", i.e. a capacitor? This was invented the year before. It could equally be an electrostatic generator, which had been around for much longer. — BillC talk 00:10, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Interesting that we both noticed this at about the same time. I see at leyden jar that a bunch of jars in parallel were called a "battery", after a battery of cannon. I also see that Nollet was associated with, and even named, the jar. It's a good guess that that's what he used, but I'm reluctant to put the guess in the article. Original research, or synthesis, or something. PhGustaf (talk) 22:53, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
The account of charging up a "battery" of Leyden jar capacitors from a static electric machine and discharging it through a line of people is relevant to the background of the electric telegraph by providing a vivid illustration of the high speed of travel of the electricity, but some clarification is in order to show it is not a Voltaic battery. Lots of experimenters were doing this sort of demo at the time. An account of Nollet's work is at [2]. Edison (talk) 23:18, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Mention of and the use of antequated terms in the English language is not necessary or needed in many cases. Here is one where the use of an antique meaning of battery in NOT justifiable. (talk) 02:35, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Where is the end?[edit]

This article seems to be rather incomplete. We have the invention and rise of the electrical telegraph, but where is the fall? Why did it pass out of favour, and what technologies replaced it? (talk) 02:23, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

Abraham Lincoln, Brigham Young and the Transcontinental Telegraph[edit]

I cleaned up the last few lines about the laying of the transcontinental telegraph. It made it sound like the Nebraska constitution was sent by telegraph from Carson City, NV, and that it was the most expensive telegram ever sent. It might be the most expensive, but it surely wasn't sent from Nevada.

I also clarified that the people who supported Lincoln in Nebraska were Republican not Union sympathizers. Prior to Lincoln, there was no Union or Confederacy, so they would have to be Republican who were the people trying to get Lincoln elected.

Finally, I added in the first telegraph lines. These are often included in other important telegraph cables, so I thought it would be relevant. Moreover, it captures the time in which the transcontinental telegraph was finished, and played in well with the Nebraska constitution thing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:52, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Vail did the Morse Code, Morse just got the patent.[edit]

According to a TV report, it was mostly Vail's work, and he only agreed with Morse to have him applying for patents. In the end, Vail died in poverty. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:35, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Why was much of this page deleted?[edit]

Someone at (talk · contribs) just deleted a whole bunch of this page. Does anyone know why? --Doctorhook (talk) 17:58, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Vandalism, no need to wait a week before restoring it, just do it. SpinningSpark 00:47, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

The merger of two articles is needed[edit]

This article is redundant to a high degrees with the article on telegraphy, and the simple word telegraph redirects to that article. (We could also check to see where the term telegram goes.) What I mean is that nearly this entire article on electrical telegraph appears within the article on telegaphy, hence this article would fit within that other one.
On the other hand, the subject of Telegraph company does not appear in the Wikipedia anywhere. Telegraph companies were quite important for at least a century, circa 1855 to 1955, so it is a subject of significant historical interest.
Furthermore, there are some articles on electronic communications that refer to the telegraph. That is not true, because the land telegraph was an electrical system and not one in electronics. There is a signicant difference, as electrical and electronic engineers will tell you. On the other hand, sending telegrams via radio was certainly an electronic system (except in primitive forms of it), and is there an article on radio telegraphy ? (talk) 03:06, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Oh, the Wikipedia calls it wireless telegraphy. (talk) 03:07, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Power Source[edit]

There is no information regarding the power source used for sending and receiving telegraphs. As the first power station was built in 1882 (Cooke and Wheatstone's telegram was invented in 1837) there was no electrical grid to connect the telegram to. Without explaining how the telegraph functioned this article is seriously lacking. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Iranian86Footballer (talkcontribs) 20:28, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

the Telegraph Network[edit]

This article should discuss the networking aspect. Without a network, telegraph would be nowhere. Every message would require point-to-point wiring. There were "exchanges", no? How did they work? How did they develop? (talk) 19:17, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Wikiproject spam[edit]

Is this page being spammed with wikiprojects? Seems tenuous to me to put the article in all those country related projects. SpinningSpark 21:31, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

That's just my approach. And I don't think it does any harm to the article. The more projects will watch for the page the better. And the relation to those countries is clearly seen from the text. GreyHood Talk 21:42, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Harmless, but also ineffective. There are so very few people actively working on any Wikiproject that inflating their backlog with a long list of peripherally related articles does no good. Every project has the same criteria for moving an article toward "feature" status, and a relevant project has a much better chance of attracting interested editors. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:49, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I find it effective. That's a matter of opinion. GreyHood Talk 21:54, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
It's only a matter of opinion if it is not stated in what way it is supposed to be effective. Filling the categories with tangential material dilutes their usefulness. It makes it less likely that someone from the Wikiproject will try to deal with the backlog. In my own experience of Wikiproject work the main reason the banner attracts member attention is in order to rate the article, which won't happen in this case because they had been inserted pre-rated. The most likely action of Wikiproject members coming to it from other routes would be to remove the banner as irrelevant. Do you really think that Wikiproject Germany will want to divert their resources into bringing "Electric telegraph" to FA? Opinion could be turned into objective fact with some statistics although I don't think it is worth the effort of gathering the data. Take a set of articles on major inventions and developments, preferably sourced from a pre-existing neutral list. From the article milestones calculate how long it took for the article to reach each class. Check the talk page history on the date of each promotion to see if the article was a member of a country Wikiproject. I'll eat my hat if membership of a country project makes any significant difference. SpinningSpark 07:59, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

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What's about code baudot?[edit]

what's about code baudot? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:06, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

The Baudot code is an obsolete 5-bit teleprinter code that predates ASCII and was generally sent at, what is today, the very slow speed of 50 baud. None of these codes, or teletype systems in general, seem to be covered in this article. These are machine codes and the article seems to be limited to human generated telegraph. Although 50 baud is now considered slow, 50 baud Baudot is equivalent to 120 wpm which only the very fastest human typists could keep up with. SpinningSpark 23:01, 31 July 2012 (UTC)

Electrical vs Electric vs Electromagnetic[edit]

Is there any good reason this article uses the term "electrical telegraph" rather than the (to my mind) far more common "electric telegraph"? This isn't my field, and I'm not pushing for a move – just curious. GrindtXX (talk) 11:20, 6 July 2013 (UTC)

This isn't my field either, but after reading many of the Wikipedia articles on this topic, there's no apparent distinction between electrical, electromagnetic, and electric telegraphs, i.e. they all refer to the same set of devices. I've consolidated the terms in the introductory section.
On the specific question of "electrical" vs "electric", again it's not my field either, but I think "electrical" may be slightly better. A quick Google search turns up this comment: "The word electrical can also be used in an additional domain: things concerning electricity. So, generally, people do not say 'electric engineer' unless the engineer runs on electricity; instead they say 'electrical engineer'." (Source Stack Exchange) That suggests "electrical" is better here, since while the transmission is electric, the operation is often by humans.
Of course, "electromagnetic" is arguably even better, if "electric telegraph" includes radio telegraphs. But I'll leave that question for somebody else. Proxyma (talk) 05:32, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
I have reverted your recent changes. There is nothing wrong with "An electrical telegraph is a telegraphy that uses electrical signals". Please read the linked article; there were (and still are) many preceding non-electrical forms of telegraph. Describing the telegraph as a device is also problematic—it is not one single device, but rather a system.
While it is true that all electrical phenomenae are "electromagnetic" in a fundamental theoretical sense, something rather more specific is meant when the word is used in an engineering context. An electromagnetic device is one that deliberately generates magnetic fields by passing currents through coils of wire, such as is done in solenoids and electric motors. This clearly excludes Sommering's electrochemical telegraph for instance. The classic morse code telegraph, consisting of morse key, relays and clicker or buzzer, is what is meant by electromagnetic telegraph. SpinningSpark 07:47, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

Unfollowable citations[edit]

There is a clear consensus, that information about the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph should be summarised into the Electrical telegraph and Telegraphy articles to balance length. Armbrust The Homunculus 13:33, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Bowers, page 129 - where is that? That's not enough information to be able to look the citation up. There's no other citations to anything containing "Bowers" in the list of references, or any other mentions of "Bowers" in the article. (talk) 22:39, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

Now the text there looks suspiciously like something I wrote and I thought for a moment that I had forgetten to add the citation. But that is not the case, what appears to have happened is that another editor has pasted text from the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph. The reference is there in the bibliography where I originally inserted it, but has not been copied to this article. The same thing has happened to the Mercer, Beauchamp, and Huurdeman cites. SpinningSpark 00:08, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
I copied them across because I came here and looked at talk (within a few hours!) with the same question. I was looking at the article, as it appears on the early railways I've been looking at, normally described as electric telegraph.
@Spinningspark: just out of interest, can you answer a question for me? Near ref 10a, Bowers, page 129, it says that the locomotive was hauled up the incline out of Euston. Do you mean train or carriages? Just on the railways I've been studying the locomotive was normally left on the level track. Edgepedia (talk) 14:28, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
Just thought of an exception where a locomotive gave assistance on an incline - although I can't find it in my books at the moment. However, I'm curious. Edgepedia (talk) 14:45, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
In 1896 the ceremonial train used to open the West Highland Railway was headed by two 4-4-0s at Glasgow and hauled up the 1.5 mile Cowlair's incline by a stationary engine. (Thomas "The West Highland Railway" page 4) I think I've answered my own question: stationary engines did haul locomotives. Edgepedia (talk) 16:54, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
You are right, it was only the carriages that were hauled up the hill. I'll fix it in the Cooke and Wheatstone article, but it is quite irritating to have do the same fix in three articles (the same thing has been done to the telegraphy article). I'm going to start an RFC on this issue below. SpinningSpark 18:39, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

A large amount of material has been copied from Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph into Electrical telegraph and Telegraphy articles. Do editors think that this material should be summarized down in these articles or should it be left in full? SpinningSpark 18:51, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Summarize to a balanced length. I agree that the Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph, as the first commercially succesful system, was an important milestone in telegraphy and should be covered in all three articles. However, covering it to this depth is causing a maintenance problem as can be seen from the discussion earlier in this section. More importantly, it is causing an imbalance in the articles, especially in telegraphy which is meant to be about all telegraphs, not just electrical. There is also an imbalance in that the material is now giving much greater weight to C&W than to the Morse telegraph prose. Although C&W needle telegraphs are important, they never spread much beyond the British Empire and ultimately it was the Morse telegraph which became the international standard. SpinningSpark 19:00, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
What was "much beyond the British Empire" ? Since this spread to every continent of the Earth, it's a strange sounding criticism. --Wtshymanski (talk) 19:27, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
It was not really meant as a criticism. I am merely indicating that it is unbalanced to have way more text on this telegraph than on the one that actually did become the international standard. There is no indication in the sources I used to expand the C&W article that it had any use at all outside the Empire. The only reason I did not make a categorical statement is that I am aware of this instrument which seems to have a dial in Italian. SpinningSpark 20:10, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Summarize to a balanced length per Spinningspark. No need for a redundant version of another article (Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph), so could be summarized with a ((main)) tag. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 19:53, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Summarise Given that there is already an article on Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph (and one that's not just a stub), the detail belongs there, with this as a broader overview. As Fountains of Bryn Mawr says, this is exactly what the {{main}} tag is for. There's certainly no reason, to my mind, to have the same substantial chunk of text in two different articles that link to each other anyway. Anaxial (talk) 09:13, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Summarize to a balanced length with {{main}} tag. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:13, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Do we have "Timeline of telegraphy" article or section like we do for Timeline of radio? I just ran across a reference to the Cape Race station which was used to get European news to New York faster from 1859-66, and was thinking such a timeline could be very useful, though a big effort to create.--Milowenthasspoken 22:44, 6 October 2014 (UTC)

another rope-hauled application[edit]

From the "Cooke and Wheatstone system" section: The London and Blackwall Railway (another rope-hauled application). It's not clear what rope-hauled means here, or why this is signficant. There's no previous reference to rope-hauling. Possibly this is a reference to Euston needed to signal to an engine house at Camden Town to start hauling the locomotive up the incline. But if so, this should be made clearer. Omc (talk) 14:55, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

"Rope hauled" is important, but it isn't clear and there isn't a good article to link to. Cable-hauled railway isn't there, funicular and Cable car (railway) aren't really the right thing and cableway is totally wrong, but was merged into all this mess at Commons.
In the early days of steam railways, steam locomotives (self-moving portable engines) weren't too credible and so a number of these early lines, especially the last step into a city terminus, was hauled by a fixed engine in a winding house, hauling trains by rope. Obviously there needed to be signalling from the station at the bottom to the winding house at the top. Early on this was done by a bell on a string, but electrical telegraphs were adopted quite early and these were able to communicate information about train weights too, allowing better control of the winding. Andy Dingley (talk) 11:17, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
Rope hauling was not just about getting up steep inclines. It was also used to get train into stations quietly to avoid complaints from local resident. SpinningSpark 18:50, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

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