Samuel F.B. Morse was the inventor of the telegraph. He sent the first message via his invention in May of 1844. The significance of this invention and demonstration was quickly recognized, and many commercial interests contributed to the rapid construction and spread of telegraph lines throughout the United States.
Charles Thomas Jackson
It was an inventor named Charles Thomas Jackson who told Samuel Finley Breese Morse in 1832 that an electric impulse could be carried along a long wire. It was this information that inspired Morse, an art professor at the University of the City of New York, to sketch his first designs of the telegraph, according to Notable Biographies.
Morse's sketches showed the three major parts of the telegraph: A sender; a receiver for recording the electrical signal; and a code for translating the signal into letters and numbers for an understandable message. Morse believed that information could be transmitted this way over any distance.
A mechanic named Alfred Vail helped Morse further develop his ideas, according to Radio-Electronics. They formed a partnership in 1837, devised a system of dots and dashes which later became the Morse code, applied for a patent and tried to secure funding for their invention.
In 1843, Morse finally obtained $30,000 in funds from the U.S. Congress to build the first telegraph line, which connected Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. It became the first commercial telegraph line.
The First Message
Morse sent the first ever message over the telegraph on May 24, 1844. The message read, "What hath God wrought!" It was a passage from the Bible's Book of Numbers, which was chosen by Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of a friend.
Morse turned to a man named Amos Kendall to handle the business affairs associated with his invention. According the the Miller Center, Kendall was a Kentucky lawyer who had served as auditor of the U.S. Treasury, as well as Postmaster General.
The telegraph code devised by Morse became known as American Morse Code. Because it had some odd inconsistencies, another version was developed in Europe, which became known as Continental Morse Code. It was adopted by most of the world and became the standard for international telegraphic communications.
Role of the Railroad
Railroad companies installed telegraph lines as a way of communicating with their trains. Information about train locations and delays could be sent rapidly. As a result, towns in isolated areas could now communicate more quickly with the rest of the country by telegraph.
Speed of Communications
The speed at which the telegraph could transmit information over great distances meant that events based on those communications could take place more quickly. Some examples of this included stock market trading and military battlefield developments.
Although the telegraph was initially used for sending person-to-person messages, it soon became evident that it could be used for gathering and distributing the news. The first telegraphic press association was established in 1848.