Who Invented the Telegram?

A telegram is the message sent by telegraph machine.
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“A man never feels more important than when he receives a telegraph containing more than 10 words,” according to George Ade, writer and playwright. That man might want to thank the inventor responsible for the message bringing that sense of importance, but it might take more than one note to adequately express that gratitude, because several people worked on the telegraph used to send the telegram or message.

1 How It Started

In the mid-1700s, William Watson demonstrated how to transmit electrostatic messages and started the race to the telegraph. By 1800, several other inventors produced systems using a separate wire for each alphabet letter. In 1831, Joseph Henry’s electromagnetic telegraph model spurred Samuel Morse’s imagination.

2 Coming Together Commercially

In the late 1830s, Samuel Morse invented a set of dots and dashes useful for encoding electromagnetic messages, making it possible to send telegrams without needing 26 separate wires, building on Georges LeSage’s late 1770s single-wire proposal. Because his timing was exactly right for commercial adoption and success, Morse earned credit as the inventor of the telegraph.

Pamela Martin has been writing since 1979. She has written newsletter articles and curricula-related materials. She also writes about teaching and crafts. Martin was an American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in curriculum/instruction from the University of Missouri.