Sunday, July 21, 2019

How the Invention of the Telegraph Changed the News, Part I

Pony Express or stagecoach? If you were a journalist choosing to receive news fit to print from the opposite end of the country, you had to wait around two weeks to a month to receive the needed information. Much of that changed after that day in 1844 when Samuel Morse sent his message, “What hath God wrought?” through the telegraph he’d developed since the time of starting his work on it in the 1830s. 

First message sent by telegraph: "What hath God wrought?"
By Internet Archive Book Images - book page:, No restrictions,
The telegraph became a means of transmitting the news in a matter of minutes, compared to weeks. As long as a wire was connected between two stations it only took a key and a battery to transmit the series of tapped dots and dashes known as Morse Code. Telegraphers became proficient and reading these messages by hearing. 

The news was then taken to reporters by messenger boys or the U.S. mail service several times a day. The new telegraph technology prompted the formation of a group of ten New York City newspapers into an organization called the Associated Press in 1848. Rather than compete for incoming messages they shared them. 

By John Schanlaub from Lafayette,IN, USA - Wallace Study-Telegraph, CC BY 2.0,
Over the next two decades, telegraphed lines were strung across the United States. In April of 1845, the first public telegraph office opened in Washington, D.C. and operated by the U.S. Postmaster General where people had to pay to have their messages sent. The 1848 presidential election when Zachary Taylor won on the Whig ticket was the first story distributed through the Associated Press.

During the Civil War, the government seized public telegraph equipment. They used secret codes, so it was very difficult for reporters to get a hold of fresh information to report on the war. Much of it had to be gathered by firsthand accounts sent by messenger. 

By Unknown - Scanned from paper copy, Public Domain,

After the war, telegraphic communication developed farther. The first permanent transatlantic cable was brought into service in 1865. And later in the century, Thomas Edison invented a four-plex system so that multiple messages could be sent over the same wire. Newspapers would never be the same as a new standard of news stories came into being with the spread of news over the telegraph across the country and from overseas.

Stay tuned for my article next month which will examine E.W. Scripps and how he affected communicating news stories to the masses.

Kathleen Rouser is the multi-published author of the 2017 Bookvana Award winner, Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. She is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of thirty-some years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

The Last Memory in The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection

Lighthouses have long been the symbol of salvation, warning sailors 
away from dangerous rocks and shallow waters.

Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of the nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.

The Last Memory
 by Kathleen Rouser
1899—Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Natalie Brooks loses her past to amnesia, and Cal Waterson, the lighthouse keeper who rescues her, didn’t bargain on risking his heart—when her past might change everything.


  1. Thanks for the post! Interesting how the telegraph helped newspapers get better. You'd think our news services would be stellar in quality now that information is so instantly available, but sadly I think it has gone in the other direction, and you can't even be sure that the sources are accurate. This probably happened in the telegraph days as well, I'm sure they had to verify their sources.

  2. Hi Connie, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I agree,
    though we have all kinds of "up-to-date" information all around us, it
    doesn't mean it's all been verified--or tells a well-rounded version
    of the story.

  3. Kathleen, this was a very informative post about the early days of tegegraph communication. I agree with you and Connie about current news as not always being verified or being even falsified to make the reporter look better or the event more exciting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Hi Marilyn! I always appreciate your opinion. Thank you for stopping
    by and reading my post. I'm glad you found it informative.