Monday, June 19, 2023

The First Texting System—the Telegraph

by Susan G Mathis

The electric telegraph was an important invention and was used from the 1840s until the 1990s. Before the telephone, the telegraph connected faraway people and places.

Telegraphs were the first telecommunications texting system in the world. In its early days, it was used mainly in railway, government, and post offices. Samuel Morse invented the armature telegraph in 1838. Telegraph offices were connected by wires and could spread information quicker and more efficiently than mail.

The telegraph used a system of dots and dashes to communicate a message to the telegrapher who would get it to the receiver. By 1865, the Morse Code system became the standard for international communication.

At first, railroad companies mainly used it to control train routes and prevent crashes. Before long, governments, the military, banks, and businesses began using the telegraph more and more. In the second half of the 1800s, commercial telegraphs allowed the public to send urgent messages for a fee. A person paid by-the-word to have a message telegraphed to another office and delivered to the addressee in paper form. By the mid-to-late 1800s, most developed nations provided this benefit to their people, thanks to underwater telegraph cables that allowed communication between continents.

Telegraph operators had to learn the Morse system well and had to be able to translate the dots and dashes flawlessly. Long hours in front of the telegraph machine gave them hours of reading and dreaming. Telegraph operators often chatted with other operators and got to know each other’s style. Dots had to be uniform and short. Dashes uniform and long. Each letter had a distinctive beat. For example, SOS is three quick dots, three long dashes, and three quick dots.

During both World Wars, radio telegraphy was an essential way to communicate diplomatically and militarily. Telegraphers could be stationed anywhere alerting the their country’s military to the enemies’ movements, plans, and dangers.

With the increase of the use of the telephone in the early 1900s, the telegraph slowly became outdated. By the early 1990s, with the rise of the top the Internet and email the demise of the telegraph certain. In Mary’s Moment, Mary enjoyed being not only a telephone switchboard operator but also a telegrapher.

About Mary’s Moment:

Mathis’s attention to detail and rich history is classic Mathis, and no one does it better.—Margaret Brownley, N.Y. Times bestselling author

Summer 1912

Thousand Island Park’s switchboard operator ​Mary Flynn is christened the community heroine for her quick action that saves dozens of homes from a terrible fire. Less than a month later, when another disastrous fire rages through the Park, Mary loses her memory as she risks her life in a neighbor's burning cottage. Will she remember the truth of who she is or be deceived by a treacherous scoundrel?

Widowed fireman George Flannigan is enamored by the brave raven-haired lass and takes every opportunity to connect with Mary. But he has hidden griefs of his own that cause him great heartache. When George can’t stop the destructive Columbian Hotel fire from eradicating more than a hundred businesses and homes, he is distraught. Yet George’s greater concern is Mary. Will she remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?

About Susan: 

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has ten in her fiction line including Mary’s Moment. Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling the world. Visit for more.


  1. Thank you for the post today. Mary's Moment sounds like a great story.

  2. Western Union is still in business. It mostly transfers money overseas. I had just remarked to my husband that the telegraph was the first texting system.