Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Need To Speak To California

The Transcontinental Telegraph was a United States milestone and was completed on October 24th 1861.

Once an efficient telegraph was developed in the 1830’s, and Samuel Morse’s experimental line between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland was shown to be successful, telegraph exploded. Soon there were lines in all the eastern state. In 1850 California became a state, and the need for communication with the non-contiguous state and the eastern based government became priority. Congress made proposals for subsidies to build a telegraph line throughout the 1850’s.

With the passing of the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860, a federal contract was awarded to the Western Union Company, whose president was Hiram Sibley. Sibley formed a constituency between his company and the telegraph companies operating in California. The newly created Overland Telegraph Company of California would build the line eastward while Sibley’s Pacific Telegraph Company of Nebraska would build westward. The lines were to meet in Salt Lake City, Utah. Construction began in 1861, and had to deal with constant shortages of telegraph poles crossing the Midwest and the Great Basin. The line moving westward from Omaha, Nebraska reached Salt Lake City on October 18th 1861. The line coming east from Carson City, Nevada reached the city and completed the line on October 24th 1861. [This made the Pony Express obsolete over night.]

The first telegram was sent to President Abraham Lincoln from San Francisco, California Chief Justice Stephen J Field ensuring California’s loyalty to the Union.

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