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The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920

Telegraphy in the nineteenth century approximated the internet in our own day. Historian and electrical engineer David Hochfelder offers readers a comprehensive history of this groundbreaking technology, which employs breaks in an electrical current to send code along miles of wire. The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920 examines the correlation between technological innovation and social change and shows how this transformative relationship helps us to understand and perhaps define modernity.

The telegraph revolutionized the spread of information—speeding personal messages, news of public events, and details of stock fluctuations. During the Civil War, telegraphed intelligence and high-level directives gave the Union war effort a critical advantage. Afterward, the telegraph helped build and break fortunes and, along with the railroad, altered the way Americans thought about time and space. With this book, Hochfelder supplies us with an introduction to the early stirrings of the information age.

About the Author

David Hochfelder is an associate professor of history at University at Albany, SUNY.

Reviews

"In The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920, David Hochfelder provides a taut and consistently intelligent history of the telegraph in American life. The book is notable for both its topical breadth—encompassing war, politics, business, journalism, and everyday life—as well as its focused, argument-driven chapters."

- New Books in Communications

"The author... develops nuanced analyses to the impact of telegraphy on upon American life."

- EH.Net

"Hochfelder’s work is exemplary in its caution about mediator technology-specific claims to exceptionalism or determinism. This authoritative and persuasive book will remain an essential reference for scholars."

- American Historical Review

"For a quick assessment of telegraphy’s development and impact, this insightful book is hard to beat."

- Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

"While offering new insights into the relationship between Western Union and Associated Press, Hochfelder's strongest contribution to the history of telegraphy is his analysis of wiring on financial markets and the subsequent spread of speculation and gambling fueled by private wires and telegraph ticker services."

- MAKE: A Literary Magazine

"Heavily researched and very clearly presented."

- Journal of American History

Endorsements

"This well-researched and lucidly argued book will prove indispensable to specialists in the history of technology, journalism, and finance."

- Richard R. John, Columbia University

"Hochfelder left no stone unturned in this well balanced and scholarly examination of the telegraph, those it served, and the impact it had on society."

- The Michigan Railfan

"Hochfelder's writing is lucid, engaging, and confident. The book will be of interest to a wide audience, from general readers to scholarly specialists."

- Kentucky Historical Society

"Hochfelder’s work provides an excellent overview of the history of the telegraph in the USA, particularly, from the 1860s to the 1920s. The book offers much insight into the role of telegraphy in shaping American society. It provides an excellent history of the industry from a business perspective and uses this to advance our understanding of debates concerning monopolies, as well as state ownership and regulation of utilities in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America."

- Metascience
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology
2012
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The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, Volume 5

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