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The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920

, 264 pages

9 b&w photos

August 2016



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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.

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

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

"Heavily researched and very clearly presented."

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

"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."

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