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1850-1877: Communications: Chronology

1850-1877: Communications: Chronology




  • The first U.S. clipper ship, the Oriental, arrives in London from Hong Kong carrying a sixteen-hundred-ton cargo.
  • American Express is formed by a merger of Wells and Company, Livingston, Fargo and Company, and Butterfield Wasson and Company.
  • 27 Apr . The SS. Atlantic, owned by the U.S. Mail Steamship Company, leaves New York on its maiden voyage to England. Its return voyage sets a record time of ten days and sixteen hours.
  • 1 July The first overland mail delivery west of the Missouri River is madefrom Independence, Missouri, to Salt Lake City, Utah.


  • 3 Mar . The Postal Act of 1851 is passed, effective 1 July. It standardizes postal rates (three cents per half ounce for distances under three thousand miles) and declares stamp counterfeiting a felony, among other stipulations.
  • 1 Apr . Hiram Sibley incorporates the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing and Telegraph Company (which eventually becomes Western Union).
  • 18 Sept . The New York Daily Times begins publishing. It will shorten its name to The New York Times in 1857.


  • Wells, Fargo and Company starts up express service in California. Within the decade the company enjoys a virtual monopoly and runs 108 stations.
  • The Washington Evening Star, a two-page penny newspaper, is published; by the end of the year it has been bought by William Wallack, who expands it to a four-page paper.
  • 20 Feb The first train from the East arrives in Chicago.
  • 20 Aug The SS Atlantic, a Lake Erie steamer, sinks off Point Albino, New York, with $50,000 worth of valuables entrusted to American Express for delivery.


  • The clipper ship Northern Light makes a record-setting seventy-six-day, six-hour voyage from San Francisco to Boston.
  • Andrew Carnegie goes to work for Thomas A. Scott as a telegraph operator on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
  • 5 Mar . The American Telegraph Convention meets in Washington, D.C., to discuss coordination of message flow between various companies.


  • Congress authorizes funding for a telegraph line from the Mississippi River to the West Coast.
  • The eight-year-old Chicago Tribune is purchased by Joseph Medill.
  • Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper is published in New York.
  • Inventor David Hughes patents a teleprinter.
  • A railroad across the Isthmus of Panama is completed.
  • 3 Mar . The Postal Act of 1855 is passed, effective 1 January 1856, requiring that all letters be prepaid with postage stamps or stamped envelopes.


  • Western Union is formed by Ezra Corness and Hiram Sibley from a group of telegraph companies; Sibley is named president.
  • The New York and Mississippi Valley Telegraph Company reorganizes as Western Union.


  • New York to San Francisco freight rates that had been as high as $60 per ton since the Gold Rush of 1848 drop to $10 per ton.
  • Horace Greeleys New York Tribune declares that northerners are superior to southerners because they have a better system of labor.
  • 3 Mar . Congress grants a subsidy of $70,000 to Cyrus Fields to lay transatlantic cable.


  • Francis S. Street and Shubael Smith form Street and Smith Publications to publish New York Weekly.
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt begins a transatlantic shipping line.
  • 16 Aug . Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchange the first transatlantic telegraph messages. A few weeks later, the cable parts.
  • 9 Oct . Overland Mail Companys first stage between San Francisco and Saint Louis completes its run, a journey of twenty-three days and four hours.


  • The Rocky Mountain News is first published.
  • The nations five largest telegraph companies form a pool association, the North American Telegraph Association, to divvy up the U.S. market.


  • Hiram Sibley wins government subsidies to build a transcontinental telegraph line.
  • 3 Apr . The first Pony Express rider leaves Saint Joseph, Missouri, for Sacramento, California.


  • Western Union completes the first transcontinental telegraph line, linking at Fort Bridger, Utah.
  • Ansell N. Kellogg of the Baraboc (Wisconsin) Republic founds the first news syndicate, offering readyprint to other papers.
  • Mar. Jefferson Davis appoints John H. Reagan postmaster general for the Confederate States of America.
  • 1 June Delivery of U.S. Mail is suspended in the Confederate states.
  • 24 Oct . The first coast-to-coast telegraph reaches President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C.


  • 4 Feb . The organizational meeting of the Press Association of the Confederate States of America is held in Augusta, Georgia.
  • 25 Feb . U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton orders that war correspondents for newspapers must submit copy to provost marshals before transmitting it by telegraph to their papers.
  • 30 June U.S. postmaster Montgomery Blair reports that there are 19,973 U.S. Post Office employees.
  • Aug. The postal privileges of the New York Daily News are suspended for eighteen months because of the papers open hostility to the war effort.


  • 3 Mar . The Postal Act of 1863 establishes lower postal rates and divides mail into three classes.


  • Railway mail service begins.
  • May U.S. General John A. Dix suppresses the New York World and the Journal of Commerce after they publish a fabricated story about a presidential proclamation ordering the draft of four hundred thousand men.


  • 15 Nov. U.S. Postmaster William Dennison reports that 241 mail routes have been rees tablished in the South and that 3,234 post offices have been restored to the federal system; there were 8,902 southern post offices before the Civil War.


  • With funding from the Vanderbilt family, Western Union absorbs United States Telegraph and American Telegraph, effectively giving it a monopoly.
  • The San Francisco Examiner begins publication.
  • Western Union takes over two smaller rivals, gaining control of 75,000 miles of telegraph lines.
  • 27 July The transatlantic telegraph cable is successfully reconnected.


  • The Pacific Mail Steamship Company begins regular service between San Francicso and Hong Kong.
  • 26 Oct . The transcontinental telegraph is completed.


  • American Express and the Merchants Union Express merge to become American Express. It will begin offering money orders in 1882 and travelers checks in 1891.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle is first published as a full-coverage newspaper.
  • A patent is issued to Christopher Sholes, Carlos G. Glidden, and Samuel W. Soule for the first typewriter.
  • The Atlanta Constitution begins publication.
  • The Louisville Courier-Journal, edited by Henry Watterson, is formed by the merger of two local newspapers.


  • 10 May The first transcontinental railroad is completed when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific link tracks at Promontory Point, Utah.


  • The Hoe web press, which prints both sides of a paper at once from a continuous sheet of paper, is introduced for sale. Developed from a technology patented in 1863, it prints eighteen thousand newspapers an hour.


  • 4 Mar. The Boston Daily Globe begins publication as the tenth, and largest, newspaper in the city.
  • 2 Apr. Western Electric is established to sell telegraphic equipment and develop the telephone.


  • Remington and Sons Fire Arms Company buys the patent for the typewriter for $12,000 and begins manufacturing machines that sell for $125.


  • Thomas Edison completes work on his wax stencil duplicating machine.
  • Richard Hoe invents a high-speed newspaper folder.
  • 2 June The first successful experiment that leads to the development of the telephone is completed by Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas A. Watson.
  • 25 Dec . The Chicago Daily News begins publication.


  • Alexander Graham Bell patents his telephonic device. He forms the Bell Association the following year, opening service from Boston to New York and New Brunswick.
  • Thomas Edison begins building an industrial research laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he will invent and perfect the telephone transmitter, the phonograph, and the incandescent lamp within the next three years.
  • 10 Mar . Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates voice transmission over a telephone wire. A patent was issued to him for the device one week earlier.
  • 8 Nov. Charles A. Danas New York Sun sells a record 220,000 papers with its coverage of the Hayes-Tilden presidential election.


  • The Bell Telephone Association is organized in New York. By the end of the year the association leases one thousand telephones a month.
  • Northwestern Bell Telephone Company is organized in Lyons, Iowa.
  • May The first Bell telephones are sold; by August nearly eight hundred telephone sets are in operation.
  • 17 May The first telephone switchboard goes into service in Boston.
  • 6 Dec. The Washington Post begins publication.

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