Telegraph line reaches Seattle on October 25, 1864.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 11/04/1998
  • Essay 167
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On October 25, 1864, the Western Union telegraph line reaches Seattle. To celebrate, a cannon is fired and a flag is hoisted. At 4 p.m. on the following day, the first dispatches are received from the East Coast. The Seattle Gazette (a weekly newspaper) publishes an extra edition, reporting Civil War news and other news from the East Coast dated October 24, 1864.

The Communications Revolution

The telegraph suddenly and for the first time, made the world much smaller. Maury Klein writes, "Before 1840 news moved in the same ways it had since antiquity: a message could travel no faster than the messenger who carried it. Then a stunning new technology revolutionized the flow of information by transmitting it almost instantly."

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1873) was the chief inventor of the telegraph. Telegraph messages were sent along wires strung along railroad tracks. They were sent in the form of Morse Code, a system of short and long sounds that represented letters of the alphabet. Morse gave the telegraph its first public demonstration in 1844. It was another 20 years before the country was wired from the East Coast all the way to Seattle.


Clarence B. Bagley, "Pioneer Papers of Puget Sound" The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 4, No. 4 (1903), 377; J[ames] Willis Sayre, This City of Ours (Seattle: J. W. Sayre, 1936), 112; Maury Klein, The Flowering of the Third America: The Making of an Organizational Society (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), 23.

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