Before Cell Phones and Internet


lindaname.jpgCell Phones<Rotary Dials<Hand Crank Phones<TELEGRAPH<letters


My how things have changed!


Though it’s hard to believe now in this fast-paced world, the telegraph was once very modern technology.


telegraphSamuel Morse began tinkering with the idea of communication through electric wires in 1832. But it wasn’t until 1844 that the first telegraph was successfully sent over a distance from Washington to Baltimore.


After a series of missteps and fighting others who sought to steal his ideas, Samuel’s telegraph company became the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1856.


From there the telegraph grew by leaps and bounds.  In 1860 Congress passed the Pacific Telegraph Act to begin building an intercontinental telegraph system linking the East coast with the West.


Telegraph poles began springing up across the nation. In treeless areas they had to ship in poles. The cost and labor to construct such an elaborate system was enormous.


telegraph linesFinally, workers completed the task in 1861. People on both coasts could communicate and that was a happy day.


But problems plagued them. Weather, pesky outlaws who didn’t want to be captured, curious Indians, pioneers who sometimes used the poles as firewood, and the fact that the buffalo used the poles as a backscratcher caused inconsistent availability of the line.


Still….it was better than nothing.




Initially…$1.00 per word

Later…..$7.00 for 10 words

Then ….$3.00 for 10 words when Congress regulated


So, it wasn’t cheap. Not everyone could afford it, seeing as how $1 in 1861 equals over $25.00 today. Typical wages at that time were around $1 a day. Out on the plains it was probably less than that.


Then, I had this thought….what if they started charging us to send emails? Yikes!!!

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

20 thoughts on “Before Cell Phones and Internet”

  1. Enjoyed your post, Linda, especially, the comments re: the pioneers using the telegraph poles for firewood, & the buffalo for backscratching – causing inconsistent availability. I’m envisoning the buffalo backscratching, & the pioneers cutting down those huge poles. And – how many people could afford $1.00 per word, telegraphs were expensive, in many ways – weren’t they?

    Interesting – thanks!

  2. Yikes, I wonder how many telegraph messages were even sent during the $1 a word days? Crazy to think of days before communication.

  3. Good Morning Bonnie……….I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. I found those things you mentioned very interesting also. And I’m sure once a pole was down it took a long time for repair people to get it back up simply because of the slow travel out in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for stopping by.

    I hope your day is filled with exciting stuff!

  4. Good Morning Susan P………..I’m sure the average person back then never used the telegraph. It was probably mainly used by people in the law enforcement business and wealthier Americans. I’ve had some of my characters sending telegraphs in my stories but I never thought about the cost. I always assumed it was fairly inexpensive. Boy, was I wrong.

    Have a great day! If it’s cold where you are, bundle up.

  5. Good Morning, Linda! I loved your post. So very interesting. I don’t guess I really ever gave too much thought to the cost of using the telegraph in that I thought it was very cheap. Boy, was I wrong!

  6. Good Morning Melanie……….Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you liked my blog subject. Sure makes you think, huh? Or it did me anyway when I ran across this. From now on, I’ll do things differently when I put the telegraph in my books. I can already think of some humorous scenes. And what about the telegraph operator? Did he have to go to school to learn the trade or just sit down and ply his hand at it one day?? Wouldn’t it be funny if the operator sent the wrong message? Things could really go south fast.

    Wishing you a great day!

  7. I’ve been in the east and seen how they built highways through the mountains and forests. They just had to RIP a pathway out of the heart of those mountains. I can’t imagine the work. Dynamite or pick axes. Tons and tons of stone being moved. Digging tunnels through the mountains where they were too high to go over. All those trees to chop down.

    I used to think the men building roads and railroads and telegraph lines must have wept for joy when they got out of those eastern mountains and just had flat land to deal with.

    But now I realize that yes, the going was easier…but they also lost all their building material.
    Now they had to ship in trees, ship in EVERYTHING, because there was NOTHING to build with. Not even a single pole to put up a telegraph wire.

    For about SIX HUGE STATES!!!

    I just went to a museum talking about the pony express and how it was usurped by the telegraph. What a huge change when that telegraph started sending messages all across the country.

  8. Good Morning Mary!………… It does boggle the mind, doesn’t it? I can’t believe I’ve overlooked some of this information in my stories. I just assumed that it didn’t cost much and that it wasn’t that huge of a problem to build and maintain the lines. My next hero might be involved with the telegraph somehow. AND where did a person go to learn how to BE a telegraph operator? My mind is whirling with all kinds of thoughts.

    Stay warm today! This north wind can freeze your tootsies. And everything else.

  9. Linda…loved the information about the telegraph. It took me back to some of my own research concerning the subject. My heroine had to take a job as a telegrapher to get her niece away from danger. She hires on as a telegrapher in Julesberg, Colorado. There she and the hero who is stringing the line exchange messages back and forth and it’s those messages that allow them to get to know each other well and fall in love. SMALL BLESSINGS became one of my most fun western romances because of this unusual twist to develop the internal storyline. It’s still available on Amazon as an e-book. Thanks, Linda, for reminding me of such a sweet memory in writing.

  10. How interesting, Linda! I had never really given thought to the cost of telegraphs but they were certainly quite costly! I’m like you, how did someone become an operator and learn to send messages? I can’t wait to find out how you weave this information into your writing!!

  11. Hi DeWanna………Thanks for stopping by. This is great. Always nice to see an old friend. I should’ve remembered that you wrote a story about this. I had forgotten “Small Blessings.” I’m going to have to download that into my Kindle and read it again. The telegraph industry is so fascinating. I’m going to have to do more to incorporate it into my stories.

    I hope your day is a special one. I LOVE your new historical that you’re writing!

  12. Hi Britney……….I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog. I had fun finding all this stuff. I always enjoy learning things about the old west. It was an exciting time because of all the new inventions and things.

    Take care and have a great day!

  13. Very interesting post! I loved what Dewanna posted about how her hero and heroine met and exchanged messages on the telegraph line…much like on-line dating. 🙂 We have definitely come a long way!!

  14. Linda, this is so interesting. I had no idea it cost $1 per word! I can’t even imagine. So telegraphs were for the very rich, for sure! Thanks for such an informative, interesting post–I really enjoyed it. Love your book covers, BTW!

  15. Hi Miss Jan……..Love seeing you on here, sister. Glad you enjoyed my blog. It was pretty interesting stuff. I love learning about all these little things that I never thought of before. I’m really glad to be walking this journey with you on THE CONVICT AND THE ROSE. It’s wonderful!

  16. Hi Cheryl……..I’m glad you enjoyed my subject. It wasn’t difficult to become engrossed when I ran across this stuff about the telegraph. Little tidbits I never knew. It’ll we great putting them in a story.

    Thanks for the compliment on my new book covers. I think they turned out really well.

  17. Thanks for the interesting post. I didn’t realize it was so expensive to send a telegram back then. I have no idea what it costs now. I sent one back in 1972, but it was through the Red Cross and I have no idea how much it cost then.

    We take the ease with which we communicate with each other for granted. I doubt many teens can imagine what it was like not to have cell phones at the ready. Even the much maligned Postal Service is a bargain. I was overseas with the Peace Corps and mail and phone service was questionable. There was one phone in town and you had to arrange days ahead of time to use it. If you were expecting a call, it all had to be arranged by mail ahead of time, so you would be there. Mail was iffy. I got few packages from home, but those I did had been opened and items were missing. It is a bargain to mail here in the US. We mailed a postcard home from the Caribbean this past year and it cost $1.35 US to mail it. It took two months to get here. Our service here in the US may not be perfect, but it is better than most.

  18. Hi Linda- chiming in late to say I loved your blog today!!
    It’s amazing to see pricing from the old west and compare them to now. But I didn’t realize sending a wire cost so much money back then? Wow. And yes, the internet would be a lonely place if they started charging us for it.

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