ask the marshall trimble true west

How far did a telegraph signal carry?

Rich Gorman
Littleton, Colorado

Wires allowed an electric current to flow as far as the wires stretched. However, they were usually broken at stations or towns, where message recipients were located. The message was forwarded on from that point.

Morse Code advanced communication by light years. Sam Morse used electromagnets to develop his code in 1837 to communicate with the telegraph. His code of dots and dashes corresponded to letters of the alphabet.

The advent of the telephone in 1877 eventually brought about the decline of the telegraph. The Morse Code, though, opened the door to electronic and digital mass media revolutions. No other development since printing has impacted our daily lives as much.

Samuel Morse true west
Samuel Morse

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, e-mail him at

Related Articles

  • Carry Nation

    She was a big woman—six feet, 175 pounds—and she could wield an axe like a…

  • Marshall Trimble

    Bob Nellis Rochester, Minnesota No known photos of Bat Masterson show him with a cane,…

  • marshall trimble ask the marshall true west magazine

    What did cowboys carry behind their saddles? Zane Green Braintree, Essex, England Depending on the…