Achievements Of The 19th Century:
A Century Of Achievement
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A man in Florida may now send a letter to his friend in the Klondike gold fields for two cents, or for five cents he may send a letter to his friend in Australia. The development of the post-office has made this possible. Sixty years ago, even if communication had been open between these districts, such a feat and such a price was an impossibility. There are those who say that penny postage, as it is called from the English coin of the value of two cents, is one of the greatest achievements of the Century. There is certainly nothing that has conduced more to the comfort of the people.
Post-offices are as old as history. Communications were sent either by couriers, pedestrians or in vehicles, but the splendid postal organization which now exists was then beyond the imagination of the man who lived at the beginning of the Century. There had been little development since the dawn of civilization. Relays of fast post horses shortened the distance, but in Washington's first term as President, the mails traveled at the rate of only four and a half miles an hour. The rates of postage when the post-office department was established under the constitution were : For thirty miles, six cents for one letter sheet; for sixty miles, eight cents; for 100 miles, ten cents, and so increasing with the increased distance to the maxi-mum, twenty-five cents for distances over 450 miles. The mails were once a week or once a month, and "reply by return post" had a real meaning.
The development of the post-office has kept pace with the improvements of the means of communication, although perhaps this is not strictly true of the United States, where the telegraphs and telephones, unlike in most other civilized countries, are not under the control of the post-office department. There is no need to repeat the story of the development of the post-office in rapidity of the transportation of mails. That would be a repetition of the story told in the previous chapter dealing with the achievements of the Century in the matter of transportation. The cheapening of postage is the postal achievement of the Century, and the rapid adaptation of more speedy methods is an incident.
To England the world is indebted for the placing of correspondence by mail within the means of everyone. Sir Rowland Hill noticed that, although the population of England had increased 6,000,000 during the twenty years from 1815 to 1835, the postal receipts were slowly diminishing. To overcome this the postal authorities had in-creased the postal rates, but this led to a further decrease in receipts, and means were found to defraud the post-office. As the charge on the letter could not be paid by the sender, those away from home arranged codes of signals which should tell their friends of their welfare. All that was necessary was to send an empty envelope, which would be refused at the door. Newspapers with words underscored were also used, as they were sent through the mails free, a stamp tax being levied upon them. The finance accounts for the year showed that about one-fifth of the letters transported were "refused" by the persons to whom they were addressed. The price of a letter of a single sheet, weighing less than one ounce, was from 4d for the smallest distance to is 8d for the longest. If there were any enclosure the charge was doubled, and to ascertain this, letters were subjected to a strong light, temptation thus being put in the way of the officials. To evade the postal charges, friends were made to carry parcels, proof-sheets and letters; carriers made illicit posting a regular business. There was an endless amount of red tape. Each letter had to be weighed and examined for enclosures, marked with the amount of postage due, which the postman must wait to collect, and as there were as many as forty possible varieties of inland rates, it required much office work and consumed much time.
Hill made a study of the problem and found upon examination that the expense of a letter did not vary appreciably in proportion to the distance carried. He found that the expenditure which hinged upon the distance the letters had to be conveyed was £144,000, and that which had nothing to do with the distance was £282,000. Hill further found that the average cost of a letter was less than one penny, and he urged that a uniform charge of Id two cents) be made for the carriage of a letter, claiming that there would be an enormous increase in correspondence. The idea met with warm support among business men, but it was bitterly opposed in parliament; not on the grounds that correspondence would fail to in-crease, but on the ground that it would develop to impossible proportions. Lord Lichfield ridiculed the idea of the post-office ever being able to carry all the letters that would be sent; to which Hill replied that he had never before heard of a business man who feared too great an expansion of business.
Penny postage finally became a fact and was in operation on January io, 1840. In the first two years the number of chargeable letters rose from 75,000,000 to 196,500,000, and every year the loss of the department was reduced.
In 1800 there were 903 post-offices in the United States. The last report of the postmaster general places the number at 73,570. In 1800 the annual revenue of the department was $280,804; during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1898, it was $89,012,618. In respect to the distance for which a letter is conveyed for two cents the United States is now the cheapest postal system in the world, but in the matter of cheap postage the United States was far behind Great Britain. Until 1863 the distances over which the mails were carried was the basis of the rates of postage. In 1845 the rates were : Not exceeding 300 miles, five cents; exceeding 300 miles, ten cents. By a law of 1851 the distance for which the minimum rate was charged was increased to 3,000 miles. The uniform rate of three cents was made in 1863, and in 1883 it was reduced to two cents, the rate which had been in force in Great Britain for forty-three years. The weight carried for the two-cent stamp was increased from a half ounce to one ounce in a few years, making a further reduction in the cost of communication by mail.
The money order system .introduced in England in 1792 by a private company was adopted by the British post-office in 1838. The system was not employed in the United States until 1864. There has been a gradual reduction of fees, and during the year ending June 30, 1897, the money order business of the United States amounted to $174,482,677, and there were 20,031 offices where they are sold. In 1865 the number of offices was 419, and the value of money orders issued was $1,360,123.
The little bits of colored paper that are one of the principal adjuncts to the postal business were first used in England in July, 1840, and came into use in this country in July, 1847. There are now said to be as many as 9,300 varieties some, of course, obsolete, and including the stamps on newsbands and those used as revenue stamps. Postal cards were first issued by Austria, and in the year 187o. They were adopted by the United States in 1873. In 1897, 523,608,250 were used in the United States alone.
The registry fee, which was half a crown originally in England, has there been reduced to four cents. The system was adopted in the United States in 1855, and the fee made ten cents, which has since been reduced to eight cents. In the United States the free delivery system was authorized in 1885. Railways were first used by the United States for postal purposes in 1834. Other reforms have been the introduction of railway post-offices, electric street cars, and pneumatic tubes.
The post-office does many things in other countries that it does not do in the United States. The parcels post was introduced in Great Britain in 1883, and transports small packages at a small charge. Most European countries now have a system of sending packages by mail cash on delivery, similar to our express companies. The telegraph business is a part of the post-office abroad. In continental Europe, moreover, free delivery extends even into the rural districts. The United States is almost alone among civilized nations in its lack of the postal savings bank, which institution, for the benefit of small depositors, especially in the rural districts, was introduced by England in 1861. The pneumatic tube was first used in Lon-don in 1858, and in Boston in 1896.
The crowning triumph of the postal service was the establishment in 1874 of the Universal Postal Union, which includes nearly every nation with a post-office. Five cents is now all that is necessary to carry a letter to the uttermost part of the earth. An idea of the extension of the post-office may be obtained by a glance at the Congo Free State. The post-office department of that vast country was organized in 1885, and ten post-offices have since been established, making it possible to send a letter at a cost of five cents to the wilds of Central Africa. The cannibals who reside on the banks of the Arumwi River enjoy all the advantages of the Postal Union if they so desire.
There are now scattered over the various countries of the world more than 271,000 post-offices, of which the largest number in any one country is 73,570, in the United States. There are 440,500 letter boxes from which collections are made. The total number of persons employed in the world's postal service is 872,400. Figures scarcely convey an idea of the magnitude of the business that is annually transacted through the world's post-offices. The fact that over eight and a half billion or to give the exact figures, 8,514,874,495 letters were distributed in the various countries, is almost beyond comprehension; other pieces of mail matter of various kinds raise the total amount of mail handled to 15,066,033,246 pieces. The total value of money orders issued in a year is $2,805,000,000; of these the largest number issued in any one country was 96,037,953 in Germany. The postal savings bank business has reached its highest development in Great Britain, where the total amount to the credit of depositors is in excess of $500,000,000.
Long a dream of the imagination, the telegraph found its realization in the Nineteenth Century. Laplace suggested the idea of signaling by means of breaks in electrical currents. His idea was seized by others, and in 1832 Schilling, a Russian, devised a system of telegraphy in which thirty-six needles were used. Gauss and Weber, two German physicists, established a line about three miles long at Göttingen; and Steinheil, working on their ideas, constructed several telegraph lines radiating from Munich. Steinheil was the first to make use of the earth as a return current, thus using a single wire to carry each current, and connected to the earth at both the sending and receiving stations. Wheatstone, an English inventor, together with William F. Cooke, in 1836 took out a patent for a needle telegraph. As described in their first specification, their system required five needles and six wires, one of the wires being used as a common return for the other wires. By various combinations of the needles, all of the letters and numerals could be represented. They soon found, however, that they could do all of the work by a single needle. The Wheatstone telegraph was tried successfully between Euston and Camden Town stations on the London & Northwestern railways, on July 25, 1837.
It was two years later, in 1839, before the first telegraph for public use in the world was opened. Wheat-stone constructed a line between Paddington and Slough, a distance of twenty miles. The wires were suspended on posts in goose-quills. Commercial business was taken, but evidently the income of the line was derived from the exhibition of its working. Although admission was only a shilling, and children half price, it was not well patronized until its fame was spread abroad by the capture of a murderer through its aid. The murderer, after killing a woman at Slough, took a train for Paddington. His description was telegraphed, and to his astonishment he was arrested on his arrival there.
These early telegraphs were impracticable, and the credit of the invention of the electromagnetic telegraph, which is the basis of the one used today, belongs to Samuel F. B. Morse, who began his experiments as early as 1832, after some conversation on board ship while returning from England. Although an artist and a sculptor, Morse had some practical knowledge of electromagnetism gained from his studies at Yale College, and he now devoted all of his time to an attempt to perfect the telegraph, although as a means of livelihood he retained his chair as professor of designing at the University of New York. In order to economize his scanty means, he slept and took his meals, prepared by himself, in his studio. His first practicable instrument was perfected in 1836. It was a clumsy affair. His friends laughed at him, as inventors have always been laughed at, and he received no encouragement, but was ridiculed for spending all of his meager income on the useless toy. A caveat was filed at Washington, and in February, 1838, he, with Alfred Vail and Professor Gail, took the instrument to Washington and exhibited the telegraph on a ten-mile circuit to President Van Buren. They then asked an appropriation of thirty thousand dollars for an experimental line of fifty miles, but the appeal was not acted upon by Congress. For two years he wandered about Europe, trying to secure patents and aid. On his return he found that his partners had met with financial reverses and were unable to help him. He went to Washington in 1841, and set up his instruments and strung his wires. In the direst poverty, he explained his invention to Congressmen, who were amused, but regarded it merely as a toy. Finally, when he had only 37 cents left in his pockets, he secured the influence of a class-mate, who undertook to get the appropriation through Congress. It was passed on the last day of the session, at a few moments before midnight, and after eight years of waiting, Morse had what he had sought an opportunity to show the world what he could do. Then began the construction of the line from Washington to Baltimore. When ten miles had been laid in pipes, it was found that the current grew weaker. The fault was due to induction, the carrying away of the electricity by the earth, and it was after much discussion that Vail's idea of stringing the wires on poles was adopted. On May, 1844, Morse was able to fulfill the promise he had made to Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, that her message should be the first sent over the line. In the presence of distinguished officials of the government, the message was sent. It was "What hath God wrought?" It became famous, and we are not yet sure of the answer.
The telegraph as devised by Morse was crude. To his partners is due much of the development of the idea. He first used a single cell, and Vail suggested a rectangular wooden box, divided into eight compartments and coated inside with beeswax, so that it might resist the action of acids. Morse knew nothing of what is known as the Morse alphabet. His complicated system as described in his 1837 caveat consisted of a number of signs by which numbers and consequently words and sentences were to be indicated. There was then a set of type arranged to regulate and communicate the signs, and rules in which to set this type. A crank turned by hand regulated the forward movement of the type. The writing apparatus made marks on a slip of paper. Vail discarded this and invented the dot and dash alphabet, which is now in universal use.
The receiving instrument, as finally perfected, consisted of a cylinder over which a strip of paper was run by clock-work, and in which indentations were made by a small metal peg on the arm of the armature. The fatter was held slightly away from the magnet core by a strong clasp when no current was passing; but when the impulses from the transmitter came over the line, and passed through the magnet coil, the core attracted and released the armature in rapid succession. The length of the marks on the paper is in direct proportion to the duration of each current impulse the operator lets over the line by the working of the key. To avoid the need of a strong current on the line, the recording instr circuit with its own battery, erned (opened and closed) then acquired the name by relay. Sometimes on long li to let on a fresh current in s ument was placed in a local the current of this being govby the line magnet—which which it is now known—the nes this relay magnet is made milar impulses from the battery in some office midway of the line, which is called the repeater.
In the very beginning the recording instrument was replaced by the sounder, which was also of Vail's invention. The operators became so accustomed to the tapping that they read the message b sound. The managers tried at first to prevent it, and orse was most vigorous in opposing the innovation, bu Vail improved the sounder, and the recorder was discar ed. Now the telegraph appeals to every sense, for a eaf clerk can feel the movements of a sounder, and the signals of the current can be told without any instrument y the mere taste of the wires inserted in the mouth.
During the month of M y, 1844, another opportunity for conspicuously demonstrating the value of the telegraph occurred when three important national conventions were held in Baltimore, and the news of their proceedings was instantaneously transmitted l=y the electric current to eager crowds of congressmen and others at the national capital. For one year the telegraph line was operated gratuitously, and then a small charge was made for messages by the postmaster-general, under hose direction it was. The government was offered the invention for $ioo,000, but declined to buy it, and the 4evelopment of the telegraph was left to private enterpris .
The improvement of the telegraph was rapid during the next decade. By 1847 a telegraph line ran from Washington to Albany, with many branches. Lines were built on the Morse system in every part of Europe. The increase in business, due to the desire of the public to transact its business by electricity, made necessary either the construction of many more lines or the devising of some system by which more messages could be transmitted over the same wire. Moses G. Farmer, of Boston, about 1852 made some experiments, but not successfully, and the method at present in use for multiple transmission was first suggested by Gintl, of Vienna, in 1853. Joseph B. Stearns, of Boston, in 1872 invented the duplex system, by which two messages, one each way, could be sent over a single wire simultaneously. Stearns' system was im-proved in 1874 by Thomas A. Edison, and it became possible to send two messages the same way over the same wire. Elisha Grey, of Chicago, in 1875, designed a system of multiplex telegraphy for the simultaneous transmission of several signals. In principle the system depends upon the synchronism of sonorous vibrations, propelled by electric currents. The Stearns and Edison systems were combined to form the quadruplex, by- which four messages, two each way, could be sent at the same time over a single wire. In 1898 Professor Rowlands, of Johns Hopkins University, perfected a method by which twelve messages may be sent simultaneously over the same wire.
Besides the Morse system of telegraphy, there are several automatic telegraphs, by which the message is sent with great velocity by running a previously perforated fillet of paper through the transmitter electric contact being made through the holes, the process being the same as in the musical instrument known as the orchestrion. There is also a machine telegraph, perfected by Hughes in 1881, in which the electromagnet on attracting its armature, presses the paper against a revolving type wheel and receives the print of a type, so that the message can be read by a novice.
Today the telegraph has developed to an enormous extent. The length of the world's telegraph system in 1897 was 4,908,823 miles, of which more than half was in America. In Great Britain the telegraph is most used, the telegraph rates being only six-pence for an ordinary message, and over 83,000,000 messages were carried during 1897. The telegraph has even reached Africa and the remote parts of Asia. The savages still marvel at the wonder of electrical communication. It is said that the Chinese, frightened at the "evil spirits," used to cut down the poles until Li Hung Chang ordered that whenever a pole was cut down, the man whose house was nearest to it should be beheaded. This proved an effective way of making him keep watch, to prevent the cutting down of the pole.
An interesting development of the telegraph which has been utilized on railroads in the United States and Great Britain, is the ability to send messages from moving trains. This invention owes its origin to Phelps, and was improved by Edison. The signal currents are intermit-tent, and when they pass through a conductor on the train they excite corresponding currents in wires running along the track.
Since the beginning of telegraphy, attempts have been made by various inventors to communicate without wires, and while no practical result has as yet followed these experiments, the future holds out great possibilities of ultimate success. Joseph Henry, of Washington, found in 1842 that when he threw an electric spark an inch long on a wide circuit in a room at the top of his house, electrical action was instantly set up in another circuit in the cellar. Visible means of communication between the two circuits being absent, he reasoned that the electric spark produced some kind of action in the ether, and, passing through two fluids and ceilings 14 inches thick, caused induction in the wires in the cellar.
Edison's application of induction to telegraphy from moving trains, and Hertz's discovery that electric waves penetrate wood and brick, but not metal, are the bases upon which inventors of the past two years have worked. These have been carried to the furthest stage of promise by one Italian electrician, Guiglielmo Marconi, while at work in the laboratory of Prof. Riglio, of Bologna. He is mainly indebted for his experiment to W. H. Preece, Director of the English Postal System. His official position has enabled Mr. Preece to thoroughly test it in the British Post-Office Department, and these tests have been successful. The Marconi system of telegraphy depends not upon an electrical magnet, but on electrical vibrations that is to say, on electrical waves set up at a rate of 250,000,000 to the second. These vibrations travel through space in straight lines, and can be reflected and refracted like light indeed, they are capable of all the phenomena of which light is susceptible.
The invention which dealt with the method of receiving and sending messages by this means was first experimented with on the roof of the post-office, and then for three-quarters of a mile on Salisbury Plain. Marconi was present that night, and this was the first occasion on which the apparatus was shown, except to government officials. The great difference between the systems, which had already been tried, and that of Mr. Marconi, was that in the former a wire on each side was necessary, while in the latter no wire was required. Vibrations were simply set up by one apparatus and received by the other, the secret being that the receiver must respond to the number of vibrations of the sender. The apparatus was then exhibited. What appeared to be just two ordinary boxes were stationed at each end of the room, the current set in motion at one, and a bell was immediately rung in the other. "To show that there was no deception," Mr. Marconi held the receiver and carried it about, the bell ringing when-ever the vibrations at the other box were set up.
The most valuable use to which telegraphy without wires is likely to be put in the near future is communicating from ship to ship at sea, or between lightships and lighthouses; which will not only add to the convenience of navigation, but render it more safe.
Practical use has not yet been made of the telautograph, which is the name given to the apparatus for the transmission of sketches and drawings by wire. The most successful of these inventions is that of Elisha Gray, of Chicago, which was put to practical use by the Chicago Times-Herald, on June 22nd, 1895. Using the ordinary telegraph wires, the Times--Herald was enabled to receive exact facsimilies of letters written in Cleveland by men in attendance at the national convention of Republican clubs. The fact that telegraphic sketches have not since come into general use shows that the telautograph has not yet reached a condition of real usefulness. In Prof. Gray's instrument, which was exhibited at the World's Fair, there is a pencil connected by small, rigid steel rods. As the operator draws on the paper the letter or drawing which he desires to produce, the instrument's currents or electrical impulses are awakened that excite electrical magnets and move the stylus at the far end of the pen. An invention called the Telegraph Pen, devised by E. A. Cooper, of England, is somewhat similar, though less re-liable. It is based on the method of varying strength of current in the curves of the hand writing.
Even before Morse had succeeded in obtaining connection between Baltimore and Washington, inventors were at work upon methods for establishing communication through bodies of water as well as over stretches of land. The two banks of the Hoogly River in India had been connected as early as 1839 by a Mr. O'Shaughnessy, who made use of an insulated wire plunged into the stream. Wheatstone proposed to connect Dover and Calais by sub-marine telegraph cable in 184o, but it was ten years before the plan was realized, and then the cable broke, after transmitting only a few signals. In 1851 a new cable was laid. The development of submarine telegraphy was chiefly delayed by the difficulty of devising protection and insulation for the wire. Gutta-percha was used for this purpose in 1848, and the cable was laid across the Hudson River from Jersey City to New York. The cable was strengthened by a covering not only of gutta-percha, but by a layer of tarred hemp, which in its turn is covered and protected by galvanized iron wire twisted around the core.
Cables of increasing length were laid, but the Atlantic Ocean still seemed an insuperable barrier between Europe and America. To Cyrus W. Field was due the realization of what had long appeared an impossible project. He organized a company for the purpose in 1854, but it was twelve years before they succeeded. These twelve years were filled with disappointing failures, which, however, did not daunt the indomitable pluck and energy of Mr. Field and his associates. The first attempt was made on August 7th, 1857, by the United States frigate Niagara, which sailed from Valencia, Ireland, in the direction of Heart's Content, Newfoundland. The cable broke when about 400 miles had been laid, and the steamer returned. The next year another attempt was made. This time two ships separating in mid-ocean, proceeding shoreward, one to the east and one to the west, each laying cable as they separated. Again the cable broke; but a third attempt was made later in the year, which saw the whole distance successfully spanned, and on August 16, 1858, Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchanged congratulatory messages. Great was the joy over this triumph, but it was of short duration. Day by day the messages by the cable grew more indistinct, and finally ceased. Though laid, the cable was a failure.
Field was not discouraged, but his associates were, and for eight years the cable remained useless at the bottom of the sea. During this period the United States was torn with civil war, and the sympathy of Great Britain for the Confederate states aroused an enmity in the hearts of Americans which checked any desire for closer communication between the two countries. In spite of discouragement and previous failures, Field succeeded in reorganizing his company and making a new cable. The steamship Great Eastern, which was unavailable for ordinary uses of commerce, was chartered, and in this giant vessel a cable 2,273 nautical miles long, and weighing 300 pounds per mile, was stowed. More than half of it had been laid when the cable parted, and the broken end disappeared from view. Attempts to secure it proved futile, and the Great Eastern returned to Europe. Five cables were now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and they represented an expenditure of millions of dollars. Still Mr. Field did not despair, and he persuaded his associates to invest a still larger sum. Again the Great Eastern made another journey with a new cable, equal in length to the old. She started from Queensland, and without further serious misadventure, accomplished the whole distance on July 27th, 1866. Telegraphic communication with Europe has been uninterrupted since that time. No greater triumph of engineering skill has ever been accomplished, nor can there be pointed out a more forceful object lesson in pluck and perseverance.
Since then the world has been girdled by cables. Communication has been made possible to the uttermost parts of the earth. When all the lines are clear it takes about 15 seconds to send a single sign from London to New York. There are now altogether 318 cables, with a total length of 146,419 miles. The great Pacific Ocean is as yet uncrossed, but plans are being arranged for the spanning of that mighty chasm. The principal improvement in the electrical outfit of the cable system has been the adoption of more delicate instruments to the transmission and reception of messages, as cables are generally worked on the condensed system, there being no metallic circuit.
The laying of cables is expensive. The probable cost cannot be far from $1,000 per mile; this includes the making and the laying of the cable. Present experience gives from thirty to forty years as the probable length of life of a modern submarine cable, but much depends on the preparation of the outer strands of wire, especially the galvanizing. There are instances where a cable has lasted only ten years. Specially equipped steamers are required to lay cables, and submarine wires are constantly sustaining damage from some cause. It is necessary to have one of these cable ships always ready for service.
Messages are not sent by the Morse system, but on an adaptation of the Wheatstone system, which prints a waved line on a strip of paper. The Morse system cannot be used because of the peculiar construction of the cable itself, and of a certain eccentricity of the electrical current when acting under long distances of water. Electricity invariably seeks to escape from its conductors to the earth, and, well insulated as the cables are, the innumerable ocean currents would make impossible a succession of vibrations without breaks in the electric current.
Great as the telegraph is, still greater is the telephone. By it articulate speech, with all its shades of tone and quality, is so accurately transmitted and reproduced that the voice of a friend speaking at a great distance can be easily recognized. In the United States alone the use of the long distance telephone has brought forty million people within speaking distance of each other. There is no more remarkable achievement of science than this. The speech of the telephone is as great an improvement over that of the telegraph as is the conversation of men over the chatter of monkeys.
But the telegraph did not suggest the telephone, and the two inventions have run along entirely different lines. its first basis was the discovery of Page in 1837, that when substances are magnetized they emit sound. Philip Reis, a German school teacher, in 186o, utilizing this principle, managed to transmit both words and music over a short distance. Reis's experiment set several inventors at work along these lines, and the present electromagnetic telephone was invented at about the same time by Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, both Americans. Bell's telephone is the one now in use. He exhibited his invention at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. By this it was made possible for two people to talk over a single wire for a distance of ten miles. Its principle was not the transmission of speech, but the mechanical reproduction thereof by means of the rattling of a piece of iron close to the listener's ear. The transmitter has a membrane, bearing on its center a small piece of iron placed opposite the poles of the electromagnet. The receiver, in which is enclosed an electromagnet, has fixed in the top a thin disc of iron, left free to vibrate. Sounds are produced by the vibration of this disc corresponding to currents of electricity from the other end.
Many improvements have been made in the arrangement of the receiver and transmitter since Bell's instrument was invented, with a view to intensifying the effect in the receiver. Most important of these improvements is that of Prof. Hughes, who in 1878 discovered that if one piece of carbon be allowed to rest upon another and an electrical current be passed from one to the other in a circuit containing a Bell receiver, the lines will respond to very minute sounds in the vicinity of the carbons. This is called the microphone, and is in most transmitters. Copper wire instead of iron is used for trunk lines of telephones, because it is inductive, and the Bell telephone is extremely sensitive so much so that conversation over one wire can often be heard on a neighboring wire.
The original telephone which made possible conversation between one person and another at a distance of ten miles, has been improved so that large numbers of persons are enabled to inter-communicate at will. This is due to the switch board, the aggregation of many inventions. Switch boards are often enormous in size, and represent thousands of dollars in value; while hundreds of miles of wire are often used in their construction. In New York City 37,000 subscribers are put in communication with each other through this switch board, and by means of other switch boards are enabled to talk to other subscribers at Chicago or at Boston. The connection is made by women whose duty it is to attend to the switch board. When a subscriber rings the bell a disc, bearing his number, drops, and then the operator inquires what the subscriber wants. When the number desired is mentioned, she takes up a pair of brass plugs, coupled by a flexible conductor, and joins lines of the subscribers in the switch board by simply inserting the plugs into holes corresponding with the wires, which is a very simple operation. In the near future the telephone girl, who has sup-plied writers of fiction with many romantic heroines, is likely to be supplanted by some other labor saving device. Already patents have been taken out for automatic machinery designed to connect subscribers, and telephone experts predict that the use of such a contrivance will become universal within a few years.
The last decade of the Nineteenth Century has been remarkable for the extension of telephone lines, and with improvement and stronger wires electricians believe that communication will be possible from one end of the United States to the other. The chief question is whether the results would be justified by the business. Extensions have been made wherever this condition seemed to be fulfilled. Paris and London, 297 miles apart, were enabled to con-verse with each other in April; 1891. New York and Cleveland were connected, though 65o miles apart, in 1883, and the superiority of the long distance telephone to the telegraph was clearly shown during the great blizzard of 1898, when for several days the only direct means of communication between Boston and New York was a long distance telephone wire, which withstood the storm that destroyed all other lines. Chicago was brought into communication with New York in October, 1892, and now conversation is carried on as easily over this distance of a thousand miles as if between two residents in the same city. This line has hundreds of branches to nearby points between the two great American metropolises. During 1898 the long distance telephone service was extended to Austin, Tex., and it is possible for a person in that city to talk with Bangor, Me., a distance of 2,600 miles.
Novel applications of the telephone have made it possible for the invalid sitting at home to hear the sermon of a favorite preacher or the songs sung by a great song-stress in a concert hall scores of miles away. Early in 1895 the rector of Christ Church, in Birmingham, England, attached several telephones to his writing desk, pulpit, organ and choir, and connected them with hospitals and jails in seven large cities at distances ranging from 100 to 250 miles. In all of these the whole service at Christ Church was heard simultaneously.
More than one practical method of sending several telephone messages at once over one and the same wire has been devised. W. W. Jacques, an American, and Hutin & Le Blanc, of France, have accomplished the feat of enabling a dozen pairs of persons to talk over one telephone, and by means of a single wire, so perfectly that the conversation of each pair does not in the least interfere with the conversation of any of the others. Part of the articulated utterance of one of the speakers is sent over the line, and before the rest of it goes over the wire the other eleven speakers have each had a turn in succession; this being possible because every sound occupying but the one hundred and five thousandth part of a second can be heard, while an interruption, lasting as long as the one-hundredth part of a second in a sound continuous, except for such interruption, cannot be detected.
Telephoning by a ray of light instead of wire, on the same principle as telephoning without wires, is the subject of present experiments by Professor Gray and Bell. It is said that this invention, known as the radio-phone, is practically perfected, and is only awaiting a favorable opportunity for its official application. The theory is that a ray of light may be impressed with sound vibrations in exactly the same manner that an electrically charged wire receives them from the telephone. The details of Professor Bell's invention have been kept a secret by him, but he has been able to transmit the human voice a distance of more than a mile and a half by its aid. As a commercial invention it has been retarded by the fact that an instrument which has to depend entirely upon sunlight for its efficiency might be least available when most necessary. Professor Bell declares, however, that he sees no reason why, if the right sort of light were found, it would not be possible to establish a series of reflecting mirrors at convenient distances apart, so as to reflect the ray in any desired direction, when it would only be necessary that there should be nothing in the way of an obstruction to cross the beam in its travels from mirror to mirror.
Improvements in shorthand have made possible more rapid communication. By its perfection during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century the extemporaneous speeches and addresses made by the master minds of the Century are taken down as delivered and preserved for the perusal of future ages. Had such a device existed in the time of Demosthenes what priceless gems of oratory would be preserved as models for orators. The Greeks and Romans had a system of shorthand, but it was crude. Isaac Pitman, in 1837, made such improvements in the systems in use in his day that he is called the father of modern shorthand. Charles Dickens, when he began the study of shorthand in 1824, adopted the best method then in existence, but was compelled to learn the use of more than T00 signs and symbols, many of which were arbitrary. Pitman reduced a number of these signs and simplified them so that to-day a stenographer's pencil can follow the most rapid orator. Single minute tests have been made, with faultless transcriptions, ranging as high as 407 words per minute, while writing new matter from continuous dictation 252 words per minute have been taken for five minutes. This record was made by Isaac S. Dement, of Chicago, at Lake George, N. Y., in 1888.
Simple as the typewriting machine of the present seems and as great a necessity as it is to the business man of today, it is a creature of but yesterday. One wonders how the people of a generation ago managed to transact business without it. Now the nimble fingers of the type-writer girl, flying swiftly over the keys, write many times as rapidly and in clear, distinct, legible characters the messages sent by business men to their correspondents. The author no longer "takes his pen in hand," but sits down before a typewriter that delivers copy, which saves the temper and eyesight of the compositor. It seems but a simple invention, yet how much time it saves to those who write and receive letters ! Various attempts were made as early as 1675 to invent a machine that would print writing and answer the purposes of the modern typewriter. But none of these was successful, and no authentic description of such a machine remains. The first working model of the typewriter was exhibited by Folcault at the Paris Exposition in 1855. It was de-signed for the use of blind persons, and bore little re-semblance to the machine now employed. The inventors, however, kept hammering at the idea of a practical machine, and several models along this line were perfected and patented in Europe and the United States.
The machine in its present perfected form may be said to date from 1873. The machines in present use are of three kinds type-bar machines, cylinder machines, and wheel machines. In the type-bar machine, which is the one most used, steel types are fixed at the extremity of a bar or rod of iron. By striking the key of any particular letter a lever is moved which raises the type-bar and causes the type at its point to strike on an ink ribbon and impress a letter on the paper, which is held against an India rubber roller. The type bars are so hinged that all the types when they are struck hit in precisely the same spot; so that if the paper remained stationary the impressions of all the type struck would be superimposed on each other. By automatic mechanism the cylinder under the paper moves a space to the left with the impression of each letter, and the depression of a wooden bar similarly moves the cylinder a space after each word.
Numerous improvements have been made, and there are now a host of excellent writing machines. The speed which can be attained is a matter of much controversy. A rate of 204 words has been attained on some of the leading machines in single minute tests, the operators writing from memorized sentences. A continuous speed of i00 words per minute is, however, the probable limit of an expert operator in actual work.