Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

My deepest appreciation goes to all the librarians, archivists, curators, and staffs at the various institutions where I conducted research for this book. These libraries and institutions include the Northwestern University Libraries; the National Archives; the Smithsonian Institution; the Library of Congress; the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester; the Massachusetts Historical Society; the Newberry Library; the Grove; the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum; and the Anchorage Museum. In addition,...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-22

This book is a historical study of the growth and deployment of the telegraph in western North America, concentrating on the latter half of the nineteenth century. The impact of the telegraph upon the United States of America during the last half of the nineteenth century has not been lost on scholars who study media and communication.2 Over the years, a number of distinguished books and articles have been written about the telegraph and the nineteenth-century American experience. For the most part, past scholarly...

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1. Landscapes, Ecosystems, and Prevailing Westerlies: The Great Plains

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pp. 23-48

The high ground evokes transformation. To secure and conquer the high ground was also to create the conditions to transform the surrounding terrain overseen by the high ground. Building telegraph lines, stations, and networks in western North America meant engaging the high ground literally in terms of elevation and challenging terrain. The topological, climatological, and environmental extremes of western North America far surpassed the extremes encountered in eastern North America. Securing the high ground for the telegraph in western North America also meant the...

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2. Storms Moving in a Ring of Fire: The Civil War

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pp. 49-82

If any significant security measures existed for the telegraph within the District of Columbia—indeed for connectivity to any telegraph line prior to April 1861 and the onset of the Civil War—they are not strongly evident. Various codes and ciphers were used in telegraph messages for Washington and elsewhere, but they often consisted of condensed words for the purpose of reducing the cost of a telegram rather than securing its contents. As the rebellion commenced in the middle of April 1861, telegraphy in Washington strained from the stress to the near breaking point. At various moments, the...

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3. Changes in the Forecast: Data Gathering, Mapping, and Weather Predictions

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pp. 83-106

The year 1866 proved to be a watershed in the development of American telegraphy. The National Telegraph Act of 1866 allowed for stringing telegraph wire on post road routes, empowered the postmaster general to set telegraph rates for government use of commercial telegraph networks, and required that telegraph companies activating post road right-of-way uses could be bought out by Congress five years later.2 The same year, Congress passed the Act to Increase and Fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States.3 This act permanently increased the size of the army, led to...

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4. Dreams of a Boreal Empire, Nightmares of a Polar Vortex: The Arctic

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pp. 107-148

The Western Union Telegraph Expedition to Russian America (Alaska), British Columbia, the Bering Strait, and Siberia in 1865–67 explored the possibility of building a telegraph line through the Pacific Northwest and across Alaska. The route planned to traverse the Bering Strait by undersea cable and connect to a telegraph line in Siberia, thus linking North America and Asia (and by extension, Europe) via intercontinental telegraph networks and undersea cables. The expedition included a scientific team organized by the Smithsonian Institution and led by Robert Kennicott. Kennicott was the nation’s...

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5. Hot Winds on a Sun-Baked Desert: The Southwest

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pp. 149-174

Where was the water? Answering that question for the landscapes and ecosystems of western North America was and is a central issue for human success, culture, sustenance, and even survival. To know the local water was to master local knowledge. Adequate rainfall meant crops and pasturage. Lakes, rivers, and watersheds meant fish, wildlife, transport, irrigation, edible plants, and possibly timber. Water attracted birds. Too much water at once could be dangerous, especially when winter snow melts or sudden squalls flooded rivers and washes and sometimes triggered avalanches or mudslides....

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Conclusion

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pp. 175-188

The White House Telegraph Room (also called the Telegraph and Cipher Bureau) of the William McKinley presidency was the room where “the President has the whole United States under his thumb.”2 In 1877, at the request of President Rutherford Hayes, the Signal Corps assigned Benjamin Montgomery to the White House as a telegraph officer. For the next twenty-eight years, Montgomery oversaw the expansion of the White House Telegraph Room into what one reporter writing in 1902 for Telegraph Age called “perhaps the most complete bureau of confidential communication in the...

Notes

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pp. 189-222

Bibliography

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pp. 223-240

Index

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pp. 241-248

About the Author

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pp. 249-254