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This is a fine replica of the very first telegraph ever put in use "on-line" on a commercial application in 1839 ( 5 years before Samuel Morse sent its "What hath God wrought !" between Washington and Baltimore.) Click to see the large image !


It was in 1835 that Schilling von Cannstadt demonstrated a simple one-needle telegraph in Bonn. This device was nothing more than a slightly modified needle galvanometer by Nobili (this in turn was based on Oersted's findings that a compass needle deviates under the influence of a magnetic field). His audience included Prof. Muncke of Heidelberg, who was so enthusiastic that he had made a copy so that he could demonstrate the device during his lectures. One of his students, the Englishman William Fothergill Cooke, was present during one of these in March 1836. He was captivated by the telegraph and immediately saw its money-making potential. He too, had a replica made which he then took to England in April. He went to ask advice from the famous Faraday who referred him to Prof. Charles Wheatstone, of which he knew that he was already experimenting with some forms of telegraphs. On June 1837, the two men were awarded patent number 7390 for their "five-needle telegraph". Activating two of the five needles, pointing to each other, allowed up to 20 characters to be encoded (the letters C, J, Q, U, X and Z were not used).The first public trial was held on July 25, 1837 over a short distance along the railway line between Euston Square and Camden Town (London). It was put into real operation in 1839 along the railway between Paddington and West Drayton.

However, the need for five wires (return via the earth) made it extremely expensive to install, and when the line was extended to Slough, two-needle instruments, using coded signals, replaced the five-needle telegraphs. After 1845, when Cooke & Wheatstone felt the competition of the single wire system from Morse, most of the telegraphs in the UK became single-needle ones. Two needle telegraphs, used in Belgium in the 1840s can be seen page 11, (photo 161, photo 162) and on page 18 (photo 273, photo 274). You will find one of the oldest single-needle telegraphs on page 18 (photo 275, photo 276). Later models are on page 6 (photo 87).

Cooke as well as Wheatstone have also been active in the development of dial- (or ABC-) telegraphs as from the late 1830s. On page 2 photo 30 you can see Wheatstone's most popular model (patented in 1858).

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