Chapters (Layout Features)

Letters, Telegrams, News

John, Richard R.

The Electro Magnetic Telegraph—A Great Revolution Approaching.' So ran the headline of a glowing editorial that James Gordon Bennett featured in the New York Herald in May 1845. Though the country's first telegraph link—a forty-mile line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore—had been open to the public on a fee-for-service basis for only a month, and while New York City had yet to be linked with the nation's capital, it seemed self-evident to Bennett that the new medium was destined to have 'the most extraordinary effects.' Prominent among them would be the rapid obsolescence of the handwritten letter. Now that the public had an alternative to the post office, Bennett predicted, the 'present system of epistolary correspondence' would be 'entirely revolutionized' and the 'mail system' entirely 'broken up.' Who in the future would bother to pen a handwritten letter that might take days to arrive, now that it had become possible to communicate immediately over the wires?

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The Edinburgh Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Letters and Letter-Writing
Edinburgh University Press

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August 1, 2018