By Frank L. Pope



I acquired the book reproduced here in around 1994, and after scanning the images and entering the text, started looking for a way to republish it. My original plans centered aroung TeX or something like that, but when the World Wide Web, and Mosaic, the first graphical browser appeared, that became a natural target.

So this book became some pretty early content on the WWW, at first available only inside my company's firewall, but quickly appearing on the open Internet as I started using hosting providers.

The original was very HTML-3-ish, all hand built, and it looked it, but it did work with Mosaic, the early versions of which could not display .jpg files. I have tried to update with a little bit nicer styling. Enjoy.


On a recent business trip to Portland, on the day I was to leave I went book shopping at Powell's Bookstore. As it was getting close to time to leave for my plane, I got increasingly anxious at not having found anything really cool enough to go to the trouble of carrying all the way back home. Then I found this book, and decided almost immediately to buy it. It seemed a little steep for a used book, but I have paid much more for new books that were far less interesting.

As I started to read it, I found myself wanting to share it--- the excellent engravings helped a lot, but old technical books are fascinating to me. This book is a strange cross between the stultifyingly boring drone of obsolete technical material and the magic of a peephole into the (technically) distant past, a time when there were Ohms, but no Volts or Amperes, only tension and quantity, relative terms with arbitrary units. A time when electricity came from only lightning and voltaic cells, and when a lamp necessarily had a flame.

If you ever wanted to know how to amalgamate the zincs of a Grove battery, or know how a bidirectional telegraph repeater works, or just to marvel that men with jars of acid and relays and iron wire on wood poles were able to communicate from Newfoundland to San Francisco and even across the Atlantic Ocean in what we now call ``real time'', you might be interested in this book. This book is, in a convoluted way, the real story of How They Did It.

This is probably not a particularly rare book. Since it is the eleventh edition, one might conclude that many people found it to be a useful book. If you must study the typography or the quality of the engravings, go find a copy. But if you just want to read it, here it is.

The vision that kept me going through this whole exercise was of the people sitting at the publishing house, setting type out of a tray. Whether the book was really set this way I don't know, but in any case the work that must have been done in putting a book like this together seems staggering today, but only because we don't have to do it that way.

->Charles Keith


All figures and plates are scanned at 300 dpi, and all text was entered by hand, without the use of scanners or OCR. A single proofreading pass was made (by me), and the objective was to create an ASCII document that was readable to the same degree as the original book, but could be typeset later if so desired. Since the book had numbered sections, the table of contents was re-done based on the section numbers rather than page numbers. The index has been dropped, not just because I did not want to type it, but because without page numbers it is useless. Aside from that, I avoided editing the material, even leaving in a few typographical errors that were not my own. If you really must know what is me and what is Pope, find a copy of the book.




An image of the title page.

A 300 dpi gif of the title page.








New York:

D. VAN NOSTRAND, Publisher,

23 Murray Street & 27 Warren Street


An image of the copyright page.

A 300 dpi gif of the copyright page.

Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



During the quarter of a century which has elapsed since the introduction of the Electric Telegraph in the United States, those engaged in its service have been almost entirely dependent upon verbal instruction, and long practical experience, for a thorough technical knowledge of their profession. The works accessible to the American telegrapher have been of a popular, rather than of a strictly scientific character, or else of so elementary a nature as to be of little service except to the most inexperienced students. It is true that a number of excellent foreign works have appeared within a few years ; yet the difficulty and expense of obtaining them, as well as their want of applicability to the American telegraphic system, has prevented their general circulation among the class for which this work is more especially designed.

The unexpectedly favorable reception which has been accorded to the first three editions of this work, has led the author to believe that it has, to some extent, supplied the acknowledged deficiency which had previously existed in this branch of literature. The present edition has been carefully revised, as well as enlarged by the addition of much new matter, and is believed to embrace all the recent discoveries and improvements in practical telegraphy, which have successfully passed through the test of actual experience.

The methods of testing telegraph lines and apparatus by actual measurement, which are now universally employed in Europe, and to some extent in this country, have been treated upon to an extent commensurate with the importance of the subject. It is hoped that, with the aid of this work, the student may obtain a complete and satisfactory knowledge of this useful and beautiful system.

The principles laid down for the guidance of the student in the formation of the telegraphic alphabet, and the subsequent progressive exercises intended for practice with the key, differ but slightly from those employed by the author, while teaching a class of students for the American Telegraph Company in 1864. This plan was believed at that time to be original, but as a method of teaching, involving substantially the same principles, was devised and subsequently published by Prof. J. E. Smith, in his Manual of Telegraphy, it seems proper to make this explanation of the circumstances.

Among the additional matter in the present edition will be found an entire new chapter upon the Recent Improvements in Telegraphic Practice, as well as a number of articles in the Appendix, on the Equipment of Telegraph Lines, the Working Capacity of Telegraph Lines, and the Electrical Tension of Batteries and Lines, etc., etc.

Most of the illustrations in this volume have been engraved expressly for its pages, from original drawings by the author.

In conclusion, the author desires to express his acknowledgments to his friend David Brooks, for much valuable aid in the preparation of this work, especially of the present edition ; and information which has been kindly supplied by him. Much useful material has also been obtained from Sabine's Electric Telegraph, Culley's Hand-Book of the Electric Telegraph, Clark's Electrical Measurement, Varley's Report on the Condition of the Western Union Lines, and the columns of The Telegrapher.

Elizabeth, N. J., January, 1871.


Index to Illustrations: