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Telegraph Message From Annapolis Junction

Telegraph Message From Annapolis Junction

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Published by George W Anderson
Description of how the first commercial Morse message was sent from Annapolis Junction, MD
Description of how the first commercial Morse message was sent from Annapolis Junction, MD

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: George W Anderson on Jul 06, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/09/2014

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1
 AnnapolisJunction,MDandtheMorseElectromagneticTelegraph’sFirstPublicSuccess,May4,1844
By:GeorgeAnderson,May4,2011
Ithasbeen167yearssinceSamuelF.B.MorselocatedinthethenSupremeCourtRoominthenation’sCapitolreceivedthefirstpublicnewsmessagefromhispartnerAlfredVailtransmittinginMorsecodefromanopenplatformbesidetherailsatAnnapolisJunction,MD.
The message announced that the Whig Party candidate for President would be Henry Clay, and his running mate would be Theodore Frelinghuysen.The attendees from the Baltimore Whig convention left Annapolis Junction by train, andarrived in Washington to find the news was already being announced in the city by thelocal papers. Writing in a letter to the New York Times in 1909, Stephen Vail, Alfred’sson relates more intimate details about this event and makes a strong public case for themessage being recognized as the first historic use of the line.
1
 
MorsehadreceivedacommissionfromCongressonMarch3,1843tobuildademonstrationtelegraphlinefromWashington,DCtoBaltimore,MDandhewaslessthanamonthfromcompletingthistask.ThegeographicalsignificanceofAnnapolisJunctionwasthatitlayroughlyequidistant(20-22statutemiles)fromthe
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NewYorkTimesJanuary23,1909,letterfromStephenVail.http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=FA0710F8395D12738DDDAF0A94D9405B808CF1D3
Figure1.AnnapolisJunctioncirca1860
 
 
2threeprincipalcitiesofWashington,BaltimoreandAnnapolis.Itwasalsothejunctionoftworaillines.ThetwolinesweretheBaltimoreandOhio(B&O)andtheAnnapolisandElkRidgeRailroads(A&ER).TheB&OranfromBaltimore’sMountClairStationtotheoutskirtsofWashingtonDC.TheMountClareStationtodayhousestheB&Orailroadmuseum.MorsehadobtainedagreementtousetheB&Orightofwaytoerectwhatwouldbecomethenation’sfirstsuccessfullongdistancecommunicationsnetwork.Technically,itwasbasedonregulatingtheflowofelectricityfromprimarybatteriescalledGrovecellsovertwoconductorsstrungonpolestoareceivinginstrument.Thesecellswerethehightechsourceofon-demandelectricityin1844andbecausetheyemittedpoisonousnitrousfumeswhilecurrentwasflowingwouldnotpassmusterwiththeEPAtoday.
Figure2.MapshowingAnnapolisRailroadJunctioncirca1878
FromvariousrecollectionsandsomestudyoftheearlierAnnapolisJunction,onecansurmisethatAlfredVailprobablysetuphistelegraphinstrumentwithin100feetofthepointwheretodaytheCSXrunningontheoldB&OrightofwaypassesunderMDRoute32.Figure3.Showsagraveltowerthatstandsatthelocationoftheoriginalrailstationandplatform.An1860directoryliststwohotels,arailstationandapostofficeinAnnapolisJunction.Today,theonlyenduringmemoryofthisoriginalcommunitythatIhavefoundisthroughtheverbalreminiscencesofpersonswhoateatHenkelsrestaurantupuntilthemid1990’s.Henkel’sRestaurantoccupiedwhatlikelywasthestructureofoneoftheoriginal2hotelsthatstood
 
3acrosstherailsfromthestation.Thesame1860,recordshowsthatonehotelwascalledthe
Figure3.AlfredVailmostlikelytransmittedthefirsttelegraphmessagenearwherethegreendumpstersitstoday(2011).
ParkhurstHouse,ownedbyaMr.GeorgeBell.TheonlyothersurvivingstructurefromthiseraisGrassland,an1854plantationhouseandoutbuildingsbuiltbyWilliamAndersonthatonecanseeontherightsideoftheroadalongNationalBusinessParkway.Currently,thereisnoMarylandHistoricalMarker(MHM)inAnnapolisJunctiontocommemoratethishistoricevent.TheclosestMHMrelatingtothetelegraphisonRoute1,inBeltsville,MDfixingapointontherouteofthefirsttelegraphline.
2
PerhapsitistimethatAnnapolisJunctionproudlydisplaysitsstorytoremindtelecommunicationsprofessionalswheretheirprofessionbegan.AlfredVail’sson,Stephen,wouldagreeandmightevenhavesucceededindoingthishimselfhadhenotdiedfourmonthsafterpresentinghiscaseintheNYTimes102yearsago.
2
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MD_Historical_Marker_First_Telegram.jpg

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