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1861 __ The universal telegraph
Comment : “. (The wire of one friend may be placed in communication with that of another, or in fact with any person who rents a wire. It may be that the friend may dwell in another part of the kingdom, in which case before sending a message, it would be necessary to h)“By combining beforehand different lines in this manner, two different persons may converse together across the island, sitting in their own drawing rooms; nay, only by extending the connection of these lines with the submarine cables across the seas, a person may converse with his friend travelling day by day at the other end of the globe, provided only that he keeps on some telegraphic line that is continuous with the main electric trunk-lines of the world.”.“This may appear to be an idle dream, but that it will certainly come to pass we have no manner of doubt whatever.”. (Andrew Wynter, MD, ‘The Nervous System of the Metropolis’, in ‘Our Social Bees’, 1861)The Universal Private Telegraph Company was projected on September 20, 1860 to acquire Charles Wheatstone’s patent of 1858 for his perfected magneto-electric dial apparatus, the easily-operated Universal telegraph, a neat single instrument. to “carry out a system by which banks, merchants, public bodies and other parties may have the means of establishing a telegraph for their own private purposes from their houses to their offices, manufactories or other places”. One of the first acts of the Board was to engage in an Agreement with the Electric Telegraph Company, with its immense network of public circuits; this complex seven-year arrangement was signed on September 3, 1861. Its clauses stated the strategic ambitions of the two companies; 1] the Universal was to operate private wires in cities and towns, it would not allow the wires of any other company on its premises, and it was to transcribe messages from its private lines to the public system only through the Electric’s circuits. 2] In return the Electric would accommodate the Universal’s clerks and instruments on its premises but would not be responsible for any costs. Messages would be transcribed at the Electric’s current rate and all such income would be retained by the larger company; equally all revenues from private lines and instruments would go to the Universal company. 3] Unless the Electric agreed otherwise the Universal would not engage in public telegraphy or in third party agreements for service; in return the Electric would not engage in private telegraphy other than for government service which it was obliged to do under its Acts. 4] The Electric undertook to match the rate for any foreign messages transcribed from the Universal’s circuits to the lowest available. Private subscribers were only able to specify another company’s foreign route if were to be quicker to the destination. However, foreign press despatches and newspaper messages could be sent by any route or company. 5] The Electric Telegraph Company agreed “to support and assist the Universal Private Telegraph Company, other than by pecuniary means”. [...] Even before the Company’s creation the Universal telegraph instruments had been installed on internal circuits at newspapers in London, by Reuter in his foreign news agency and by the City Police. The earliest new subscribers for rental of a private wire in London included, in April 1861, S W Silver & Company, Bishopsgate to Silvertown; Ravenhill & Salkeld, engineers and shipbuilders, Ratcliffe to Blackwall; the ‘Daily Telegraph’, Fleet Street to Russell Square (the owner’s residence) and the Thames Graving Dock Company, Silvertown; in September 1861, Pickford & Company and Chaplin & Horne, the carriers, and Bass & Company, the brewers, from their City premises to Camden Town railway goods depot; in March 1862, J Reuter, Royal Exchange Buildings to the offices of ‘The Times’, ‘Daily Telegraph’ and ‘Morning Star’ newspapers; and in July 1862, the Zoological Society of London, Middlesex Water Works and Price’s Patent Candle Company. [...] The first contract for a private telegraph outside of London was agreed with Reid & Ewing, muslin and calico printers, of Maryhill, Glasgow, on October 23, 1860, to connect with their city office in George Street. In October 1861 the Company was canvassing for private wire customers in Manchester, the centre of the cotton trade and manufacturing in Britain and was engaged in building its first aerial cables there. [...] From the beginning the Universal Private Telegraph Company classified its instruments as Communicators (transmitters), Indicators (receivers) and Bells (alarms). Each type had a separate number series in the Instrument Account. Originally they were separate instruments, but by 1863 Augustus Stroh had combined the Communicator and Indicator into a single instrument, with its own Bell. The functions continued to be accounted for individually as private users requested separated instruments, particularly more alarm bells. Also Wheatstone’s magnetic bells were used to provide acoustic signals in mines and factories, as they had on the railways previously. The Company also provided switches to combine more than one circuit and tested relatively complex switch-boards, designed by its engineer Colin Brodie, to interconnect multiple circuits. (Steven Roberts, “Distant Writing - A History of the Telegraph Companies in Britain between 1838 and 1868”, 2010)
Urls : http://distantwriting.co.uk/privatetelegraphy.aspx (last visited )

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