The nineteenth century brought the world into an era of great technological development and invention. People from across the United States were brought closer than ever before. Today I am talking about the thinkers, the ones who brought us together, and who made our world just a little bit better. Ever since George Stephenson first designed the steam engine in 1814, inventors from across the globe put forth their ideas to bring forth a technological renaissance.
Machines like the telegraph in 1816, the typewriter in 1829, and the telephone in 1876 continued to inspire and connect more thinkers throughout the next century. All of the technology I just shared was kick-started by a man named George Stephenson, he was born just like any other kid on 9 June 1781 near Newcastle. His father wasn’t rich, he was an engineman at a coal mine, and just like any other kid, Stephenson worked at the mine, just like his father did. There was no time for school in young Stephenson’s life, so he learned to read and write in his spare time.
In 1814, after spending his life in the mines Stephenson had an idea and built it using the spare cash from his job. His goal was to construct what would be his first locomotive, nicknamed ‘Blucher’, it would be used for hauling coal at Killingworth Colliery near his hometown of Newcastle. After a while, people started to notice all of the extra work his new invention could do, so in 1821, Stephenson was appointed the master engineer for the construction of the first railway. It eventually opened after 4 years of work in 1825 and was the first line to carry passengers.
In October 1829, there was a competition funded by the rich business owners, to see which line was the fastest and could pull heavier loads over longer distances. Thousands came to watch Stephenson’s locomotive, the ‘Rocket’ win the competition, achieving a max speed of 36 miles per hour, a new world record. After a long life of invention, Stephenson died on 12 August 1848, however, his legacy, along with many other inventors lasted far longer than they could have ever imagined.
The machine shrouded in mystery and a dedicated inventor lost to time. What is this secret device, and why was it seemingly erased from history? The machine, known only as a typographer, was America’s first typewriter. Invented by William Austin Burt, it was a technological marvel that would bring the modern home the power of a printing press. The typograph was worked by hand to print words onto paper. The original model provided by William Austin Burt was destroyed along with his patent in 1836 when a fire burnt down the Patent Office where it was held.
Burt was an American inventor, surveyor, and legislator, when he originally created the typographer, his idea to speed up secretarial work however ironically his model would have most likely made their work slower. The next invention that changed the world was the telegraph made by Francis Ronald, an English inventor who used static electricity to create the first working telegraph in 1816. It was made in his home on Hammersmith Mall.
After which he set up an over 175-yard-long trench to carry wires to communicate with along with over eight miles of overhead telegraph wire. Both ends were connected to revolving dials which were marked with letters of the alphabet. These made electrical impulses that were sent along the wire he had set up in order to transmit messages to friends and neighbors. He offered his invention to the British military in July 1816, but it was rejected due to it being considered unnecessary.
However, the ideas he proposed, the possibility of rapid global communication never faded away, and the first commercially popular telegraph was created over 20 years later in 1832. The next iteration of the telegraph was invented by Baron Schilling von Canstatt in 1832. The changes made to Ronald’s invention weren’t that different on the transmitting side. Canstatt’s had a much cleaner, more refined design, with a keyboard consisting of 16 black and white keys. Each of these keys was reserved for switching the electric current, to represent letters of the alphabet.
The receiving instrument, however, was much different carrying six galvanometers suspended in silk threads. Canstatt’s telegraph had to be connected by eight wires six of which were connected to the galvanometers. The other two were used for the return current and signal bell. The next evolution, made by Pavel Schilling, greatly improved on its wires reducing the number of needed wires from eight to two. After Schilling’s death in 1837, the project to connect wires under the ocean was canceled. Samuel Morse was the next inventor to revolutionize telegraphic communication when he developed and patented the first recording electric telegraph in 1837.
His machine embossed dots and dashes to a moving paper tape through a stylus which was operated through an electromagnet. Morse and his partner Vail developed a new code in order to translate new messages through this system. Nicknamed Morse code, this code became the widest known coding system of its time. The first telegram sent in the United States was sent by Morse on 11 January 1838, to Speedwell Ironworks in, New Jersey. Later, in 1844, that he sent a message from the Capitol in Washington, ‘WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT.”
After the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century, the creation of radio and the telephone soon followed and continued to be driving forces in America throughout the early 20th century. Today we talked about the inventors who changed the face of engineering and the world forever. When George Stephenson, designed the steam engine in 1814, he unintentionally started a technological renaissance. People from across the United States were brought closer than ever before, and new machines like the telegraph and the typewriter continued to inspire and connect more thinkers throughout the next century.