The transcontinental telegraph connected the east with the west. The day of its completion was good news for President Abraham Lincoln, but it wasn’t for the reason you may think.
On October 24, 1861, the transcontinental telegraph was completed. Like the transcontinental railroad, it was built by two crews working toward the middle. One crew started in Missouri, and the other in San Francisco. A crew would string as much as 25 miles of wire per day. The telegraph wire followed a route similar to that taken by the Pony Express. Workmen placing poles and stringing line and Pony Express riders would wave to each other as they passed, not realizing that the success of one would mean the failure of the other.
The two telegraph crews met in Salt Lake City, Utah. The cost to send a telegram from coast to coast was $6 for ten words. Brigham Young sent the first telegraph west, from Salt Lake City. But the first one to actually go coast to coast was a special one.
Now it just so happened that as the transcontinental telegraph was being completed, the Civil War was in the process of dividing our country. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and a number of other states had seceded from the Union. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as provisional Confederate President.
Abraham Lincoln was busy trying to line up states that would remain in the union, and the first transcontinental telegram was good news for Lincoln.
It was sent to him 3,595 miles away, from San Francisco, California by California’s Supreme Court chief justice, Stephen Johnson Field. The telegram from Justice Field to President Lincoln congratulated him on the completion of the telegraph line and pledged his state’s continuing loyalty to the Union in those sad days of civil strife. Incidentally, the chief justice didn’t have to pay the $6 for the telegraph.