Wired into Nature: The Telegraph and the North American Frontier (History of Communication)
University of Illinois Press
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The completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph in 1861 completed telegraphy's mile-by-mile trek across the West. In addition to linking the coasts, the telegraph represented an extraordinary American effort in many fields of endeavor to know, act upon, and control a continent. Merging new research with bold reinterpretation, James Schwoch details the unexplored dimensions of the frontier telegraph and its impact. The westward spread of telegraphy entailed encounters with environments that challenged Americans to acquire knowledge of natural history, climate, and a host of other fields. Telegraph codes and ciphers, meanwhile, became important political, military, and economic secrets. Schwoch shows how the government's use of commercial networks drove a relationship between the two sectors that served increasingly expansionist aims. He also reveals the telegraph's role in securing high ground and encouraging surveillance. Both became vital aspects of the American effort to contain, and conquer, the West's indigenous peoples--and part of a historical arc of concerns about privacy, data gathering, and surveillance that remains pertinent today. Entertaining and enlightening, Wired into Nature explores an unknown history of the West.
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