Telegraph operators interested in construction of lines

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 8, no. 14, p. 108, col. 1-3

Row and Why Telegraph Operators are Interested in the

Construction of Superior and Reliable Telegraph Lines.


IT may be supposed by some telegraphers that they are not personally interested in the construction of superior lines, and such as will yield the best pecuniary results - and that, as THE TELEGRAPHER is published primarily in the interest, and as the organ of the telegraphic fraternity, and does not especially represent telegraph proprietors or stockholders, too much space is devoted in its columns to the subject of improving construction and insulation. This is a superficial view of the matter, and we propose now to show how and why practical telegraphers are directly and materially interested in such improvements, though they may never own a dollar's worth of telegraph stock, or have any interest in the business beyond the proper performance of their duties and the receipt of their monthly salaries.

Before proceeding to the discharge of this duty, however, we desire to say that in criticizing the defects of construction and insulation, and in urging the much needed adoption of improvements in these respects, we are not actuated by hostility to any telegraph company, or desire to injure unnecessarily or wantonly the reputation and value of any line. This paper or its editors has not one dollar's worth of interest in any telegraph line or enterprise, and it is supported by the employes of all the different and antagonistic telegraph corporations and lines in this country and the British Provinces. It is not the organ of the "opposition," as has been frequently asserted, nor is it antagonistic to any legitimate telegraphic enterprise. It seeks to advance the interests of all concerned, by urging, as the most effectual method of so doing, the improvement of construction and insulation, the adoption of better material and of improved instruments, thus insuring better pecuniary results. We have no hostility to the Western Union Company, for instance, although that has been and is continually charged against us. We are opposed to telegraphic monopoly, whether it be sought to establish it through the Western Union or any other telegraphic combination, or through legislative action and a Government telegraph. We believe that the construction of inferior lines, and the use of notoriously defective and inefficient insulation, is detrimental to the telegraph as a business, and to the interests of its employes and patrons as well as the stockholders-and we, therefore, criticize and denounce them wherever they are used. We believe that the systems of construction and insulation in general use are defective and inefficient, and we therefore add the influence of THE TELEGRAPHER (whether great or otherwise) to the efforts which are being made to establish a better system, and effect a reform in this direction. In pursuance of this policy we have urged the use of the compound telegraph wire and the BROOKS Insulators, because we believe that they are a vast improvement upon the iron wire, and the glass and other insulators in common use.

We think that any intelligent telegrapher who will duly consider the subject cannot fail to realize the effect which defective construction and insulation has upon the real interests of the telegraphic fraternity. With inferior lines the capacity for business is greatly reduced, and the pecuniary results correspond to the condition and efficiency of the lines and instruments employed. The amount of business which can be done upon a wire is in exact proportion to the condition of that wire. It is a fact well known that certain telegraph lines, with all the business that can be transmitted over them, can never be made to pay; the consequence is that not only are the stockholders compelled to see their investment practically sacrificed and valueless, but it is impossible for them to pay anything more than starvation wages to their employes. As a natural consequence, the better class of operators gradually abandon them, or only take service on them temporarily until something better offers, and thus the deficiency is still further increased and the pecuniary results become less and less favorable. Will any telegrapher argue that the fraternity are not interested in the matter, even though they do not own stock or have not contributed directly to the original investment in such lines?

It is of importance that the best class of talent should be attracted to and retained in the telegraph service. In this country, where superior ability and skilled labor are in so great demand, this is possible only where the pay is commensurate to the talent and ability employed. To enable telegraph employers to give this compensation it is necessary that their lines should be capable of performing a large amount of service. That the lines, as at present constructed, are not thus capable, will not, we think, be questioned by unprejudiced and qualified telegraphers. The result is seen in the continual loss to the telegraph service of the best and most competent members of the telegraphic fraternity. This depletion of the telegraphic ranks has been going on for years, and must continue to go on until there be a radical reform in the construction and management of telegraph lines. In view of a quarter of a century's experience, and the scientific and practical talent which has been engaged in telegraphy, the present condition of the lines and business is simply disgraceful. Telegraphy in its very nature is calculated to attract a high order of talent in its several departments. It is a peculiarly interesting and fascinating employment to those who have an inclination to scientific employment and research; and, were it not for the fact that it offers inferior pecuniary rewards, the highest order of talent would constantly enter and remain in the telegraphic ranks. That it is capable of affording superior pecuniary results we contend cannot be truthfully questioned. That the lines may be so constructed, and the instruments so improved as to enable the transmission of a largely increased amount of business over the wires by the force employed, there can be no doubt. That with this increased capacity the compensation of telegraphers could and would be more satisfactory, we think indisputable. In this improvement every intelligent practical telegrapher is deeply interested, and should contribute to it in every possible way.

We believe that the time will come when these improvements for which we are laboring will be effected, and hope that it is not far distant. It can never come, however, so long as telegraph managers go on repeating the errors of the past, and continue to multiply telegraph wires of inferior conductibility and insulation. Until it does come telegraphy cannot offer such inducements as will retain in its service the best class of employe. There is practically no limit to the amount of telegraph business that may be obtained. The demand for telegraph service increases faster than the facilities, and this has been the case from its first introduction. The proper and profitable way to meet this demand is to construct lines of maximum instead of minimum capacity, and to adopt improved instruments.

The telegraph company which shall first realize this fact will achieve a success far greater than any which has preceded it, and will be able to secure and retain, through its ability to properly compensate, the best telegraphic talent in its service. Such a company would render to the telegraphic fraternity a service which should and would insure its unanimous support.

The first actual cost of construction of such lines would of course be greater than of the inferior lines, as now constructed; but the additional expense would be compensated by their permanence, the reduced expense for repairs and reconstruction, and the largely increased capacity for business. They would pay from the start, not only their working expenses but a fat compensation to the capital invested. With lines ant instruments of such increased capacity and reliability a reduction of charges for telegraph service would be possible, without ruin to telegraph proprietors or reduction of compensation to employes.

For these, and other reasons which we might set forth, would time and space permit, we are confident that our telegraphic brethren and sisters will afire with us that they are deeply interested in the construction of improved and reliable lines, in place of the defective and inefficient ones which are now generally constructed.


Keywords:General : David Brooks
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:November 27, 2005 by: Elton Gish;