Publication: The Telegrapher
New York, NY, United States
Who the First Telegraph Operators Were.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TELEGRAPHER.
I NOTICED, some weeks ago, Mr. Grace's answer to your inquiry, "Who was the first operator?" and also your excellent article respecting Mr. Charles T. Smith. I endorse all your remarks about him. Mr. Grace is nearly correct, although between two or three persons it is somewhat difficult to decide who of them was first operator in connection with the government experimental line. Mr. O. S. Wood, of Montreal, was Professor Morse's first student. In 1844 he was in the office of the State Engineer, in Albany, N. Y., and upon the invitation of Ezra Cornell gave up his post and went to Washington and qualified himself to work the Government line while it was under construction. Louis F. Zantzinger and, Charles T. Smith, I think, came in afterwards, but both of them before any commercial lines were built. Mr. Smith being ingenious and an apt mechanician, attended to the preparation of magnets for Professor Morse and experiments with the battery. He was there in September, 1845, when I first went to Washington on my way to join Mr. O'Reilly at Lancaster, Pa. Mr. Smith joined Mr. O'Reilly's force in May, 1846, and with me opened the office at Carlisle, Pa., May 25, 1846. He opened the Cincinnati office, in connection with Samuel K. Zook, August 20, 1817. He returned soon afterwards and became manager at Harrisburg, Pa., which I opened first Nov. 24, 1845, and again Sept. 15, 1846. Mr. Smith performed a very valuable service in pointing out the advantage of properly prepared glass jar insulators, based upon some valuable experiments of Faraday, and which was the means of rendering the insulation of the lines West of Pittsburg, even with their exposed and objectionable form, very complete, The purity of the glass and its material prevented condensation upon its surface.
Mr. O. S. Wood, Morse's first student, opened in September, 1845, an experimental line between Little Falls and the fair grounds at Utica, N. Y. On November 7, 1845, he opened up the newly built line from Buffalo to Lockport, N. Y. The next section opened was by me, in connection with David Brooks, November 24, 1845, of the line from Lancaster to Harrisburg. I long entertained the impression that I opened the first commercial office with Mr. Vail, at Philadelphia. I am under that impression still, although I have failed, so far, to fix the date.
JAMES D. REID.