1837 konstruiert Samuel Morse in den USA den ersten Morsetelegrafen. Eine Sensation! Erstmals ist eine synchrone Kommunikation über Länder und Kontinente hinweg möglich. Doch der Apparat ist in Europa nicht patentiert. Das nutzen zwei findige Unternehmer aus und vermarkten die Erfindung in Deutschland – mit großem Erfolg!
Portrait of Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1850 - 1857)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Samuel Morse was a successful painter when he was shown one of the first electromagnets in 1832. Inspired by what he'd seen, he constructed the first Morse telegraph in 1837.
In 1844, the US Congress financed the first telegraph line from New York to Baltimore—the triumphant march of Morse telegraphy had begun. Now people could get in touch with each other in an instant, regardless of distance.
Historical copy of the improved relief-writer telegraph by Samuel F. B. Morse (1844) by Daniel Ballauf (1828 - 1914)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The Morse code writer by Samuel Morse uses an electromagnet and stylus to record the signals received on a piece of paper. His colleague Alfred Vail developed the Morse code: a combination of dots and dashes for each letter of the alphabet.
The Morse telegraph was not patented in Europe. Charles and William Robinson took advantage of this: in 1847 they traveled with 2 Morse telegraphs to Hamburg to find prospective customers through newspapers.
Morse wrote to the American ambassador in Vienna. He complained that the Robinsons were traveling to Europe without his consent, and feared that they would receive the royalties.
William Robinson and his stepson, Charles, introduced the Morse telegraph to Hamburg's Börsenarkaden in July 1847. The Morse code writer itself, however, was no longer a new invention in Europe.
Still, nobody knew which relay was used to give the Morse telegraph its range. The Robinsons therefore kept the rest of their expertise secret and hid the relay inside a box.
Telegraph station with relief-writer telegraph, Morse code button, and relay for local circuit, built as part of the Hamburg-Cuxhaven line (1847) by Charles B. RobinsonMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The Robinsons were successful: in 1847–48, they sold 2 units each to the Hanoverian State Railroad, the Hamburg-Cuxhaven line, the Bremen-Bremerhaven line, and the Kingdom of Prussia for the Berlin-Cologne line. The Robinsons therefore played a pivotal role in establishing Germany's first telegraph lines.
Relief-writer telegraph of the Hamburg-Cuxhaven telegraph line (1847/48) by Johann Wilhelm Hinrich Bröcking (1803 - 1862)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
When Charles Robinson became construction manager of the Hamburg-Cuxhaven telegraph line in 1847, he and his stepfather William sold 2 Morse code writers as samples to the operating company. Hamburg watchmaker Wilhelm Bröcking used their model to manufacture the remaining machines for the line.
Proposal by Friedrich Clemens Gerke for a revision of the original Morse alphabet by Alfred Vail (1851) by Friedrich Clemens Gerke (1801 - 1888)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Alfred Vail's original Morse alphabet consisted of characters and pauses of different lengths. However, these could not be seen well on a paper strip.
Friedrich Gerke, the supervisor of the first Morse telegraph line in Hamburg, changed this in 1849. His Morse alphabet consisted only of dots, dashes, and pauses, all of the same length. His version became the international standard in 1864.
Gerke switched from optical to electrical telegraphy in 1847. He installed the Hamburg-Cuxhaven line with Robinson and learned the new technology. He developed the international Morse code.
Until 1894, all telegrams received in Germany were recorded using Morse code writers. The Reichspost refused to switch from the writer telegraph as written records were considered indispensable for later review.
Built in 1846, the Bremen-Bremerhaven telegraph line was operated by needle telegraphs like those made by Cooke and Wheatstone. In 1849, Emil Stöhrer's pointer telegraph was tested.
The Bremen Telegraph Association eventually bought 2 Morse code writers from Charles and William Robinson. Using this design, Bremen watchmaker Brüggemann created more machines.
Relief-writer telegraph with weight drive (1849 - 1853) by Edward N. KentMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
American Morse code writers such as these came to Germany as samples. When William Robinson and his stepson Charles traveled to Hamburg in May 1847, they took 2 Morse writers with them from the Chubbuck workshop in Utica, NY.
Wood engraving "In einem Telegraphenbüro. Aufgabe der Depesche" (In a telegraph office. Assignment of the telegram) (1848 - 1852) by Verlag Otto Spamer (1847 - 1946)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
This wood engraving from around 1850 shows a telegraphist sending a telegram using a telegraph key. Under the telegraph table was a box with 8 batteries, according to William Grove's design. These galvanic cells produced the current for the telegraph.
Wood engraving "In einem Telegraphenbüro. Aufgabe der Depesche" (In a telegraph office. Arrival of the telegram) (1848 - 1852) by Verlag Otto Spamer (1847 - 1946)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
A galvanoscope was placed on the table behind the telegraph key to determine the approximate current. The writer pressed the Morse code onto the paper using a steel tip.
Engraving "Bureau du télégraphe electrique; appareils de Morse" (c. 1860) by Charles Laplante (1837 - 1903); Albert JahandiersMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The telegraphists here are sitting in a lavishly furnished telegraph hall. The electrical wires were temporarily routed through the window.
Relief-writer telegraph of the Prussian state telegraph service (c. 1850) by Siemens & Halske (1847 - 1966); Königlich Preußische Telegraphen-DirektionMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Charles Robinson provided his expertise for the Prussian telegraph lines. He took over the training of telegraphists and sold 2 Morse code writers for use on the Berlin-Cologne line in 1848. His machines were used as prototypes, and the remaining telegraphs for the Prussian lines were manufactured by Siemens & Halske.
Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske with Morse code strips and presentations of telegraphy (1855) by Ludwig Burger (1825 - 1884)Meisenbarth, Riffarth & Co.Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Werner Siemens was an engineer officer and member of the Prussian Telegraph Commission. Together with Johann Georg Halske, he founded a telegraph construction company in 1847. It initially built pointer telegraphs, but by launching the Morse telegraphs, Siemens & Halske became one of the largest electrical companies worldwide.
Telegraph station with relief-writer telegraph, rotating anchor relay, and Morse code button of the Royal Bavarian Telegraph Administration (1850 - 1852) by Siemens & Halske (1847 - 1966); Königlich Bayerisches Telegraphen-AmtMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
In 1850, Bavaria's first telegraph line was opened, running from Munich to Salzburg. In the same year, Munich was connected to 10 other Bavarian cities. The Morse code writers were provided by Siemens & Halske and complied with the Prussian machines that Siemens built according to Robinson's designs.
Relief-writer telegraph with weight drive of the Baden telegraph administration (1849 - 1851) by Lorenz Bob (1805 - 1878)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Around 1850, telegraph machines were mainly built by watchmakers, who were precise and had fine mechanical knowledge. Lorenz Bob, a well-known watchmaker from the Black Forest, provided the Morse code telegraphs for the Baden State Telegraph Line which opened in 1851.
Archive document, telegram "From the Royal Württemberg Telegraph Station in Ulm" (26.11.1851) by Königlich Württembergische Telegraphen-Station UlmMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
In the beginning, telegrams, which were still quite expensive, were used to make travel arrangements. Telegrams made it possible to announce changes to travel plans or arrival times en route—and the message would arrive before you reached your destination! This would have been impossible to achieve using snail mail.
Telegraph station with relief-writer telegraph, Morse code button, relay, and galvanoscope (1851 - 1852) by Karl Geiger (1821 - 1892)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Karl Geiger built the first pointer telegraph for the Stuttgart-Bad Cannstadt-Esslingen railroad. In 1851, the Würtemberg telegraphs were converted to Morse code writers. Geiger—who became a telegraph inspector—supplied these machines.
The wood engraving shows a simplified representation of the circuit between 2 telegraph stations. The connections between the battery, telegraph key, galvanoscope, and Morse code writer are clearly visible.
Wood engraving "Telegraphic apparatus" with telegraph table, Morse code telegraph, telegrams, and accessories (c. 1855) by Eduard Renard (1802 - 1857); H. SenillovMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
This woodcut provides a relatively realistic insight into the workplace of a telegraphist in the early 1850s, when the Morse telegraph was an established medium.
Telegraph station with relief-writer telegraph for Morse code (c. 1852) by Bénèche & Wasserlein (1850 - 1860)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Cross-border telegraph connections required standardization. The Austrian-German Telegraph Union, founded in 1850, made the Morse telegraph mandatory, allowing manufacturers such as Bénèche & Wasserlein to enter the growing market.
Archive document, telegram from the German-Austrian Telegraph Association of the Royal Saxon telegraph station in Leipzig, retrieved from Vienna (18.01.1853) by Königlich Sächsische Telegraphendirektion (1852 - 1867)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
This telegram bears the number 97 and was posted in Vienna on January 18, 1853 at 5:26 p.m. and received on the same day at 5:31 p.m. in Leipzig. The recipient was the steel trader W.W. Derham in Leipzig. The text reads: "Brandeis will be coming from Dresden tomorrow evening, he is expecting you on the train."
Portable relief-writer telegraph with Morse code button, galvanoscope, and weight drive (1849 - 1850) by Siemens & Halske (1847 - 1966)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Portable stations were not only useful for solving issues, but also for military communications. Telegraphy revolutionized warfare, as it meant rear commanders could control mobile troops much more easily, for example, in the American Civil War and German Unification Wars.
Wood engraving "In der Zentral-Telegrafenstation zu Berlin" (In the central telegraph station for Berlin) (1863) by Georg Hiltl (1826 - 1878)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
In just a few years, a complex telegraph network had been established in Germany that not only connected most cities, but extended across the whole of Europe.
The Prussian central telegraph office in Berlin was an important hub where the wires of 26 lines converged.
"Writer telegraph" blackboard (1868 - 1874) by Verlag Eugen Ulmer (gegr. 1868)Karl BoppMuseum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
In the second half of the 19th century, telegraphy became a cutting-edge technology with far-reaching effects on the economy and on society—just like smartphones and the Internet are having today.
For the first time in history, real-time communication was possible—even across countries and continents. Therefore, telegraphy was also an important part of teaching in schools. Everyone was encouraged and required to understand how a telegraph worked and how the Morse alphabet was put together.
Map "Telegraph map of Europe. Edited according to the latest special telegraph maps of all European states in the Central Telegraph Office Berlin." (1858) by Central-Telegraphen-Bureau [der Königlich preußischen Telegraphen-Direktion] (1854 - 1867)Decker'sche Königlich Geheime Oberhofbuchdruckerei (1763 - 1879)Museum for Communication Berlin, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The invention of Morse code and the advent of German telegraphy
A virtual exhibition by Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Frank Gnegel
All objects are part of the collection of Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.