Most people are aware of the joining of the railroads at Promontory point, Utah. That historic event occurred on May 10, 1869 at noon and was the topic of many news articles.
What you may not know is that 7 ½ years earlier another joining of technology of the day also occurred in Utah.
This event was the joining of the “Trans-continental telegraph” which occurred at the telegraph office located on Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Beginning in the spring of 1860 the method of getting telegrams and mail from Missouri to California was by “pony express”. The Pony Express, however, could not make their earnings equal their running expenses. Despite landing a contract in 1861, for carrying the California mails in its coaches from St. Joe Missouri to San Francisco, the pony express struggled and the telegraph was to ultimately take over and doom the pony express service.
In 1860, Edward Creighton was at work on the Overland Telegraph Line and by the summer of 1860, a telegraph line from the east coast had been completed as far as Omaha, NE. However, Creighton still had his eyes on the West. He wanted to build an overland telegraph line and connect the Atlantic with the Pacific.
In the fall of 1860, Creighton left Omaha by stage and headed west looking over the proposed route of the telegraph. He crossed the Sierra-Nevada mountains in the dead of winter and completed his survey in Sacramento, CA. There he found the eastern end of the telegraph owned by the California State Telegraph Company.
Mr. Creighton met with officials of the California Telegraph Company and after many meetings, an agreement was reached for the California Telegraph Company to extend it’s wire eastward to Salt Lake City and Mr. Creighton would build from Omaha westward to Salt Lake City. When the wires were joined, a new company was to be formed under the name of the Pacific Telegraph Company.
The race was now on, with the California company having four hundred fifty miles of wire to construct and the eastern company having one thousand one hundred miles. The California Company had the challenge of the Sierra- Nevada’s and the eastern company had the open plains and the Wasatch mountain range.
The work was pushed vigorously and on October 17, 1861 Creighton brought his wire into Salt Lake City and one week later the California line arrived.
The newly formed “Pacific Telegraph Company” joined the line from the east and west on October 24, 1861 in the telegraph room of the Hooper, Eldridge and Company building at 83 South Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This joining of wires completed the United States’ first transcontinental telegraph and helped bind the western states and territories to the then fragile American Union.