The First Transcontinental Telegraph System Is Completed

On October 24, 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph system was completed, making it possible to transmit messages rapidly (by mid-19th-century standards) from coast to coast.

This technological advance, pioneered by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse, brought an end to the Pony Express, the horseback mail service which had previously provided the fastest communication between the East and the West.

Established in April 1860 as a subsidiary of a famous freight company, the Pony Express operated between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, using a continuous relay of the best riders and horses. The nearly 2000 mile route — running through present-day Kansas, Nebraska, the northeast corner of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California — included vast stretches of rugged terrain once thought impassable in winter. Pushing the physical limits of man and beast, the Pony Express ran nonstop. Summer deliveries averaged ten days, while winter deliveries required twelve to sixteen days, approximately half the time needed by stagecoach. When delivering President Lincoln's Inaugural Address, the Express logged its fastest time ever at seven days and seventeen hours.