Lords of Lightning:
    a directory for telegraph researchers
 
 

“Lords of lightning we, by land or wave
  The mystic agent serves us as our slave”

—Henry Schütz Wilson, one-time assistant secretary of the Electric Telegraph Company, Alpinist and writer. Couplet composed for a soirée of the Society of Telegraph Engineers

Web Sites: Sites whose primary purpose is telegraph history or research:
    Distant Writing - Electric Telegraphy in Britain
    History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
    Donard de Cogan's Papers - original research on aspects of cable and telegraph history
    The Electromagnetic Telegraph - the development of International Morse Code, and related matters
    Sam's Telecomms Index - Sam Hallas's UK-based site has many original documents, particularly on teleprinters, together with useful links
    Telegraph Equipment - Brooke Clarke's reference website has historical and patent information on the development of the telegraph
    Telegraph-History - John Casale's articles on U.S. telegraph history
    Telegraph Lore - Greg Raven's site on Morse telegraphy
  Related websites with useful content:
    Computer Networking and Telecommunications Research Group - Salford University’s communications research and outreach project
   
Museums: Museums whose primary focus is telegraphy
(landline or cable):
    French Cable Station Museum - Orleans, Massachusetts
    Heart’s Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site - Newfoundland
    Porthcurno Telegraph Museum - Cornwall.
Archives directory
    Valentia Heritage Centre - Ireland
   
  Museums with some telegraphy equipment
(landline, cable, or radio) on display:
    American Museum of Radio & Electricity - Bellingham, WA. See also the Spark Museum
    Antique Wireless Association Museum - Bloomfield, NY.
Despite its name, the AWA encompasses all aspects of communications history, including the beginnings of landline telegraphy and submarine cables.
The AWA has now opened its extensive new museum, details at the link above.
    Locust Grove - Poughkeepsie, NY: Samuel Morse Historic Site
    Musée des arts et métiers - Paris: An extensive collection of telegraph and cable material, only a small selection of which is on display.
See catalogue entries for cable, or search the objects catalogue for specific terms.
    Museum of Communication - Burntisland, Scotland: Some telegraph items are illustrated and described on the site.
    Museum of the History of Science - Oxford: The Marconi collection and some cable material.
Collections search - try cable or telegraph.
See below for the Marconi archives.
    Museum of Technology - Peterborough: A number of telegraph and cable items are illustrated and described on the site.
    Powerhouse Museum - Sydney, Australia - has a small collection of cable samples and related material
    Resources for Learning in Scotland - telegraph resources in Scottish museums, libraries, and archives
    Royal Navy Museum of Radar and Communications - at HMS Collingwood near Southampton, England. Advance appointment required - see site for details
    Science Museum - London - has a large amount of early material but most of it is not on display. Many items are listed in the Collections Online catalogue, and some are illustrated; search for telegraph or submarine cable.
The associated Science & Society Picture Library
may also be useful, as well as the Science Museum Library catalogue.
    Smithsonian Institution - Washington DC
    SPARC Museum - near Vancouver, Canada. Has cable equipment from Bamfield Pacific Cable Station.
   
Archives: Archives and Libraries with significant collections
of telegraph books and documents:
    British Postal Museum & Archive (London). Mainly British postal history, but includes some early telegraph documents and instruments. Search for Exact Phrase: telegraph cable.
The museum also has a complete run of Post Office Green Papers, a series of booklets from the 1930s on various aspects of GPO operations, including telegraphy and engineering.
    BT Archives (London). British telecommunications history: library; original source documents, including early records of the private telegraph companies; photographs, films and videos
    Cable & Wireless Archive - a large collection of documents and artifacts (mostly held at Porthcurno; see above), catalogued at the National Archive, London. There is an ongoing project at Porthcurno to digitize the archive; this includes an index to many of the staff records held there.
    e-rara - Swiss libraries archive of digitized rare books from the 15th to 19th century. Includes a small number of works on telegraphy and electricity, with full PDF downloads.
    The Thomas Edison Papers project has many documents on Edison's work in telegraphy, and that of others. Much of the archive is searchable and viewable on line.
    The IEEE Global History Network (USA) has documents, oral histories, and other related material. Search for submarine cable, telegraph, and similar terms.
    The Imperial College and Science Museum Libraries (London and Wroughton) have some early submarine cable and telegraphy manuscript material
    The Institution of Civil Engineers (London) has some early submarine cable and telegraphy material in its library. The Virtual Library offers on-line access to archive material, although membership or a subscription is required to view much of the content
    The Institution of Engineering and Technology (London) has important collections of early submarine cable and telegraphy material.
Archive Catalogue direct link: search for “submarine cables” and “submarine telegraphy”
    The International Telecommunications Union (Geneva) has been co-ordinating worldwide communications since 1865. The ITU's website provides PDF documents from all international conferences held from 1865 through 2006, although many are in French only
    Kelvin letters and papers at the University of Glasgow
    King's College, London has an archive of material bequeathed by Charles Wheatstone on his death in 1875, although much of his apparatus has been dispersed
    Library and Archives Canada has telegraph and cable material distributed throughout its collections
    Library of Congress (USA) has telegraph and cable material distributed throughout its collections
    Maps - the David Rumsey Historical Maps collection includes many with early cable routes shown
    The Marconi Archive (Bodleian Library, Oxford) catalogue is now on line. This collection includes some material from Siemens Brothers and Henley's,
    The National Library of Australia has telegraph maps, images, and other material on line
    The New York Public Library Research Libraries have telegraph and cable material, mostly at the main branch and the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL). Search Subject: "Cables, Submarine", for example
    Documents from the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company (Telcon) are held by:
  National Maritime Museum (London):
Archive Catalogue (direct link to Telcon documents, 820 catalogue records)
  Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (Cornwall): Alcatel (Telcon) archive
  Merseyside Maritime Museum (Liverpool): included in the BICC archive
  Science Museum (Swindon branch): Berner (Telcon) collection (PDF)
  Allan Green has written an excellent summary of the history of Telcon and its successor companies, which includes additional information on access to archive material (54KB PDF)
    The Smithsonian Institution Library (Washington DC) has a large collection of works on the history of electricity which includes much telegraph material.
For research in all areas use the Research Information System.
    Tyne & Wear Archives Service (England) has the archives of cable ship builder Swan Hunter, and of other ship builders in the area.
    The Western Union Archive is held by the Smithsonian Institution. This includes a collection of Cyrus Field papers, and employee information from some of the early cable stations.
   
Catalogues: Trade catalogue archives which may include telegraph equipment
    Catalogue of the Special Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus at the South Kensington Museum. The applied electricity section of this 1877 catalogue describes the most significant and important collection of early telegraph instruments and material ever assembled
    CNAM, Paris: Scientific instrument trade catalogues from the Alain Brieux collection
    Instruments for Science: Scientific Instrument Trade Literature at the Smithsonian Institution
    Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
    The Scientific Instrument Commission has a comprehensive directory of trade catalogue sites
   
Collections: Private collections of telegraph equipment and documents:
    K0IU Telegraph Collection
    K4TJP Telegraph Collection 
    Morsekey.net - Eliseo Chiarucci’s collection of Italian and other instruments, telegraph maps and books (in Italian)
    Signa Telegraph Collection - Gustavo Coll, Uruguay
    The Sparks Telegraph Key Review - Russ Kleinman's collection
    Telegraph Instruments of Europe and Telegraphy - Fons vanden Berghen's collection websites
    The Telegraph Office - Neal McEwen’s collection
    The Vibroplex Collector's Page - Randy Cole’s collection
    W1TP Telegraph & Scientific Instrument Museums - Tom Perera's collection
 
Patents: Patent search:
    Worldwide Patents at esp@cenet. To search for older patents, select the Worldwide database. For more options use SmartSearch - see help for instructions.
    British & European Patents at IPEXL Patent Search (free account required)
    British Patents Help at the British Library
    French Patent Search. 19th century French patents from the INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle), 1791-1865, with plans to extend the database until 1902. It may be easier for non-French speakers to browse the site via Google Translate
    US Patent & Trademark Office Search. No full text search prior to 1976, but useful for finding all patents issued on a specified date, for example.
    Google Patents (US only). Full text search of all US patents ever issued.
    US Patent Models Volume 1 and Volume 2 at the Smithsonian. A new index to the museum's collection of over 10,000 models includes many telegraph-related inventions. Two volumes, downloadable in PDF format at no charge (epub and mobi editions also available).
     
Search: Useful search resources, including newspaper archives:
    Bell System Technical Journal, 1922-1983- searchable archive of all issues of the Bell Labs communications engineering magazine
    The British Colonist Archive 1858-1910 has many articles about cables, particularly those of the West Coast of Canada.
Thanks to the Rough Radio website for this link.
    British History Online- digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. A number of references to cable and telegraph may be found using search
    The British Newspaper Archive indexes many newspapers from the collection of the British Library. Pay-per-view, but searching is free and snippet results may be useful.
    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Archive 1841-1902 has some articles about cables, mainly those terminating at New York.
    California Digital Newspaper Collection (from 1849 on) has many articles about cables terminating in California, and worldwide.
    Dingler's Polytechnic Journal. German-language searchable archive of this 19th century resource, which includes many high-resolution images. Accessing the site via Google Translate will make it easier to navigate for non-German speaker.
    Genealogy Bank US Newspaper Archives (1690-2010) has full text search of newspapers from most states. Full access requires a subscription, but search result snippets can be useful.
    Google Book Search- includes many early works on telegraphy and cables.
Google Book Search
    Google Newspaper Archive Search - includes multiple on-line newspaper archives, many free.
    Grace's Guide: British Industrial History has information on the engineering industry in Britain from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the 1960s. The site also has PDF copies of the British trade paper The Engineer from 1856-1932.
    The Guardian and Observer (UK) Archives have many articles about cables and cable laying, but are pay-per-view. Searching is free.
    Internet Archive- the text section includes some works on telegraphy and cables; the Prelinger Archive has a number of short films on telegraphy and communications which may be viewed on line or downloaded.
    JSTOR - a digital archive of academic journals. Some content is freely accessible; paid content may be read at many libraries.
    Library of Congress: Chronicling America has full-text search of many American newspapers from 1860-1922.
    The London Gazette - The Official Newspaper of Record carries official, regulatory and legal information. Many interesting snippets may be found here, back to well before the electric telegraph era.
    National Library of Australia Newspapers - not just Australian news, as many articles were reprinted from papers in London and elsewhere in the British Empire.
    National Library of New Zealand Newspapers - as with the Australian newspapers above, this resource includes both original and reprinted articles.
    The National Register of Archives - contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history.
    The New York Times Archive 1851-1980 has many articles about cable laying, particularly early expeditions and significant later projects. Some later content requires a subscription.
    The Old Bailey On Line - Full text search of The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913. Includes some telegraph-related cases.
    The Online Books Page - A site with links to online books in many categories, including telegraphy.
    Scientific American Archive 1846-1869 at Cornell University's Making of America project has full text search.
    Singapore and Malaya Newspapers provides full text search and viewing of a variety of 19th and 20th century newspapers from this region. Many reports of cable laying in the Far East may be found. Use the advanced search for best results.
    Suffolk Historic Newspapers provides full text search and viewing of a variety of 19th and 20th century local papers from this large county on Long Island, New York, where Marconi and Tesla had installations and where submarine cables land. Use the advanced search for best results.
    The Times (London) Archive 1785-1985 has many articles about cables and cable laying, but is pay-per-view. In a remarkably short-sighted move, the company has recently eliminated personal access to the archive search - an institutional subscription is now required even for this.
    Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of online newspaper archives worldwide, including both free and pay sites.
     
  United States Historical Maps & Charts:
    Office of Coast Survey Historical Map & Chart Collection - some charts show cable routes and landings off the coast of the Unites States
     
  Worldwide library catalogue search:
    Worldcat - consolidated catalogues of many, but not all, libraries worldwide
     
Ship and Crew search resources:
    Cableships at Atlantic-Cable.com
    Cable & Wireless Staff Records Index at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. Inquiries may also be made through this page.
    Crew Agreements - resources for finding original crew agreements, including those for many cable expeditions of the 19th and 20th centuries
    The Crew List Index Project - further resources for finding ship information and crew agreements
    Crew List Name Search - subscription service at Find My Past, but searches are free
    Ship search at the Global Ship Number System website
    Lloyd's Register - resource page for tracing shipping history
   
Ship search at the Mariners website - also useful for finding Official Numbers
Google
Search Mariners website
    Masters and Mates Certificates at Ancestry.com - searches are free but a subscription is required to view the data. A very useful resource for the period 1850-1927, showing scans of original certificates.
    Merchant Navy Seamen 1835-1941 - records from the UK National Archives via findmypast.co.uk. Searches are free but a subscription is required to view the data.
The National Archives also has a guide to researching merchant seamen.
    National Maritime Museum - has ships’ logs in its Telcon archive; these generally contain a complete crew roster for cable voyages of the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company. See this CS Telconia page for an example of a logbook.
    Tyne Built Ships - many cableships were built in the shipyards around Newcastle
   

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Thanks to Steve Roberts for suggesting the name
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Last site update: 28 July, 2014