"Tales of the Telegraph"

The Story of a Telegrapher's Life and Adventures in Railroad Commercial and Military Work

by Jasper Ewing Brady, 1st Lieutenant 19th United States Infantry, Late Captain Signal Corps U.S. Volunteers

Published by Doubleday & McClure Co. 1899

This book is a collection of stories from a lifetime of employment in the telegraph business in the late 19th century. The span of jobs held by Mr. Brady covers just about every type of landline Morse telegraph work imaginable. Reading this book should give the reader a pretty good picture of employment in the telegraph business in the 19th century, particularly in the south and western areas of the United States.

Brady started out as a boomer telegrapher straight out of telegraph school. The first few chapters of the book contain various stories and incidents while working various railroad telegraph offices. The quantity and destructiveness of the various railroad accidents he describes led me to believe that this was a work of fiction, until later I read that 2000 railroad related deaths per year was not uncommon in the late 19th century. The next phase of his career was spent doing commercial work. I have never found a description of working quadruplex Morse circuits until reading this book.

After tiring of commercial work, Brady decided to return to the railroad, this time with aspirations of becoming a dispatcher. Interrupting the flow of the book, Brady did a fine job with a chapter describing the role of the dispatcher in the running of railroad. He then continued on with several chapters covering various train dispatcher stories.

Brady then suddenly decides to join the military, hoping to quit the telegraph for good. He succeeds for a year, and then he took an assignment working as a telegrapher for an isolated Texas military camp. The next chapter is a detour to a story he picked up from one of the older soldiers while out west. The story is about an operator who literally dies at the key. The remaining chapters conclude Brady's military career including work as a censor of telegraph traffic while stationed in Florida during the Spanish-American War. This book is excellent reading for fans of Morse telegraphy. Brady gives a good overview of three important phases of telegraphic communications: railroad dispatching, commercial, and military.

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