Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By Atlantic Telegraph!

Augusta, Maine
1858



When the transatlantic cable was finally pulled ashore in 1858, celebrations erupted across the nation, marked by the ringing of church bells, torch-light parades, and a hundred-gun salute in New York City. For some it may have seemed like only yesterday, when in 1844, inventor Samuel Morse demonstrated that signals could be transmitted by wire. However, the technology, which allowed people to communicate almost instantly across great distances, had already transformed society. By the early 1850s, there were 20,000 miles of cable crisscrossing the country, prompting financier Cyrus W. Field to undertake the next step, establishing the Atlantic Telegraph Company to connect North America to Europe.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On the Road

1885-1897


The gentleman on this advertising card declares, “Yes Miss, when traveling, I always drink Van Houten’s Cocoa. It is so sustaining.” This comic scene took place in the mid-1880s when the fast-growing railroads were changing the social landscape in the United States, bringing strangers together in social settings far from home.1 Rapid industrial growth also brought about the rise of a new breed of traveling salesmen called “drummers.” Distinctly different from hawkers and peddlers, the drummers were a new cultural phenomenon, the enterprising foot soldiers of capitalism, bringing its bounty to the hinterlands.2 They first appeared in the 1840s. Their numbers declined during the Civil War, but then skyrocketed in the post-war boom. By the late 1880s, there was somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 drummers in the country. Constantly moving from town to town, they soon became part of the national lore. Five menus from their heyday provide a rare glimpse into their world of fraternal relationships and professional associations.