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In this book, the author resists this technological determinism. Although Bell and Morse both appear in his history of electrical communication, they are two individuals among many. Rather than merely focusing on inventor and invention, John examines how the telegraph and the telephone systems developed in the United States between 1840 and 1920, with an emphasis on political economy. Indeed, John argues that the American system of government ?? at the federal, state and municipal level ?? directly and crucially shaped the telegraph and telephone networks and their operations. The author develops his theme through eleven chapters, organized chronologically. He examines the telegraph largely through the lens of Western Union, one of the largest corporations in the United States circa 1870, a fact that bears emphasis here. The later chapters on the telephone address the interconnected American Bell, American Telephone & Telegraph, and Bell System companies. The author deploys these companies?? extensive business archives, in addition to government publications and documents, personal correspondence, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets, to build a thoughtful and thorough argument. John??s organizing framework of the telegraph and telephone??s evolutionary stages of commercialization, popularization, and naturalization provides a tidy way to group and read his eleven chapters.
Date of Publication: Spring 2013