Archives research guide: Sources for history of telegraphy

A comprehensive guide on the sources available for the study in the history and development of telegraphy. Material from the IET Archives collections are listed along with advice for searching our catalogue.

This is a guide to the material held at the IET Archives for Terrestrial Telegraphy, there are separate guides available for Submarine Telegraphy and Wireless Telegraphy.

Collections

Diagram of Ronalds's Telegraph SC Mss 001/6/45

An article on Sir Francis Ronalds's Telegraph with more detail on this can be found in the Featured Articles section and further information can be found in Sir Francis Ronalds Biography.

Collection of Maps and Charts 1859-1968 NAEST  081

Maps of telegraph lines in France, India, Sweden and Norway,  South Africa.

Heaviside Collection 1872-1923 SC Mss 005

A collection of notebooks of calculations, papers, correspondence, notes and annotated pamphlets on telegraphy.For more information on Heaviside please see  the Oliver Heaviside Biography available on this website.

Sir William Fothergill Cooke Papers 1936-1880 SC Mss 007

A collection of papers used in arbitration between Cooke and Wheatstone. It comprises correspondence, legal documents, papers concerning the agreement to form The Electric Telegraph Company. For more information on Cooke please see the Sir William Fothergill Cooke Biography available on this website.

Papers of John Joseph Fahie 1863-1918, Sc Mss 009

The collection consists of material collected by Fahie in connection with his research mainly on the pioneers of inventions such as the electric telegraph, the  wireless telegraph and the electric light. In doing so he brought to prominence names which would otherwise have been unknown despite their important contributions to science, including Edward Davy, Henry Staite, William Petrie and D E Hughes. 

Fahie also did considerable work on Galileo. There are also letters to people who worked in early telegraphy, pamphlets and newspaper cuttings about the Atlantic Telegraph and the telegraphs to India. His own articles and letters are included along with the papers of Edward Davy which he published and a manuscript for 'A History of Electric Telegraphy from the Earliest Times to 1837'.

Papers of Edward Davy 1836-1847  SC Mss 015

This collection of papers show Davy's first ideas for an electric telegraph from his early sketches in 1836 of a frictional electric telegraph to one worked by electromagnetism which he developed between 1836-1839. The papers indicate his efforts to find a purchaser for the patent rights and to establish a company to develop the telegraph. 

The papers record the efforts of his father, Thomas Davy, and several others, to continue Davy's negotiations with railway companies and the arrangements which were made to re-exhibit a working model of the telegraph. The papers also relate to the sale of the patent to the Electric Telegraph Company in 1847. Fahie's memoir on Davy is included in the papers.

For more information on Edward Davy please see the Edward Davy Featured Article.

Papers of Sir Charles Bright 1863-1870 SC Mss 020

This collection comprises a private letter book 1863-1867, and correspondence and reports relating to the laying of the West Indies Cable 1869-1870.

Telegraphy Books 1854, 1872, 1873, 1884 NAEST 154

A series of books presented to the IEE consisting of four volumes relating to submarine telegraphy; the invention of the electric telegraph; the introduction and control of the telegraph in America and a guide to telegraphy and postal service duties.

Papers of Messers Highton 1840-1848 SC Mss 010

Nine bound volumes of patents referring to the early development of the telegraph and patents of William Fothergill Cooke, Charles Wheatstone, Moses Poole, Alfred Brett, George Little, plus court cases concerning possible infringement of patents, with legal opinion and copy of court proceedings.

Sir Oliver Lodge Material, 1879-1930 SC Mss 100

Patents, both British for foreign, concerning telegraph patents and other Lodge inventions; correspondence concerning patents and infringement of patents, including the dispute with the Lodge Muirhead Syndicate Ltd and the Admiralty.

Plus various collections of telegraph stations, information on equipment, plans and photographs, catalogues, advertisements, pamphlets, artwork and press cuttings all relating to telegraphy. The Archives also contains the Minute Books for the Society of Telegraph Engineers.

Please search our online catalogue or the above collections or browse using some of these keywords:

  • Telegraphy
  • Telephony
  • Radiotelegraphy
  • Telecommunications Cables
  • Cooke Sir William Fothergill
  • Wheatstone Sir Charles
  • Lodge Sir Oliver
  • Ronalds Sir Francis
  • Heaviside
  • Davy Edward
  • Morse Samuel

You can also check the Library online catalogue for related published material.