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October 24, 1861: Martinez

October 24, 2011

Camp 58

[Today], October 24, was a most memorable one for California. The last piece of wire was put up on the Overland Telegraph, and dispatches were received from the East, Salt Lake, etc. You cannot appreciate the importance of this, but great as it is, it made but little excitement here. A dispatch leaving New York at noon may now be received in San Francisco at a quarter before nine of that morning1, or over three hours ahead of time!

This line is built by two companies acting in concert and meeting at Great Salt Lake City—the Overland Telegraph Co., owned in San Francisco, on this side, and the Pacific Telegraph Co., owned in the western states mostly. The latter has put up 1,600 miles in four months! News may now come by telegraph from Cape Race, seventy-two degrees of longitude east, 3,500 miles distant in a direct line, or 4,500 miles by the telegraphic route—surely a most gigantic circuit—the difference in time being nearly five hours. The tariff to New York City is now a dollar per word, and for the first two days the office has been crowded with dispatches.

1Local mean time in San Francisco and New York; in 1861, there were no time zones (standard time was first instituted in 1883).

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