Celebrating 24 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
more quiz questions >>

An Early Email Proposal in 1884?

Vintage New-York Times Logo


New York Times - 26 April 1884

The Post Office Committee of the House has referred to a sub-committee all the bills authorizing the building or buying of telegraph lines for the purpose of establishing a postal telegraph—that is, of sending mails by electricity—with instructions to draft a bill providing for contracts for a postal telegraph service.

A postal telegraph is not impossible because it seems inexpedient that the Government should either build new lines or buy old ones. The proposed alternative is supported by strong analogies. The Post Office is now popularly said to carry the mails. As a matter of fact and practice it merely hires them carried. The Post Office. to its credit, does not own one of the gorgeous ramshackle vans which carry the mails between City Hall Park and Grand Central Station. Nor does it own the horses or employ the drivers. All is done by contract. So it is with the star service, and so it is with the carriage of mails by steam power. The Government does not own or operate railways. It contracts with them to carry mail matter delivered to them. It does not appear why there should be any difference of principle because of the substitution of electricity for steam.

Many difficulties would be obviated by the establishment of a system of postal telegraphy by this system of contract with an existing company. It would not be necessary, for instance, to add to the civil service an army of employes. On the other hand, whether the Postmasters and operators were or were not the same persons, at least they would work on the same premises and as part of a harmonious organization. The result would be an important economy of administration which might make fifteen-cent or even ten-cent telegrams soon possible. An important aid to this result would be the popular familiarity with Post Office methods. Nearly everybody knows where the Post Office is, what its rates are, and how a letter may be posted. In case of ignorance the information can readily be had. But it is a rare exception for anyone to know where the nearest telegraph office is, or what its rates are, or how a message should be counted and reckoned. These are considerations which would influence a vast amount of traffic, and might speedily make the present volume of business seem infantile. The objections to buying or building Government lines of telegraph are also met by the contract system. For instance, no capital would be necessary. Thus the price of telegrams would be separated from the necessity of earning interest on a fictitious capital, and would be left to find the level fixed by competition. That level it would reach, for during the contract term, at least, combination or consolidation would be impossible.

No company would have any right to complain of such competition. All would have the same right to compete for the Post Office contract, and the Government would not be in any sense a competitor with the corporations deriving franchises from it. And as there would be no capital investment the Government could retire from the enterprise at its pleasure. To buy or build lines is only one way of giving bonds in one hundred millions that the Postal Telegraph shall succeed. Under the contract system the cost of retirement might indeed rise to considerable figures, but it would be trifling compared with the cost of sustaining a failing enterprise in the hope of better times. And the periodical letting of the contract would afford useful periods for fixing anew the price of telegrams.

[A previous proposal for U.S. Government ownership of a test postal telegraph received an adverse Report of the House Post Office Committee, reported in 'Postal Telegraph', New York Times (25 Feb 1869). —Webmaster.]

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)

Thank you for sharing.
- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

by Ian Ellis
who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.