History - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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The Collins' Overland or Russian Extension Telegraph project : a pioneer attempt to establish telegraphic communication between North America and Europe.

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The primary significance of the Collins' Overland Telegraph or Western Union Russian Extension is as a chapter in the history of communications. A pioneer attempt to establish telegraphic communications between North America and Europe, via Bering Strait, the Collins* Overland Project was ultimately a failure. The successful laying of an Atlantic cable by Cyrus Field in 1866 removed the basic raison d etre of the overland route and led to the halting of construction. While a failure in the sense that the project did not succeed in establishing an intercontinental communications link, it did bring important secondary benefits to both British Columbia and Alaska. It was, in other words, a relatively successful failure. In British Columbia mining and exploration were stimulated and the internal communications system of the colony vastly improved. In Alaska the telegraph expeditions were responsible for the first systematic examination of the flora, fauna and geology of the area. Members of the telegraph project were thus able to play a minor but significant role in the purchase of Alaska by providing much useful data on the valuable new territory. The study of the Collins1 Overland scheme was made easier by the literacy of the members of the project. The many unpublished papers and diaries as well as published memoirs which survived the scheme form the basis for the thesis. Especially helpful were the published documents made available by the Western Union Telegraph Company. Three published articles, Charles Vevier's "The Collins' Overland Line and American Continentalism" , 2 Corday Mackay's "The Collins' Overland Telegraph" , and J.S. Galbraith's "Perry McDonough Collins at the Colonial Office" , provided a starting point and in some cases references to documents otherwise unavailable.

Document type: 
G.L. Cook
Arts and Social Sciences: History Department
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.