Transportation and Communication

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Communications in the late 1800s were restricted. The earliest postal systems were often run by a local citizen out of his house. Postal carriers traveled by horse and only carried documents.

In fact, according the John Thompson, an early Ann Arbor settler, John Allen was the area's first postmaster. Thompson himself "carried the first United States mail from Ann Arbor to Jackson. The mail was small then, consisting of about six letters, which I carried in my hat" (McLaughlin, 15). Thompson made the trip once a week "for three months, always on foot, and followin the Indian trail. The journey took four days" (McLaughlin, 15).

Packages could not be transported until early in the 1900s. The rough postal system was an expensive service and it often took a very long time. An amazing invention arose in May of 1844 when Samuel F. B. Morse introduced the telegraph. 

The first message in Michigan went from Detroit to Ypsilanti in November of 1847. The telegraph wires were strung along the tracks of the Michigan Central Railroad. 
This new technology allowed the settlers to communicate with other communities across the continent. Business owners could get information from distant colleagues and citizens could hear about news that happened only the day before in another part of the country. The wire network in this era connected a majority of the larger cities. The telegraph technology was greatly expanded after the Civil War with the help of a conglomeration named the Western Union Telegraph Company. Out of this communication technology boom came the seedlings of many Michigan newspapers. Often used as political battle grounds, the Democrats spared with the Whigs, later to be known as the Republicans. Ann Arbor developed its own papers, the State Journal and the True Democrat. These news releases did not usually contain much of the local news. Readers often found that most of the paper's pages were devoted to foreign affairs, poetry and national news, because the editors wanted to emphasize their use of recent technological innovations, such as the telegraph, in getting news from far away locations.  
Another significant invention of the late 1800s was Alexander Graham Bell's telephone introduced in 1876. A natural step after the invention of the telegraph, the telephone did not become prevalent in households until the end of the century, because most of the area did not have the necessary wiring to provide service. When Bell's patent on the telephone expired in 1893, this new invention allowed many local companies to benefit because there were more vendors that offered the hardware to potential customers and also provided them with service. Telephones were used to organize businesses and to provide services outside of the nearby area. This proved to be of great economic benefit to the citizens of Ann Arbor and many other cities around the country. 
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