Article ID: CBB758368865

Capitalism Matters: How Financial and Technological Innovations Shaped U.S. Telegraphs, 1845–60 (January 2022)


This article encourages historians of technology to elevate the history of capitalism from a subsidiary theme to a research agenda. It studies the United States's early telegraphs to exemplify the inseparability of technology and capitalism. Entrepreneurs were able to innovate technologically (build telegraph systems) thanks to innovating financially. After trying and failing to sell large amounts of stock to a few investors in big cities for funding construction, entrepreneurs succeeded by selling small amounts of stock to many investors spread across the country. Financial innovators turned technology users into investors. Conversely, entrepreneurs were able to innovate financially because of their technological innovation. They built telegraphs to sell stock. Corporate charters made a company's capital a multiple of its line mileage, so the only way to increase capital was to build lines.

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Authors & Contributors
Schwarz, Frederic
Wolpin, Stewart
Kathke, Torsten
Mary E. Hansen
Knight, Peter
Regele, Lindsay Schakenbach
Telegraphs; telephones
Technological innovation
Business history
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
Gilded Age (1870s-1900)
18th century
United States
Great Britain
Western states (U.S.)
Catalonia (Spain)
American Telephone and Telegraph Company

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