The Magnetic Needle Telegraph on the Great Western Railway
London: , 1840
Engraved broadside, image 306 x 205mm; plate mark 338 x 230mm; leaf 380 x 275mm. A little foxed and dust-soiled, with a few marginal tears.
An advertisement for public demonstrations of Cooke and Wheatstone’s two-needle telegraph. The broadside advertises that ‘This Instrument ... may be seen in Operation daily at the Paddington and Slough Stations on the Gt. Wn. Railway. Admission 1s.’
William Fothergill Cooke (1806–1879) and Charles Wheatstone (1802–1875) began their troubled partnership in 1837, quickly patenting their five-needle telegraph. The machine received its first convincing public demonstration in 1838, and improvements soon followed, the pair developing the double-needle system shown here, which, although requiring a skilled operator, provided faster signalling with lower installation costs. In 1839 the Great Western Railway commissioned them to build a telegraph line from Paddington to West Drayton station, a distance of 13.5 miles, and it was first publicly displayed in 1840.