Telegraph: Earliest Communication
Salem briefly had telegraphic communication of
a sort before Oregon attained statehood. On April 17,
1863, messages from Portland were received here over a line
that was built to address a specific business need.
Demand by a Portland newspaper and the Oregon Statesman newspaper
for fresh news about the Civil War encouraged rapid development
of a reliable telegraph system. But loss of the ship
Noonday off San Francisco with wire aboard delayed the line's
extension from Salem to the Yreka, California, termi-nal of
the transcontinental communication system on the Pacific Coast.
Stages delivered dispatches from Yreka to Portland in about
six days. But that was not fast enough for the Oregonian
newspaper. For a time, that newspaper employed its own
pony express riders who got the news through from Yreka to
Salem in about 36 hours. From here the telegraph transmitted
dispatches to Portland.
On March 9, 1864, Oregon's Governor A. C. Gibbs wired President
Lincoln in Washington to say that the transcontinental line
was completed and open.
By consolidations, Western Union gained control of various
telegraph systems before 1870. In that year the Salem
office was associated with Wells Fargo located in the Chemeketa
House (Marion Hotel).
Fred Zimmerman, a retired Capital Journal newspaper staff
and telegrapher, recalls that, in 1910, he received press
dispatches by telegraph for the Capital Journal newspaper.
Then this newspaper was located in the Old Post Office Building,
westward across Commercial Street from the Marion Hotel.
News was received into the paper's own office by wire until
In 1877, Oregon State fairgoers were invited to see two
of the latest inventions, Thomas Edison's gramophone and Alexander
Graham Bell's telephone. A very limited telephone
service was introduced to Salem during May, 1884, when
the phone was first used by the Capital Journal newspaper
about the business of collecting news. Likely, it was
around 1890, when the exchange was in Lee Steiner's drug store.
Demonstration of the Collins wireless telephone was reported
in Salem on March 17, 1910.
The Capital Journal newspaper acquired membership in the
Associated Press in 1896, when Hofer Brothers owned the Salem
newspaper. In 1927, United Press service was acquired.
Both Associations used telephone wires to trans-mit images
Television was first seen in Salem at the Oregon State
Fair on September 30, 1932. Tests reported here on September
18, 1952, indicated that local ow-ners of television sets
might hear and see the 1952 World Series baseball games through
Portland's new ultra-high frequency station.
Compiled by Al Jones
Capital Journal, special section of Salem's highlights
for its Sesquicentennial celebration, 1990/91.