Author Talk: Richard R. John

Author Talk: Richard R. John

Telegraphs for the 1 Percent, Telephones for the People: How America Became a Network Nation

[Please note: The opening few seconds of the lecture were not recorded.]

The history of the telegraph and telephone—the world's first two electrical communications networks—contradicts assumptions many hold that government regulation is an impediment to innovation. Network Nation places the history of telecommunications within the broader context of American politics, business, and culture. In the early 20th century the lightly regulated telegraph remained a technological backwater and accessible only to a small elite. In contrast, the highly regulated telephone became a technological powerhouse and available to ordinary Americans throughout the nation, transforming our culture in the process. 

Dr. Richard R. John used the rare journal, the "Review of the Telegraph and Telephone" (later combined into the Factory) in Hagley’s library for his book, Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (2010). Network Nation received the Ralph Gomory book prize from the Business History Conference in 2011.

Dr. John's Author Talk, “Telegraphs for the 1 Percent, Telephones for the People: How America Became a Network Nation” was delivered April 23, 2014 at the Hagley Museum and Library.

About Richard R. John

Richard R. John is a historian who specializes in the history of business, technology, communications, and American political development. He is a professor of history at Columbia University in New York, NY. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. John is author of Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (1995) and editor of the “Industry and Society” monograph book series sponsored by the Hagley Museum and Library.

Banner image: Long distance office of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company New York, N.Y. Nation's Business Photograph Collection. View in Digital Archives