Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/191

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WHEN any system of business is so conducted as to arouse a feeling of opposition on the part of right-minded citizens generally, it is safe to say that some evil exists, which renders the immediate reformation of that system, in whole or in part, a matter of public importance. Judged by this standard, our telegraphic and electrical system would seem to be in need of reformation. That it has evil features no one can deny, and nothing about it, perhaps, is more obnoxious than the method at present in vogue in cities of constructing lines over-ground—a method which has increased in obnoxiousness with the recent remarkable growth and expansion of the electrical system.

The mode of construction has not been conformed to the changed conditions which this growth, simultaneously with the progress of civilization, has brought about. The same method of hanging wires on posts which was introduced by Professor Morse has been persevered in ever since, regardless of the fact that the conditions which rendered his single line across an open country, twoscore years ago or so, innocent and proper, are not the same in our densely-built and populated cities of to-day. Ignoring other causes of change, the telegraphic business, most of which is conducted in cities, has wonderfully increased. In place of his one company there were in 1880 seventy-seven telegraphic and one hundred and forty-eight telephone companies in the United States, which numbers have, since that time, been greatly increased by the more general introduction of the system of telephonic communication and the incorporation of many electric-light companies, to say nothing of an increase in telegraphic associations. The single wire from Washington to Baltimore had increased in 1880 to 325,517 miles of wire, 34,305 of which were operated by the telephone companies, and in October, 1883, one company alone, the Western Union, was operating 432,726 miles of wire, nearly enough to reach from the earth to the moon and back again. This same company in 1866 used only 75,686 miles of wire, so that it will be seen it has nearly six times as much wire strung over the country as it had then, and these 432,726 miles of wire are exclusive of 144,294 miles of cables and poles. Of the latter ungainly commodity it set up, in the year 1880 alone, 168,056, which is about two thirds of all the poles erected that year.

The magnitude of these figures is by no means wholly due to the extension of lines in newly developed portions of the country. The growth has taken place in cities as well. In New York city, for instance, there are now twenty-five public telegraph and four telephone companies, to say nothing of electric-light organizations and private