My husband’s great-grandfather worked for a few years as a telegraph operator in Ohio around 1880. I did some quick searches to find out more about this occupation.
A telegrapher, or telegraph operator is an operator who uses a telegraph key to send and receive the Morse code in order to communicate by land lines or radio.
Telegraphist was one of the very first “high-technology” professions of the modern era. Many young men and young women left their farms and fishing communities in the late 19th century to take high-paying jobs as professional telegraph operators. In those early days telegraphers were in such demand that operators could move from place to place and job to job to achieve ever-higher salaries, thereby freeing them from subsistence lives on family farms.
I don’t have a photo of my husband’s ancestor during the time he worked as a telegrapher but I found this line drawing that gives us an idea of what it must have been like.
And here’s a drawing of the telegraph machine.