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Collection on Telegraphy

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0704

Scope and Contents

This collection comprises materials related to the invention, history, and use of the telegraph, including photographs, postcards, telegrams, realia, correspondence, and artifacts. The collection spans the years from 1809 to 1998, with the bulk of objects ranging from the early days of widespread telegraph use in the United States through the mid-twentieth century. The majority of items are from the United States, but there are some materials in non-English European languages, including a large amount of telegrams in Swedish. Of particular note are telegrams, photographs, and other materials generated during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

The materials in this collection were donated along with a collection of books, serials, and pamphlets on telegraphy, which were cataloged separately as the MIT Thomas F. Peterson Collection.


  • Creation: 1809 - 1998


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. is a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Class of 1957. He is the former executive vice president of Preformed Line Products, a manufacturer of components for the energy and communications industries, and the founder of Motion Picture Sound, Inc., working with the movie and television industries and with such clients as the Pentagon, PBS, NASA, and Disney World. Peterson also holds three electrical technology patents.

Peterson is a rare books collector and telegraph enthusiast, and a philanthropist.

Robert A. Voss was an electrical engineer working in telecom and radio systems engineering and is a ham radio enthusiast from Plano, Texas. Voss sold the majority of the materials in this collection to Peterson.


3.93 Cubic Feet (9 manuscript boxes, 3 flat storage boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection was largely assembled by Robert Voss, who sold the collection to Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. Peterson continued to add to the collection prior to donating it to MIT. The collection presents a general view of the history, use, and technology of the telegraph, and includes telegrams, photographs of telegraph workers and military use of the technology, records from telegraph companies, and a wide variety of ephemera and realia. The majority of the collection dates from the mid-nineteenth century through World War II.

Arrangement note

This collection is organized into six series: Series 1. Telegrams; Series 2. Photographs; Series 3. Telegraph Company Records and Ephemera; Series 4. Military Documents; Series 5. Publications and Manuscripts; Series 6. Ephemera.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.


Guide to the Collection on Telegraphy
Ready For Review
Audrey Pearson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing sponsored by Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. (MIT 1957)

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US