More on Dead Benjamin Franklin in the 19th century imagination, as well as that era’s widespread fear of Big Telegraph, from Rob MacDougall. Here’s a bit about one of the many tasks that Franklin, as head of the spirit world’s electricity committee, issued to spiritualist John Murray Spear:
Another project Franklin and the Electricizers pressed upon Spear was the construction of a “Soul-Blending Telegraph”—a national and eventually global network of towers, in which pairs of male and female mediums would be “sealed” to, again, “mingle as one,” and from there transmit and receive messages telepathically. The goal was to overturn the terrestrial telegraph monopoly, which the spirits deemed sinister and undemocratic.
This catches my eye because: hey, mingling. But also because of my work on the telephone and telegraph. It wasn’t just dead people—everybody in the Gilded Age worried about the telegraph. Nineteenth-century reformers of every stripe singled out telegraph monopolies—first the transatlantic cable companies, later Western Union—as threats to democracy and made the free “transmission of intelligence” central to their prescriptions for reform.
Good stuff. Plus, be sure to catch Part One from this series.