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Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Transcontinental Railroad and the Telegraph, 1860's

map from Interactive 3-D Maps: American History, Donald Silver
Transcontinental Railroad
We review what we had already learned about steam engines, and the boys mapped out where the transcontinental railroad tracks were laid.
Introduction to Steam Engines
Wheels and Friction
Types of Trains
Parts of a Steam Engine
made from elements from  Interactive 3-D Maps: American History, Donald Silver
The Telegraph

Telegraph is one of the first applications of electromagnet. In 1830 Joseph Henry demonstrated the potential of the electromagnet device for long distance communication by sending an electronic current over one mile of wire to activate an electromagnet which caused a bell to strike. Then, in 1835, Samuel Morse used pulses of current to deflect an electromagnet, which moved a marker to produce written codes on a strip of paper - the invention of Morse Code. The following year, the device was modified to emboss the paper with dots and dashes. He gave a public demonstration in 1838, but it was not until five years later that Congress funded $30,000 to construct an experimental telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, a distance of 40 miles.
 We decided to make a two-way telegraph for the boys to play around with.
 They made an electro-magnet, just as they have done before.
We made two of them so that one sounder connects to the other's key...
 so they could send messages back and forth to each other.
 We put one telegraph on the window sill and the other on the deck so that they could practice first with the window open so they could talk to each other and help each other out. Then later, as they get more proficient, we could close the window and they could send messages back and forth.
They learned quickly the value of writing down the messages in Morse code before they send them as well as writing them down as they receive them.
It is quite tricky to learn.
You don't need to make the telegraph, to experience Morse Code messages, however.
You can try sending messages to each other as you sit around a table, tapping the dots and dashes on the table.

Another creative idea can be found at Classic Play; Morse Code Necklace.

We also looked at the states to achieve statehood in the 1850's: Oregon, California and Minnesota
The Near Extinction of the American Bison
The Homestead Act of 1862
The Long Walk of 1863
Orphan Trains
States to achieve statehood in the 1860's : West Virginia, Nebraska, Nevada and Kansas.

  • The Story of The Golden Spike, R, Conrad Stein
related posts:
inspiration and sources:


  1. Phyllis -- just the post I was looking for! We are travelling to Cheyenne, Wyoming in just a few weeks. We're going to be learning about the Transcontinental Railroad and this post really gives me some great ideas.

    Thank you thank you!

  2. I took a HAM radio class in middle school and loved it. I wish I could remember all those dots and dashes. I would love it if our studies took us to the path of making one of these! Awesome!

  3. I love that you made a telegraph with them. How much fun was that?


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