The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era


Connecting Alaska: The Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System

David Eric Jessupa1

a1 University of Washington

In response to the Klondike gold rush, the U.S. Army established isolated forts throughout Alaska. Between 1900 and 1905, the Signal Corps connected those posts with each other and with the contiguous United States by means of the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS). A significant logistical and technological achievement, the system of thousands of miles of suspended landlines and underwater cable included the first successful long-distance radio operation in the world. The first physical link between the United States and Alaska, the telegraph was also the first major contribution to Alaskan infrastructure provided by the federal government, marking the beginning of the government's central role in the development of Alaska.

David Eric Jessup is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Washington. His essay, “The Rise and Fall of Katalla: ‘The Coming Metropolis of Alaska,’” appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Alaska History. He is currently at work on his dissertation on Fredrik Olaus Nilsson, founder of the first Baptist church in Sweden and a leading figure in the nineteenth-century Swedish free-church movement.