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January 4, 1903: First telegram from Hawaii to Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1903, Duluth Board of Trade president Ward Ames received the Zenith City’s first cablegram from Hawaii. It was sent by renown architect and former Duluthian Oliver Traphagen and said, simply, “Cable connected. Greetings.” What may seem like a mundane event for us now was a very big deal in 1903. More than 2,000 miles of cable had been laid between San Francisco and Hawaii (and the Philippines) in 1902 by the Commercial Pacific Cable Company. The first telegraphed message was sent from San Francisco to Honolulu at 8:40 p.m. Hawaiian time on January 1, 1903. Following that, the first “official” transmission was a greeting from President Roosevelt to Hawaii’s Governor Sanford Dole (as in Dole Pineapples). While there is no record of how long Traphagen’s message took to get to Ames, prior to that day it took at least a week for news to travel from Hawaii to California by steamship. The following July the cable stretched all the way to Manila, creating a world-wide connection. On Independence Day, President Roosevelt sent the first message ever to circumnavigate the globe electronically. It took nine minutes for his greeting to reach the America’s Pacific territories.