The Earth Shrunk in the 19th Century

“A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat … no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing ever had moved any faster, and, as far as contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would.”–Stephen Ambrose in Undaunted Courage

“The means of intercommunion are so wonderfully perfected that for practical purposes the earth is not one-twentieth part as big as when it was created. Its diameter is the same, its circumference is the same, the number of leagues ad miles between its latitude and longitudes is the same; but the traveller does not find the journey so long. The facility of travelling is such that the world is not much bigger now than a country used to be. Do you suppose the diminution of time, which amounts to the diminution of space, does not have the practical effect to make every particular standpoint an influence that reaches further on?  New York can now reach the Sandwich Islands. Before your words get cold your tidings can be carried there. This continent could preach to Europe, if it had anything to say to the people there. A man can stand on any point on the globe, and almost before his words are out of his mouth they are winging their way around the world. Our missionary books and papers go everywhere. All the moral influences by which we wish to stir up the world are transmitted with a facility never before known.”–Lowell Daily Citizen and News, July 8, 1862, via Chuck Veit, President, Navy & Marine LHA; see here for weekly contemporary reports on the Civil War, where you “learn the news 1860s style including misinformation, assumptions, suppositions, and downright fabrications” and you have to “wait for updates, just like people did during the war.”

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