Victorian London - Communications - Telegraph - 'pictures by telegraph'

Pictures by Telegraph.

It often happens that the newspapers and the police would be glad to receive a portrait of the celebrity or notoriety at the same time as the news regarding him comes in from the wire. The telautograph promised to do this, but at present it is not in everyday use. A much simpler plan, in which an ordinary code is used, has recently been adopted by the American journalists. The system is not unlike map-drawing, special paper being required, ruled in a large number of small squares like the sectional sheets used by engineers. The closely ruled vertical and horizontal lines take the place of those of longitude and latitude, but every square along the tops and sides is named instead of numbered. To find the position of any square on the sheet all that is necessary is to combine the two words of the lines that cross at right angles in that square. For instance, if the third square along the top is called "come" and the ninth down the side is called "go," the combination "come go" will indicate the third square from the left, nine squares down. Every square is thus indicated by two words. The way in which the sheets are worked is obvious. The portrait is drawn on one of the sheets, and the receiver of the message simply draws the lines according to the order of the words that have been sent, as read off from the original. With every fresh line the word "From " is used at the beginning, so as to avoid confusion. The paper is ruled in faint blue or any colour that will not photograph, the portrait being drawn rather boldly in black. The portraits are photographed or pantagraphed down to a much smaller scales and process blocks or reliefs made from them in the usual way. The general idea of the system is not new it has been known in this country for some time and has been worked successfully in military topography, but as yet it has, apparently, only come into commercial use in America, where the distances are so great that a telegram across the continent can arrive several days in advance of a letter.

article in The Leisure Hour, 1896