An 1848 Telegraph map showing the path of the Speed Line.

In 1847, Ezra Cornell made a contract with the owners of the Morse telegraph patent to build a telegraph line from Buffalo, NY to Milwaukee, WI. This line, the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company was known as the Speed Line after Cornell's partner J. J. Speed, Jr..

The first transmission across this line was on November 29, 1847, a conversation between reporters from the Detroit Free Press in Detroit and telegraph operators in Ypsilanti over a wire strung along the lines of the Michigan Central Railroad. The message concluded as follows:

Detroit - "What time is it?" Ypsilanti - "Ten minutes to twelve." Detroit - "Let us go to dinner." Ypsilanti - "Aye, aye."

The line reached Ann Arbor on Christmas Day, 1847.

When the line was completed to Milwaukee in April of 1848, Detroit sent the following message:

To Milwaukee, Racine, South Portland, Chicago: We hail you by lightning as fair sisters, as bright stars of the West. Time has been annihilated. Let no element of discord divide us. May your prosperity, as heretofore, be onward. What Morse has devised and Speed has joined let no man put asunder.


July 25, 1847. Account of a trip from Ithaca to Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Mr. SPEED failed, and afterwards was associated with Ezra CORNELL in building early telegraph lines, retrieved his fortunes, and paid all the debts incurred before his failure.

Born in Romulus, New York, youngest of nine children of Jeptha and Sarah (Allen) Wade. Made Daguerreotypes, was a portrait painter, moved to Adrian, Michigan, in 1840, before developing an interest in the telegraph. In 1847, he was subcontractor for J.J. Speed and constructed a telegraph line from Detroit to Jackson, Michigan.