History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, May 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

This week, a painter and inventor officially demonstrates his telegraph for the first time. His first message? A scripture verse.

EICHER: But first, a story of religious freedom in England. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin on May 24th, 1689. The British Parliament passes the “Toleration Act.”

MUSIC: [Psalm 24]

The legislation grants Protestant nonconformists the freedom of worship—as long as they’re licensed, trinitarian, willing to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown, and reject the authority of the Pope. The act makes it possible for certified dissenters to ordain ministers and hold public meetings without fear of persecution from Anglican officials.

Within months of the Toleration Act, many Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists apply for licenses. And by the early 18th century,  non-conformist congregations make up 25 percent of all churches in England.

MUSIC: [Psalm 24]

Next, May 24th, 1844:

AUDIO: One of the great inventions of the 19th century ushered in the era of swift communication: the electric telegraph.

Painter and inventor Samuel Morse officially demonstrates his telegraph at a public ceremony.

Rudimentary long distance communication technology existed for thousands of years before Morse. All early attempts relied on line of sight—with a series of towers spread across a region. Fire, semaphores, or flags sent simple signals between two points. Once the message was received, it was then passed along to the next station.

With the discovery of electricity in the 19th century, many began experimenting with sending messages over wires. While Samuel Morse wasn’t the only inventor harnessing telegraphy, his simple plan for sending and receiving messages in code was groundbreaking.

AUDIO: The telegraph is a remote control electromagnet. When the Morse key is pressed at the sending point, a contact is closed. As a result, the electromagnet at the receiving point raises a leaver and forces a pen or pencil down onto a paper strip.

For the 1844 demonstration, Morse sends four words over the 38 miles of wire. They come from Numbers 23:23—“What hath God wrought.” The daughter of a family friend suggested the passage to Morse, who later wrote that he took the suggestion because it concisely expressed his desire to honor God with the creation.

AUDIO: [Morse code]

Morse’s invention and code launched the telegraph’s expansion all around the world.

And finally, 25 years ago, May 24th, 1994.

PROSECUTOR: I think it’s very fulfilling to see this kind of sentence handed out by the court.

A federal judge convicts four men for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.

HICKEY: It’s the worse act of terrorism on US soil and an angry federal judge called the men convicted of carrying it out: “sneaks and cowards.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Judge Kevin Duffey handed down the same sentence to all four men: 240 years in prison with no chance for parole. Jim Hickey, ABC news.

The terrorists hoped the bombing would bring both towers down. Instead, they caused more than $500 million in damage. The explosion also killed seven people, and injured more than 1,000, mostly during the evacuation.

Afterward, the World Trade Center created new emergency evacuation procedures. Officials put those plans into action seven years later when terrorists attacked the towers again on September 11th, 2001.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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