Working Papers:

Federal Preemption and Competition in the Post 1866 United States Telegraph Market

Current Version: November 9, 2014


The United States federal government preempted state telegraph regulations it deemed as anti-competitive by enacting the 1866 Post Roads Act. The 1866 Post Roads Act granted a de facto national charter and franchise to build and operate a telegraph system anywhere in the United States to any telegraph company organized within any state. The act also outlawed certain types of contracts that had prohibited other companies from acquiring telegraph right of way access. The paper shows that rival firms took advantage of the 1866 Post Roads Act to enter the telegraph market and compete with Western Union. This historical evidence supports that the 1866 Post Roads Act likely increased competition.

Work in Progress:

Private Provision of Money Orders within the United States around the turn of the 20th Century

Current Version: May 2014


The paper provides information on the size and scope of private provision of money orders by express and telegraph companies in the United States relative to money orders provision by the United States Post Office around the turn of the 20th century. Recent research on the importance of money orders to everyday transactions in the United States in the 19th century and early 20th century has focused on money orders provided by the United States Post Office. This paper tracks the importance of the sizeable private provision of money orders in the United States . Figures from the early 20th century and late 19th century indicate a growing popularity amongst consumers of private sector provision of money orders. By 1909 at least 130 million dollars worth of money orders were exchanged by the private sector, equaling over 20% of money orders issued by the United States Post Office in 1910. The growth of the share of private sector money orders is evidence that the private sector went from being a small player in the sector to being a serious competitor with the United States Post Office.