Connecting Southeast Asia through Wireless Telegraphy

Today I read a letter that Lester Maynard, the US consul-general in Sandakan, British North Borneo, wrote to the Secretary of the Philippine Commission (an American colonial official) in Manila in 1907.

Maynard informed the US official in Manila about an enquiry that he had received from the Superintendent of the Telegraph Department of the British North Borneo Government.


This British official wanted to know the details about the “wireless telegraphy” that the Americans had set up between Jolo (in the Sulu Archipelago) and Zamboanga (in Mindanao).

I had no idea what “wireless telegraphy” was, but according to Wikipedia, at this point in the past it should have referred to the transmission of Morse code by electromagnetic waves.

This was a technological invention that the Americans had introduced into the region, and according to Maynard in this letter from 1907, the British in North Borneo were interested in acquiring it. To quote, Maynard stated that,

“If wireless telegraphy is introduced into British North Borneo, communication could be guaranteed from Sandakan to Labuan, in which event a similar service could be operated between Jolo and Sandakan and in this way double communication could be maintained between the lands of the Southern Philippines and the world.”


A century before the Internet, “wireless telegraphy” was already connecting some of the remotest corners of the globe with other parts of the world.


One thought on “Connecting Southeast Asia through Wireless Telegraphy

  1. Fascinating document. I am doing research on early wt and cable in Philippines and North Borneo. Did you find this letter in the National Archives in Washington in State Dept files? In any case, I would appreciate seeing a full size scan of the letter. Thanks for posting this item.

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