I need to learn more about how telegraph systems worked. I came across a couple of telegrams that were sent from Zamboanga in the Philippines to Sandakan on Borneo in 1907.

The first one was sent on May 15 and said, “Amai Sankala [a] Moro from Marahui [is] reported [to be] in Sandakan [for the] purpose [of] buying rifles [and] opium. Please investigate.”

May 15

On the bottom of this telegram it says that it was received on 10 June, and that postage had to be paid for it by June 16th.

Then there was another telegram on the same topic that was sent on May 31 and was received on 8 June. This telegram also contained a remark about “delayed government lines.”

May 31 1

What does this mean? Does this mean that the line was broken for days? How were telegrams delayed?

The other thing that I find interesting is that this second telegram was in Spanish. I’ve found other documents that were sent from the Philippines to Borneo that were in Spanish as well. What this means is that after the Americans took over, a lot of the day-to-day functions of government must have continued in Spanish. I wonder how long this continued.

Finally, I wonder how difficult it would have been to notice that someone in Sandakan was buying rifles and opium. Sandakan was a small place. Was it really so hard to notice a riffle-and-opium shopper?