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Actually, the telegraph was much like the original internet, and it did directly affect the quality of life for Americans, particularly out west, far from the large cities and industrial centers of the northeast.
Sears and Roebuck became a very successful company by sending a catalog of all kinds of goods to each telegraph office, so that anyone could place an order over the telegraph wires and have it shipped to them on the railroad. Payment could be wired the same way. So as the telegraph was the original internet, Sears and Roebuck was the original amazon.com.
The telegraph did not really have a direct role in improving American life during this time. Instead, its impact was more indirect because the main way in which the telegraph improved American life during this time was by making it easier for big businesses to operate. Big businesses, helped by the telegraph, improved the standard of living for regular Americans.
Take, for example, railroads. Railroads used telegraphs a lot because they needed to be able to communicate instantly between far-flung stations. The telegraph, therefore, allowed railroads to operate more effectively. Railroads, in turn, improved American life by allowing goods to be transported long distances, thus making more goods available to more people at a cheaper price.
Telegraphs also expanded Americans' horizons. They made it possible for Americans to get news about what was going on in distant corners of the country and even in foreign countries. This made Americans more aware of their world.
In these ways, the telegraph indirectly improved the lives of average Americans even though they themselves did not typically use it.
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