Jobs Lost to Technology, Pony Express Edition

This weeks marks the 150th anniversary of two very noteworthy events.

On October 24, 1861, the transcontinental telegraph was completed as the line from Carson City was connected in Salt Lake City. The prior week the line from Omaha had reached Salt Lake.

Pony ExpressThe second major event of note was the closing of the Pony Express on October 26, 1861, two days after the telegraph was completed.  Now that's what Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction. The act of creation triggered the destruction of a preceding industry.

The closing of the Pony Express cost about 80 jobs for riders, and over 100 express stations were closed, although the station-masters may have had other income in addition to their Pony Express work.

The telegraph industry at its peak had many more employees. I haven't found data on total industry employment, but one union of telegraph employees had 78,000 members at its peak.

It may be hard to see the benefits of new technology in terms of jobs, but trust me: if the new technology is truly valuable, the economy as a whole benefits and new jobs will be found in new industries.