Western Union bought out smaller companies rapidly, and by 1860 its lines reached from the East Coast to the Mississippi River, and from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River. In 1861 it opened the first transcontinental telegraph. In 1865 it formed the Russian–American Telegraph in an attempt to link America to Europe, via Alaska, into Siberia, to Moscow (This project was abandoned in 1867). The company enjoyed phenomenal growth during the next few years. Under the leadership of presidents Jeptha Wade and William Orton its capitalization rose from $385,700 in 1858 to $41 million in 1876. However it was top-heavy with stock issues, and faced growing competition from several firms, especially the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company—itself taken over by financier Jay Gould in 1875. :196–201 In 1881 Gould took control of Western Union.
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