The inventor George Phelps was born in the U.S. in 1820. Upon reaching adulthood, he worked for several years in his Uncle's Company as a machinist. At the age of 30, Phelps opened his first shop. By this time he was well versed in technology and had received several patents.
During the 1840s, George Phelps' attention was riveted to the invention of the electromagnetic writing telegraph. Phelps was interested in the possibilities of developing the Morse machine.
When, in 1853, David E. Hughes, then a young physics teacher from Kentucky, and later the famous English and American inventor, worked on the printing telegraph, George Phelps actively helped him to improve the device.
Later George Phelps specialized in telegraph apparatus. It is believed that he created the most successful printing telegraph. In his device, Phelps used a piano-like keyboard with 28 keys (including mark and space keys). He also used an electro-magnetic regulator for work at high speeds, having realised the ability of different energy sources (compressed air, steam and, later, the electric motor).
The printing telegraph using George Phelps' motor was created in 1875. The device provided a transfer rate of up to 60 characters per minute (in comparison to the Morse telegraph which yielded up to only 30 characters per minute). The device shown in an exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 was then used on the busiest lines of the United States.
James D. Reid, a recognized 19th Century authority in the field of telegraphy, had a very high opinion of the Phelps printing Telegraph, considering to be an example of the highest achievements of the human mind. In his book, The Telegraph, published in 1879, Reid calls Elisha Gray, Thomas Edison and George Phelps the most significant and prominent inventors of their time.