This Day In Information: The Last Telegram

Today in 2006, Western Union announced on its Website that it “will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services.” The announcement marked the end of 155 years of continuous service since the founding in 1851 of the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company (which changed its name to Western Union in 1856). Richard John in Network Nation: “The influence of postal precedent on telegraph network building was pervasive and enduring. The physical appearance of the first telegraphic dispatches closely resembled the physical appearance of postal letters. Even the word ‘dispatch’ was a postal carryover.”

The earliest mention of “telegram” in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated April 6, 1852, from the Albany Evening Journal: “A friend desires us to give notice that he will ask leave… to introduce a new word… It is telegram, instead of telegraphic dispatch, or telegraphic communications.” The OED notes that “This term encountered at first much opposition from scholars, as not being formed on Greek analogies, which give, as in modern Greek, telegrapheme, but its practical convenience led in a few years to its general adoption.”

In 2006, The Western Union Company handled 147 million consumer-to-consumer money transfers and 249 million consumer-to-business transactions. But it reported that telegrams sent had fallen to a total of 20,000 a year, due to competition from other communication services such as email. Richard John observes that the last telegram made “the telegraph one of the few electrical communications media to have become obsolete. ”



About GilPress

I launched the Big Data conversation; writing, research, marketing services; &
This entry was posted in Telegraph, This day in information. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to This Day In Information: The Last Telegram

  1. It’s interesting that revolutionary communication technologies can only survive for a limited time. What’s great about the telegram is how long it managed to hold on – 160 years is good going 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s