with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

The End of an Era: The Telegram

It seems that with little fanfare and fuss, telegrams from Western Union are now a thing of the past.

“Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.”

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn’t help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Western Union changed their strategy to transfer money for people and businesses, and travelers continue to depend upon this service to wire money around the world when they run short. Still, the romance of getting the telegram on the cruise ship crossing the Atlantic, or the fear of seeing the Western Union uniform walking down your front path towards your door carrying what you are sure is bad news, may be a thing of the past preserved by old television shows and movies, but I’ll certainly never forget the thrill of my first telegram.

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