Sunday, August 29, 2010

Telegram: Getting remarried in El Paso

Back in the "old days"... Before there was an Internet and email and before telephone service became popular enough and long distance calls became cheap enough, the best technology for delivering messages was via the telegram, such as this one below.

Here is a 1923 Western Union telegram from El Paso, Texas to Alpine, Texas, with the happy news that Arthur and Lillie had "adjusted all differences" and would remarry in a few days. That phrasing makes me wonder if the couple actually resolved all their differences or merely made some adjustments to accommodate them. The tone and wording make me suspicious of the second time around being the charm for these two.

From, here's how Lillie would have gone about wiring the good news to friends or relatives in Alpine:
"People sent telegrams by calling a telegraph office and dictating a message over the phone to an operator: the cost of the service was added to the customer’s phone bill. Customers could also appear in person at a telegraph office and write their message on a blank form, which would then be rendered into Morse code. Telegraph companies supplied pads of blank forms to business customers, and messenger boys would carry the forms to the telegraph office throughout the business day. Full-rate telegrams were hand-delivered by a company courier, but some cheaper services featured telegrams that were delivered by mail. In some European cities telegrams were also delivered via pneumatic tubes."
Telegrams likely outlasted Lillie and Arthur, finally succumbing 83 years later to the Internet Age and lack of demand. In 2006, the wires were metaphorically cut and telegram service died. The announcement came over the Internet. Ironic. Stop.

The obituary for the venerable old service, as well as a part of American culture, was reported in various newspapers and online venues. They're not hard to find. Click HERE for one example.

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