02-04-2006, 11:16 AM #1
End of an Era: Western Union to stop sending telegraphs.
Obviously with the advent of email, there is no more need...
After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.
On the company's web site, if you click on "Telegrams" in the left-side navigation bar, you're taken to a page that ends a technological era with about as little fanfare as possible:
"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 has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3 billion annually. It's now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.
The world's first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by inventor Samuel Morse. The message, "What hath God wrought," was transmitted from Washington to Baltimore. In a crude way, the telegraph was a precursor to the Internet in that it allowed rapid communication, for the first time, across great distances.
Western Union goes back to 1851 as the Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. In 1856 it became the Western Union Telegraph Company after acquisition of competing telegraph systems. By 1861, during the Civil War, it had created a coast-to-coast network of lines.
Other company highlights:
1866: Introduced the first stock ticker.
1871: Introduced money transfers.
1884: Became one of the original 11 stocks tracked by the Dow Jones Average.
1914: Introduced the first consumer charge card.
1964: Began using a transcontinental microwave beam to replace land lines.
1974: Launched Westar I, the first U.S. dedicated communications satellite.
On Jan. 26, the last day you could send a telegram, First Data announced it would spin Western Union off as an independent, publicly traded company.
02-04-2006, 11:23 AM #2
Hard to believe this was, at one time THE LEADER in communications...
What they don't talk about, is teletype. In the late seventies, when the world was refocusing on digital communications, WU decided to continue spending money on teletype machines and technology. By the end of the 80's they were in deep shit. Over-staffed, under-technologied, overhead of networks not being used, rental of com lines quickly stacking up... The big-Bell and later after their split up, the Baby-Bells really drove the nail home.
My dad worked there from the mid-1900's till his retirement. He started off as a bicycle messenger boy, and worked his way up the ranks in a regional office in downtown Atlanta.
I always remember his lessons in corp America, when I make decisions about staying with a company.
02-04-2006, 10:46 PM #3
I used their service a couple of times back in the 70's. Times have changed so much. My uncle also worked for them at their main office in Puerto Rico.
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