In a move that marked the end of an era, Western Union discontinued all of their telegram and commercial messaging services on Friday, January 27, in an effort to complete their transition to a financial services company. New telecommunications services such as telephones, fax machines, and e-mails contributed to the end of the service.
Modern telegraphy (I suppose “modern” is relative) dates back to 1844, when inventor Samuel Morse sent the message “What hath God wrought” between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. According to Western Union’s history, the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company was formed in 1851 to take advantage of Morse’s invention. The company was renamed to Western Union in 1856, and continued to develop the telegraph and other innovations well into the twentieth century.
According to the United Kingdom’s Independent,
The company said the last 10 telegrams sent included birthday wishes, condolences on the death of a loved one and the notification of an emergency. They also included messages from several people trying to be the last telegram sender.
Despite intense competition from the modern telecommunications industry, which benefited from modernized technology and ubiquitous among customers, the telegram survived throughout the 1900’s, mainly for the novelty value and as a way to send relatively inexpensive messages in real-time from the edges of civilization.
While other companies will be happy to send a telegram for you, purists are still disappointed by the loss of what many feel is the canonical telegraphy company.