Friday, March 31, 2006

An Era Ends As the Telegraph Passes Into History

After 145 years, one of the last remaining vestiges of the Old West has finally come to an end. On January 27, 2006, Western Union sent its final telegram. A sad day, I think, as one more history filled era is forever finished. And why should this be sad, you might ask. We must move forward, technology is changing, dots and dashes have long been replaced by ones and zeros. Be that as it may, this writer thinks it is sad, in the same way it is sad to say goodbye to a loyal employee who has retired after decades of service.

Without fanfare, the telegrams were “just gone” – no retirement party, no chance to bid our last farewell, no final chance to send one more singing telegram at the last minute, before the news was announced by the press. Nothing - but a small announcement on Western Union’s website prior to the ending. Today, their website says not a word about this death of an American tradition - not even a notation in the company’s Historic Timeline.

Think of it - for almost a century and a half, messages of joy, sorrow and success came in those hand-delivered yellow envelopes. The telegraph changed the world when its first message was sent on May 24, 1844 proclaiming “What hath God wrought!” With those first words sent by telegraph inventor Samuel Morse, communication sped through the land in way never known before.


Old West Facts & Trivia - Did You Know?

Well, if you've been "around" for any amount of time, you know that I'm seemingly obsessed with facts. Though often useless bits of information, I just think they're fun! So, for our Old West enthusiasts, here are a few interesting tidbits:

  • The term "red light district" came from the Red Light Bordello in Dodge City, Kansas. The front door of the building was made of red glass and produced a red glow to the outside world when lit at night. The name carried over to refer to the town's brothel district.
  • Rumor has it that the tradition of spreading saw dust on the floors of bars and saloons started in Deadwood, South Dakota due to the amount of gold dust that would fall on the floor. The saw dust was used to hide the fallen gold dust and was swept up at the end of the night.
  • The Infamous Dalton Gang only operated for one year and five months, beginning with a train robbery in Wharton, Oklahoma on May 9, 1891 and ending at the shootout at Coffeyville, Kansas on October 5, 1892.
  • Clay Allison, after sitting in a dentist’s chair in Cheyenne, Wyoming, forcibly pulled one of the dentist’s teeth when the doctor drilled on the wrong molar. He would have continued pulling the dentists teeth, but the screams of the dentist brought in people from the street.
  • Black Jack Ketchum was the only person ever hung in Union County, New Mexico. According the annals of American Jurisprudence, he was the only criminal decapitated during a judicial hanging. The only other recorded example was in England in 1601.
  • The Pony Express was in operation for only nineteen months from April 1860 through October 1861. The Pony Express carried almost 35,000 pieces of mail over more than 650,000 miles during those nineteen months and lost only one mail sack. The typical Pony Express rider was nineteen years old and made $100-$150 per month plus room and board.

These are but a few of the interesting facts of the Old West. Click HERE to see them all.