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 We must move forward, technology is changing, dots and dashes have long been replaced by ones and zeros.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.


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