A tradition of a century and a half comes to a stop STOP


Yet another thing I never got to do in my life: send a telegram. Western Union, now booming as a financial services company, has left the telegraph business. Here's the company's own farewell to its original core competency.

What's surprising is that that such an obsolete medium survived for so long. Company spokesman Victor Chayet tells AP that Western Union still managed to move 20,000 telegrams in 2005, despite a cost of about $10 a message and a delivery structure in which your telegram was actually delivered by Airborne rather than by a spiffy Western Union courier. Most of that traffic came from companies using the service for formal notifications.

Last week, the last 10 telegrams included birthday wishes, condolences on the death of a loved one, notification of an emergency, and several people trying to be the last to send a telegram.

"Recent generations didn't receive telegrams and didn't know you could send them," Chayet said.

I sure didn't. So now there's only one question remaining: Was it Sam Goldwyn or Jack Warner who said to call Western Union if you want to deliver a message?

NEXT: Getting Hosed

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  1. I wonder if those Western Union couriers got lots of action, like pizza delivery boys?

  2. I've been hoping that the new AT&T will use the name to offer telegraph service.

    It ought to be cheaper than DSL.

    And I hope they use international Morse this time. I already know it.

  3. We need to save this essential American industry! Untold tens of American workers will lose their jobs if the telegram goes overseas..

  4. I'm with That Jackass. Maybe some fat, supple subsidies are in order. After all, it's the job of the government to create and protect jobs, isn't it? That's what my governor, Mistah Kaine, told us the other night. It's in the constitution! Where? I dunno, but it's in there. Trust me. Something about "We, the people, entrust the government to create and maintain employment for our countrymen".

  5. Good bloody riddance. The world will be a better place when nobody even remembers what a telegram was.

  6. The telegraph was the first digital internet. RIP.

  7. The only telegram I've ever recieved was a recall notice by the Marines. In fact, I'm not sure if that actually was a telegram; it was delivered by a WU courier, but came in an evelope and looked like a regular letter.

  8. So now if your kid is killed in combat you'll get an e-mail from Cheney?

  9. My famed former Romanian girlfriend wired money via Western Union. Does that count as a "telegram"? I'd say not, just guessing. If it doesn't, I've never seen anyone send or receive a telegram.

  10. If yer kid is killed in kombat...you get waterboarded, just in case yer a cindy wannabe.

    Preemptive torture. Stalin and saddam both used it, Cheney would be jealous of their power unless he used it too.

    If yer kid is not killed in kombat, then he is shot down in the street by brownshirts in case he turns into a rogue passenger like that feller the other day did.

    Can't be too careful with terror on the march!

  11. "So now there's only one question remaining: Was it Sam Goldwyn or Jack Warner who said to call Western Union if you want to deliver a message?"

    Running a few searches on this, it appears there are two similar quotes by them on the subject.

    Sam Goldwyn is most often tied to "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union."

    Jack Warner is usually given as the source for "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."

    Based on the form of these two quotes, I would guess that Goldwyn's is the original and that Warner "punched it up" as the scriptwriters say.

  12. Ceterum censeo, Amazingdrx delenda est.

  13. Great. Now, when the elementary school kids here are learning about NV history and are told that the State Constitution was transmitted to Washington D.C. by telegraph, the teacher will have to explain what a telegraph was.

  14. Damn! From the headline I thought someone was doing away with public education! Damn!!!

  15. What I want to know is who sent the LAST telegram, not to mention who received it.

  16. Jeff P.,

    What hath God wrought? Or, maybe, "Oh, this is what He hath Wroughteth"?

  17. Western Union is owned by First Data, and their main business is wiring money, especially remittances. That's where immigrants wire money home and help their home economies blossom. First Data should receive medal after medal for enabling what is probably the best form of foreign aid possible.

  18. Can we please shut down Amtrack now?

  19. I'm biased against Western Union. After 9/11, Western Union is said to have engineered a witch hunt against mom-and-pop money transfer operations working out of check-cashing places on the grounds that they were "laundering money for al-Qaeda." Bunch of Somalis here in the Twin Cities got their whole lived turned upside down and their businesses shut down for six months. Turned out to be completely bogus, of course, and no charges were ever brought.

    Western Union got what it wanted, though. By the time the men were cleared they were bankrupt, here and a lot of other places, too. Now they got new laws to monitor financial transactions that have created substantial barriers to entry for startups, especially to immigrants whose understanding of the Byzantine regulatory environment is generally shaky. I think we can expect to see the regulations regularly "tightened" or "revised" in order to keep the small fry off balance. So now we know why Western Union's financial services are "booming."

  20. when the elementary school kids here are learning about NV history and are told that the State Constitution was transmitted to Washington D.C. by telegraph

    Does that really happen anymore?

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