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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

End of era - STOP - telegrams are gone

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Back what seems like a hundred years ago, I was helping a reporter for the old Globe-Democrat newspaper in St. Louis on a story about a prominent politician in southeast Missouri. Once the story was complete, the big city reporter sent me my first telegram. It was a brief congratulatory message in a yellow envelope. I thought I was in tall cotton.

I received one more telegram in my life. An old classmate from college read something about me in a college alumni magazine and sent a telegram to mark the occasion. I kept it along with the first telegram.

After 150 years, the telegram is no more. Western Union sent their final telegram last Friday and ended a tradition that started in April 1856. Youngsters today have no clue on the role the telegram has played in our history. And now they'll have to learn that lesson from the history books.

They say the telegram had its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. However, it was during World War II when families were notified of a soldier's death by way of the telegram that etched it in our national memory.

Like so many other aspects of our lives, technology doomed the telegram. Though 20,000 telegrams were sent last year, the business side of Western Union recognized that the days were numbered. Last Friday, the final 10 telegrams were sent.

When Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse Code, sent that first telegram in 1844, his technology replaced the Pony Express. His first message was: "What Hath God Wrought".

And now the telegram gives way to the Internet which someday will give way to another form of advanced technology that is currently beyond our imagination.

I doubt that anyone will mourn the passing of the telegram. But after 150 years, it deserves a brief mention at the very least.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen