It’s being reported all over the place this week, and LifeScience.com has a pretty good summary. Western Union has, as of January 27th, stopped sending telegrams. Many genealogists have come across old Western Union telegrams, which brought important personal news years before the telephone, the internet, etc., came along.
LiveScience mentions the early beginnings of Western Union and the telegraph:
The world’s first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by inventor Samuel Morse. The message, “What hath God wrought,” was transmitted from Washington to Baltimore. In a crude way, the telegraph was a precursor to the Internet in that it allowed rapid communication, for the first time, across great distances.
Western Union goes back to 1851 as the Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. In 1856 it became the Western Union Telegraph Company after acquisition of competing telegraph systems. By 1861, during the Civil War, it had created a coast-to-coast network of lines.
Kind of sad, because I have quite a few telegrams from over the years from various family members.