The End

Live Science: After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.
On the company’s web site, if you click on “Telegrams” in the left-side navigation bar, you’re taken to a page that ends a technological era with about as little fanfare as possible:
“Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.”
The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn’t help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.
Western Union has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3 billion annually. It’s now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.
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.
On Jan. 26, the last day you could send a telegram, First Data announced it would spin Western Union off as an independent, publicly traded company.
[via Kottke]

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. yeah, now western union is quietly bilking minorities out of serious loot with its money wiring service. i think it costs $3 billion to send fifty bucks to grandma in mexico.
    their tagline reads: the fastest way to send money worldwide.
    it should read: the fastest way to SPEND money worldwide.

  2. Really? I did not realize minorities paid an inflated rate for this service.

  3. no, minorities don’t pay an inflated rate. they pay the same over-inflated rate as everyone else. it’s just that they make up the majority of the customers.

  4. I checked into this. It actually cost around $5 to send $50 from New York(randomly selected) to Mexico, so you’ll save a couple billion.

  5. In addition, at least your grandma does not live in Macau, (whoa sit down, don’t go get the map, it’s in Eastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and China) because then to send $50 it would cost $15 or roughly 120 Patacas.

  6. geez, will y’all please chill out? it was exaggeration to make a point. you know, the thing we do in the ad business. but to push it slightly, here’s an excerpt from a report on Latino spending:
    >>However, Latinos’ desire to help the relatives they left behind has also meant a business opportunity for money transfer agencies such as Western Union and Money Gram, which handle 83% of all funds sent abroad either alone or through partnerships with local remittance vendors. (Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Harris Bank–the four largest banks in the business–together account for just 100,000 transfers per month.) According to the Inter-American Development Bank, fees earned from remittances exceed $3 billion per year. Remitters in the United States spend an average of $20 to send $200–the most common remittance amount–to their countries of origin. Such high transactions costs limit both Latinos’ ability to accumulate assets within the U.S. and the amount they can send abroad. Legislation to limit money transfer fees and require full disclosure of transactions costs (including exchange rates and transfer fees) could help to ensure that new immigrants do not fall prey to this profitable industry.

  7. “no, minorities don’t pay an inflated rate. they pay the same over-inflated rate as everyone else. it’s just that they make up the majority of the customers.”
    I shop at a grocery store that does not nationally advertise. They don’t carry brand names. They are cheap. They are small There products are good. And I am frugal.
    There are not many people from my side of town shopping there. I live on the west end, the very good side of the tracks. I shop along with minorities. Is it fair that a large portion of people getting these fantastic prices are latino, High Jive?

  8. not sure where you’re going with the conversation, nancy. but based on your post, you’re in a unique scenario. feel free to check out the article below.

  9. I’m just flipping the coin, not going any direction that I can be assured of. Giving an example of minorities.
    I don’t think I am in such a unique scenario. There are quite a few of these stores all over the United States. As a matter of fact, I think the brother of the guy, who owns the stores that I shop at, has some stores that people in my niche, perceived niche, would probably prefer to shop at. They would just have to travel up the road an hour.
    The fresh produce appears to be the same stuff I can buy at the US #1 and #2 grocery retailers also located in my town.
    But you may go ahead and tell me why you think I am in a unique scenario. I will tell you I am fussy about milk and eggs that I buy. I am willing to shell out the extra $5/week to buy organic or free range if I notice a difference in taste, color, texture, etc. I buy less meat and will splurge on a very good brand of beef from Kentucky twice or three times a month.

  10. That article is just a tad out of date and are you a farmer?

  11. Nancy,
    I remarked you are in a unique scenario because, well, you are. The majority of minority communities do not have the access you detailed, and they do not receive great bargains.
    The article’s content is technically not a tad out of date. I just did a quick google search to find it; but there are definitely more recent reports available. Minorities’ lack of access to fresh produce and groceries continues today.
    And I’m not a farmer. But if you do a google search on minority farmers, you’ll find plenty of inequity there too. Or check out the recent newsbrief below.
    all the best.

  12. They can buy in Gary and in Indianapolis. And they buy in between, too.
    You know, how far I have to drive to one of those speciality markets mentioned in another post here. (one hour to a T-Joes)
    … forgot, the Heartland, and cities in the heartland. We must be special in the crossroads?

  13. Dillon Snyder says:

    That article is four years old. People get college degrees in that amount of time. Plus, the sources they use in it are almost ten years old. Time for a new census.
    But all that aside. The real point is, isn’t your lovely little grandma worth the 5 bucks it cost to sent the money to her? Plus you could always over night it, which cost way more and takes about a day. So sounds like you are getting a deal after all.

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