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(Published: 2014-09-19)


Hold the Tweets! Telegrams are back. Sort of.

Technology has brought us many modern communication marvels, including texts, tweets, winks and pokes. Ironically, that same technology also enables us to send an old fashioned paper telegram anywhere in the world.

Simply log on to, fill in your message, and they will create and send an old fashioned telegram for you, complete with the -(STOP)- designation for periods. Whether announcing the birth of a child, sending a wedding invitation or presenting a marriage proposal, a telegram is a surefire way to command attention. Unfortunately, a uniformed Western union messenger won’t deliver it to your door—it will arrive via snail mail—but it will LOOK just like the classic telegrams of old.

Why resurrect the old and make it new again? When first introduced, telegrams were potent communication tools that annihilated distance and commanded immediate attention. They became an instant and indispensable form of business communication. During our country’s war years they became the most dreaded of communiqués. On a positive note, telegrams surprised many Noble Laureate winners with news of their prestigious prize.

Over the course of history, telegrams, like postcards, evolved into a unique form of creative writing. Because of the original cost structure and guidelines for transmission, a telegram encouraged brevity; strict rules resulted in economical communication guidelines.

For instance, -(STOP)- was inserted at the end of sentences because punctuation marks used to cost extra, whereas letters (up to a point) were free. Here’s a look at some creative transmissions from the past:

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse sent the first telegram from Washington to Baltimore, asking: “What hath God wrought?”

Mark Twain is credited with saying: “I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying flee at once—all is discovered. They all left town immediately.”

The briefest telegram ever sent is believed to be from Oscar Wilde inquiring about the sales of his new book by sending the message “?” to his publisher, only to receive “!” in reply.

Dorothy Parker sent a telegram to a friend that had recently had a baby: “Dear Mary: We all knew you had it in you.”

The shortest resignation telegram is said to be the one sent by comedian Lenny Lower to Consolidated Press. The message read: “Upstick job arsewise.”

Whether announcing good news or offering congratulations, there is nothing today that comes close to the brilliant simplicity and integrity of a telegram. Unlike an email that is easily deleted or a wall post that becomes old news almost instantly, telegrams are treasured and saved for posterity.

Thank you, Telegram Stop. Sorry Twitter.

Western Union cap

Telegram Stop missive

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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