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2000s / End of Western Union Telegrams 2006
On January 27, 2006, Western Union ended more than 150 years of telegram service. Beginning in 1854, the company began transmitting and transcribing telegraphed messages and delivering them to customers across the country. They heyday of the telegram was in the 1920s and 1930s when sending a message by telegraph was cheaper than making a long-distance telephone call. The word 'stop' was commonly used in the text of telegrams to end a sentence instead of a period because it was cheaper to send a four-letter word than a punctuation mark. Telegrams were often used for formal notifications and announcements, such as the one below to inform the recipient that he would share the 1958 Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology. During the Second World War, Western Union couriers were feared because they delivered official death notices to the families of servicemen. Eventually technology made telegrams obsolete and anachronistic. Only about 20,000 telegrams were sent in 2005, mostly by companies that were required to send legal notifications. On that final day of service, ten telegrams were delivered. They included a congratulatory message, a sympathy message, and, of course, a handful of messages from people who were trying to make history by sending the final Western Union telegram. Today Western Union exists only as a company that handles money transfers.