February 18, 2013 AT 9:37 am

How To Write a Telegram

I recently came across this great post on Matthew Reed‘s blog about this old-timey pamphlet, titled How To Write A Telegram. He writes:

At one time, telegrams were the primary means of high-speed, long-distance communications. They were the email of their day and, like any widely used service, customs and rules grew up around them. A 1928 booklet by Nelson E. Ross titled How To Write Telegrams Properly details some of those rules and conventions. Not solely about writing telegrams, it also serves as a historical snapshot of telegraph services in 1928. The many topics covered include:

How to Save Words
Tolls – How Computed
Extra Words and Their Avoidance
Collect Cards and Their Uses
Messages for Persons on Trains
How to Send Money by Telegraph
“Telegraphic Shopping” Service

The range of telegraph services available at the time was quite impressive. I knew it was possible to send money by telegraph (think Western Union), but I never knew that telegram delivery was possible to a person on a train. Similarly, I had never heard of “Telegraphic Shopping,” seemingly a 1920′s e-commerce prototype providing a way to buy any “standardized article from a locomotive to a paper or pins.” I wonder how far that idea developed.


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