Sending Telegrams
December 4, 2004 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I've discovered that you can still send telegrams. Has anyone done this recently? How did it go? What do received telegrams look like these days? Are there any services for this beside Western Union? Are they delivered with mail or do they still knock on the door and hand it to you? Do I have to send it from the internet, or can I do it from a post office?
posted by bubukaba to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
not to be snarky, but how did you discover that you can still send telegrams? Maybe that source would have more details on it.
posted by puke & cry at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2004


puke & cry: more useful might be google search or western union telegram page (with a pic of a western union telegram)
posted by Grod at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2004


The picture on the Western Union page is too small to tell if it's still just little strips of paper pasted on the page like it was in the past or if it's just printed on now, that's one thing I'm interested in finding out.
posted by bubukaba at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2004


I visited India in 1997 and found that it was easy and relatively cheap to send telegrams home, rather than sending letters in the mail and having them arrive in the US a week or two after my own return. Plus I couldn't pass up the opportunity to send some real telegrams. It was very tempting to send something like "DEPARTING TONIGHT ORIENT EXPRESS STOP ARRIVE ISTANBUL MORNING STOP".

When I got home, I was able to see the result. The telegrams had been cabled to some office in the US (in the Washington DC area if I recall correctly), printed out on letter-size paper, placed in very plain, business-like envelopes, and mailed to the recipient (in my case, the recipient was in California). Sorry, no strips of paper glued to the page with mucilage. There was also no need to write "STOP" in place of a period, which was good because I had to pay for each character.
posted by hashashin at 2:45 PM on December 4, 2004


Hashashin's experience reflects my own. I sent a telegram domestically using the Western Union webpage this summer. They are the best compromise in terms of speed, delivery service (weekdays only), and value. These days, you get a black and white printout that says Western Union on it, but it's not in all caps and you can use punctuation (no fun use of "STOP"). They deliver it via courier and leave an envelope outside your door. Be careful that you don't make any errors in your message, though - their webpage had some loading errors when I did it and I accidentally sent a message with typos.
posted by amber_dale at 2:56 PM on December 4, 2004


The picture on the Western Union page is too small to tell if it's still just little strips of paper pasted on the page like it was in the past or if it's just printed on now, that's one thing I'm interested in finding out.

I've seen Western Union telegrams from 1917-1919 which are not pasted on, just typed directly on the paper.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:28 PM on December 4, 2004


This site lets you send an e-mail facsimile of a telegram (cool) OR will produce and deliver a retro-style telegram for you.. for a price.
posted by Miko at 5:48 PM on December 4, 2004


Older telegrams aren't pasted onto a form because they were received by telegraph and then typed out; the ones that were pasted onto a form were received by telex and then cut and pasted. The telex machine was popularized in the 1920s.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:50 PM on December 4, 2004


Last time I sent a telegram was on behalf of my dog, Rex, in the 1950s.
It read, "Woof woof woof woof woof woof."
The clerk at the desk said there was a minimum charge for ten words or fewer, so Rex could add another "woof" free of charge.
I asked Rex, but he said, "Then it wouldn't make any sense at all."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:01 PM on December 4, 2004 [2 favorites]


I don't think you can do it from the post office anymore, but you can still do it from your local Western Union. And, yeah, they send somebody out to hand-deliver it. (I'm pretty sure.)

Whatever you do, never telegram your mother. Even as a joke. You'll give her a heart attack. Mothers are terrified of telegrams.
posted by Iason at 10:45 PM on December 4, 2004


My friend sent me one in the late 1990s because we thought the whole concept was cool. STOP.She paid some excessive amount and then was completely disappointed because it just came in the mail, no special courier or anything. STOP. A ripoff, we thought. STOP.
posted by GaelFC at 12:12 AM on December 5, 2004


From Retro-Gram's History of the telegram:

"Western Union continued to hand-deliver telegrams until February of 1972, when the company began closing its local offices, but physical delivery of telegrams completely ceased in 2001."
posted by mrbill at 1:58 AM on December 5, 2004


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