I learned these amazing facts when looking into Western Union, and the rumor that telegrams nolonger exist:
- 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 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.
Other company highlights:
1866: Introduced the first stock ticker.
1871: Introduced money transfers.
1884: Became one of the original 11 stocks tracked by the Dow Jones Average.
1914: Introduced the first consumer charge card.
1964: Began using a transcontinental microwave beam to replace land lines.
1974: Launched Westar I, the first U.S. dedicated communications satellite
This was all from a LiveScience.com article by Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor.
The article did not mention whether or not singing telegrams are still in use, although annoying ecards that play music have probably cut pretty deep into that market.
The fact that the technology that once made communication so quick, and was used as the very medium of a series of conceptual/performance art is now obsolete adds to the piece, I think. Also interesting is how On Kawara himself is still alive. Does he now send emails? That doesn't seem to hold the same critical mass required to make this project work. Postcards and letters are still in use, however. Despite a massive decline, people still use them, and what gallery doesn't send at least some press releases and postcards in the flesh?
Also worth noting is Samuel F. B. Morse's contributions to art. His famous masterpiece is Gallery of the Louvre
1831–33 • Oil on canvas • 73 3/4 x 108 in • Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection
From Chicago's own Terra Foundation, the painting is primitive way to share information about the art in the Louvre with American audiences. Morse intended it to "inspire and inform American audiences and to contribute to the development of the nation's cultural identity." (from the Terra website The way the pictures are crammed on the walls salon style, it looks a little like a Google Image Search, which is how we found this image of the painting.