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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The Last Telegram


A week ago today, on Friday Jan. 27, 2006, Western Union sent the last telegram over its wires and shut down the service forever. Information formatted as dots and dashes, hand-clicked by skilled operators, had traveled over copper wires for a century and a half. When first introduced, the ability to send messages instantly over immense distances amazed contemporaries, who likened the electric communication medium to lightning. Wisconsin's first governor used it in 1849, creating a sensation. Over the decades, as passengers traveled the railroads, the Western Union operator in a tiny office down at the depot was a fixture, since the telegraph lines followed the railroad lines. And now it has gone the way of the ox-cart and eight track tapes, displaced by satellite transponders and cell phones. For historical photos of some telegraph operators and facilities, visit our Wisconsin Historical Images collection.
:: Posted in Curiosities on February 3, 2006
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