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Book Review - Telegram! by Linda Rosenkrantz

"Telegram!: Modern History as Told Through More than 400 Witty, Poignant, and Revealing Telegrams" by Linda Rosenkrantz

Description: There was a time when the sight of a Western Union delivery boy coming up the walk filled Americans with a sense of excitement or trepidation. Between its invention in the mid-nineteenth century and its post-1960s relegation to money transfer and congratulations, the telegraph served as the primary medium for urgent messages. Telegram! collects the most poignant and revealing examples of this earliest form of instant communication.

Organized into categories such as "Parents and Children," "Hooray for Hollywood," and "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office," the telegrams range from such moving personal notes as W.C. Fields's wire to his dying friend John Barrymore, "You can't do this to me," to political advice, such as one voter's telegraphed suggestion to President Herbert Hoover: "Vote for Roosevelt and make it unanimous."

The communication compiled here also provides a novel and engaging perspective on modern history. Abraham Lincoln virtually conducted the Civil War over the telegraph wires, financial nabobs used them to discuss (and fail to predict) the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression, and Japanese diplomats in Washington sent a flurry of encoded telegrams to Tokyo in the weeks leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This handsome volume blends history, sociology, wit, and creativity as captured and dispatched by the telegram in its golden age.

Highlights: The telegraph worked by sending electric pulses along the telegraph wire. The operator opened and closed a switch which transmitted the electric pulses to a pen on the receiving side. The pen marked a strip of paper with dots and dashes. The receiving operator translated the marks into letters and words.

Western Union was originally known as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. They built the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861.

Bank robbers cut telegraph wires to prevent news (of thefts) from spreading to lawmen.

1774 - the first functioning telegraph is demonstrated in Geneva, Switzerland by George Louis Lesage.

1832 - Samuel Finley Breese Morse transmits signals by opening and closing an electrical circuit.

1960 - Western Union sends its last Morse code telegram

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