Saturday, April 27, 2013

Western Union Messegner

Welcome to Western Union Week here at OPOD. We will be looking at historic pictures of this once great company, and the once important business of Telegrams. Back before the days of telephones and email, the only way to quickly get a message to someone was by telegram. You would go to a Western Union office, and a telegraph operator would take your message, and the message would be relayed to a Western Union office near the person you were trying to reach. The message would then be sent from that receiving office by messenger to the intended recipient. In cities, Western Union would employ large numbers of children and young men to deliver the telegrams by bicycle, horse, or any other imaginable means. Amazingly, telegrams could be sent all the way up until 2006, when the service was finally shut down. Now Western Union is in the business of doing money transfers. In particular, they are able to transfer money to foreign countries and to people who do not have bank accounts.

The picture above shows a 16 year old Western Union Messenger Boy in Montgomery, Alabama.


  1. Good overview. There are still places like old drug stors that you can find the Western Union sign up on the wall, but these are becoming harder to find as time marches on. It seems that the old wires on the telegraph poles have been replaced by the power poles loaded underneath with the phone and internet system lines of today. So much information available now.

  2. He looks rather grim.

  3. He looks a bit older than 16, and a bit disheveled. Maybe it was the end of a long day.

  4. In those days boys as young as 12 were doing men's work. Often from large families, they were sent out to work because their families could no longer afford to feed them, having so many younger mouths to feed. The luxury of adolescence had yet to become a reality.


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