Greetings Telegrams
January 3, 2018 2:29 AM   Subscribe

By the early '30s, the telegram service in the UK was running at a loss, having been supplanted, in part, by the growing popularity of the telephone, and having come to be associated with the delivery of bad news. In an effort to halt this decline, the Greetings Telegram was introduced in 1935: these brightly-coloured bearers of good news rescued the service [PDF], prolonging its life (after a wartime interruption) until the early '80s.

In related news, only last week Belgium became the latest country to discontinue its telegram service.

Some previous posts at MeFi about telegrams: 1, 2, 3.
posted by misteraitch (11 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are lovely and I need to make them into writing paper. Thanks for the post - I did not know about the artist-designed templates.
posted by paduasoy at 3:52 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that Western Union in the US survives mostly on doing cash transfers (and, according to at least one source, smurfing).
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:11 AM on January 3


 SAD TO HEAR OF END -(STOP)- NOW CANT TELL EUSTACE OF SUCCESSFUL ATLANTIC CROSSING -(STOP)-WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT  -(STOP)-
posted by leotrotsky at 6:33 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many others instantly thought of this scene.
posted by lagomorphius at 7:19 AM on January 3


I love the part of wedding receptions in old movies where they read out the congratulatory telegrams during the toasts.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:32 AM on January 3


This is great; thank you for posting it!
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:00 AM on January 3


[Spoiler alert for a movie from 1992] There's a scene at the beginning of Howards End where Helen Schlegel and Paul Wilcox realize they need to send an urgent telegram to warn Aunt Juley and Margaret Schlegel that a letter from Helen mentioning she and Paul being engaged was, in fact, not accurate any longer. So Paul "rushes" by bicycle to the telegraph office at the train depot to send a telegram, but unbeknownst to him Aunt Juley is of course just then arriving frantically from London by train after reading the original letter. She encounters Charles Wilcox (Paul's older brother), who gives her a lift to Howards End in an ancient automobile that barrels along at probably 15 mph.

Watching the other night, I was struck by how all of the glacial communication and slow travel drama would take place today with a couple of texts and an Instagram post.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:02 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


My favorite telegram ca. 1978:
TO: LORNE MICHAELS
FROM: MICHAEL O'DONOGHUE
HELP I'M TRAPPED ON A PLANET OF ASSHOLES
posted by zaixfeep at 10:39 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Somewhere in my mother's house is one of these announcing my birth to my grandmother, sent by my Dad. Of course by then (late 60s) he could have just phoned, but I think a combination of showing off and wanting to mark the occasion more permanently prompted the telegram. Somehow it wound up back with my parents, and I remember them showing it to me when I was small.
posted by YoungStencil at 11:13 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


These are also how you got your birthday greetings from the Queen up until some time in the 80s.

Application form for royal birthday greetings
posted by quacks like a duck at 11:31 AM on January 3


I love the part of wedding receptions in old movies where they read out the congratulatory telegrams during the toasts.

My family (of English origin) used to do this, although as there was no equivalent telegram service in Australia in the 1970s/80s the telegrams would be slips of paper handed to the best man. The only one I remember was:

GOOD LUCK STOP BEST WISHES STOP HOPING YOU KNOW WHEN TO STOP

Oh, the hilarity!
posted by andraste at 1:38 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


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