There are a few things I put into almost every book of mine and the telegraph is one. It was the “email” of the 19th and early 20th centuries. People needed a fast way to send a message, and in the early 1800s, Samuel Morse gave them the telegraph—a machine that sent a series of dots and dashes over a wire.
In April 1856, Western Union began operating and reached peak popularity in the 1920s and 1930s when it was cheaper to send a telegram than call long distance.
They charged by the word and the cost of a 10-word telegram in 1870 was around $1.00, depending on the distance.
It was customary to use the word STOP in place of a period. I found one reason for this being that it was cheaper than a period but I’m not so sure. I couldn’t find the cost of a period listed anywhere. Another source mentioned that it was to clarify the message and since they were sent in a series of dots and dashes, distinguishing periods would’ve been difficult. I believe this.
In any event, messages weren’t that cheap, so people used the fewest words possible.
In my Men of Legend series, Stoker Legend installed his own telegraph on the huge ranch so he could get messages quickly since headquarters was a good thirty miles from the nearest town.
And in my latest book, The Mail Order Bride’s Secret, Tait Trinity used the telegraph to send for Melanie Dunbar, the mail order bride he’d been writing.
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Now I have an offer for you. From today 5-19-20 to 6-02-20 my Texas Heroes series (digital only) goes on sale everywhere online!
Knight on the Texas Plains is FREE
The Cowboy Who Came Calling — $1.99
To Catch a Texas Star — $2.99
So if you missed one or all of the series now is your chance.
Would you have made use of the telegraph system back then? Or would you have just written a letter? The cost of a letter was about 4 cents. Do you know of anyone who received a telegram?