The Telegram to My Grandmother That Led Me to the Patent for the World’s First Commercial Pager…

Last night I was looking through my grandmother Mitzi’s scrapbook containing the many articles she had written for Photoplay, when I ran into a couple of telegrams from her editor Helen Gilmore. Here’s one asking if Mitzi can cover the Eleanor Powell/Glenn Ford wedding of October, 1943, but also from a different angle – from Ford’s perspective.

I love that this telegram gives a behind-the-scenes insight into making the story stand out from the other articles that would have immediately flooded the newspapers and fan magazines.

Because the couple were married on October 23rd and Photoplay was a monthly publication, it is very likely everyone would have had their fill of wedding photos and coverage from the daily papers. Also, Mitzi had already written an article about the lovebirds in January, which is very much Eleanor Powell’s story.

Strangely, I wasn’t able to find the story Helen Gilmore requested for the November issue. I don’t know if Mitzi ever wrote it, and it’s possible their wedding date was too late for inclusion in the next issue. Instead of a big double-page spread there’s just a tiny snippet about their romance and no mention of their marriage the month before. Hmm…

By the way, I did a little snooping to learn more about Helen Gilmore – the name sounded familiar to me – and what I discovered was that she had been a prolific stage and silent movies actress, appearing in over a hundred films and often in uncredited roles. She gave up acting in 1938 to become a magazine editor and began writing and editing for Photoplay in 1941, and did so for over a decade.

Interestingly, it was during this time that her husband Richard Florac invented the first commercially available pager. I’ve attached his patent, which was filed in 1950 but granted in late 1952. Doesn’t it look suspiciously like a modern cellphone? Perhaps it was from the profits of this invention that Gilmore no longer needed to work?

Who knows, but isn’t it amazing the things you discover when you find one little telegram pasted into a scrapbook!

(Photos: Helen Gilmore’s telegram to Mitzi; Eleanor Powell and Sgt. Glenn Ford marry in Beverly Hills; Mitzi’s January 1943 story for Photoplay; the brief mention in the November 1943 issue; Eleanor Powell and Mitzi in 1939; Helen Gilmore; an article about Bette Davis by Helen Gilmore; Richard Florac’s patent for the commercially available pager.)

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