We should bring back telegrams, don’t you think? Surely a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who’s already lost a fortune on a start-up by 24 years old, can create a network of kids on bikes who hand deliver paper missives to your door. And if they do a smart brand licensing deal, they can call it Uber Notes!
You’d be sitting at home, minding your own business, and hear the knock, knock! or ding dong! at your front door. There, waiting, would be a fresh faced kid with an envelope, handing it to you with a smile full of braces.
Of course, the kid would have some app where you’d have to swipe left or maybe take a selfie with them to confirm receipt or something. Then back on their bike they’d go, ready for the next delivery.
All very efficient and totally Andy Hardy-ish!
Then you’d stand there, leaning against the door frame, opening the envelope, and inside would be a nice note wishing you good luck for some special event, or congrats for an achievement from your best pal, or your mom, or a colleague.
Remember when you used to receive special cards? Ok, that was called childhood birthdays, but go with me on this. I know I’m on to something!
The first telegram was sent from Washington to Baltimore on May 26, 1844 by Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse Code, to his partner Alfred Vail, which itself brought an end to another form of mail delivery, the Pony Express. Morse’s telegram read “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?” Oy, good question!
To send a telegram, you could call a telegraph office, such as Western Union, or walk in and write out the message for the operator at the desk, pay the fee, and it would be tapped out onto a telegraph machine to be received at the nearest office to the recipient. That message would be put into an envelope and a delivery man or boy would drive or bicyle it to your home.
The system was revolutionary in that it was a safe and instaneous way to send information, particularly urgent, important, and even lifechanging messages. And even after most homes had telephones, it was a preferred way to send special well wishes for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and so forth.
But as ancient as it seems, you might find it hard to believe that the last telegram was actually sent in 2006! Granted, only ten were sent in that entire year, but I’m sure, like me, you assumed the last telegrams were sent in the 70s at the very latest.
Still, I think reviving telegrams (something closer to the 1930s experience, thank you very much) could be the tactile relief we all need from our digital ‘insta’ lives. Besides, there’s all kinds of retro goodness coming back, so why not telegrams?!
Anyway, it’s the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, so I wish you Shana Tova to those who celebrate (and go well with the fast).
I hope you enjoy these wonderful telegrams sent to my great-grandmother, Ida Mayer Cummings, from her brothers Louis and Jerry and his wife, Rheba, and her dear friend Mary Pickford, as well as others.
They meant so much to Ida that she pasted them into her massive scrapbook, and decades later I can enjoy them and share them with you.
I hope you can just imagine the kid who bicycled them all the way to her house, knocked on the door, and handed them over. I’m sure she had small bits of change at the ready – he would’ve made a killing during the High Holidays!