The Telegraph Office

by Neal McEwen, K5RW


A Small Booklet by Nelson E. Ross, 1928

To Telegraph Office Main Page



How to Save Words

How to Write Figures

Tolls - How Computed

Description of a Telegram

How the Address Should Written

Extra Words and Their Avoidance

How Unnecessary Words Creep in

Punctuation Marks

Eliminating Small Words

Extra Words in the "Check" and Their Meaning

Repeat Back

Get Answer

Report Delivery

Code Books

How to Distinguish Between Various Services

Forwarded Telegrams

Collect Cards and Their Uses

Handwriting in Telegrams

Messages for Persons on Trains

How to Send Money by Telegraph

"Telegraphic Shopping" Service

Multiple or "Many Address" Telegrams

Filing Time

Telephoning Your Telegram

The extraordinary expansion of the telegraph companies of the United States during the last two decades and the constantly increasing volume of their traffic are proof that the American people are utilizing the telegraph today as never before in history.

Though the telegram doubtless, always will command a peculiarly important place among methods of communication, the day has passed when mere receipt of a telegram brought heartrending fear of impending catastrophe. Since few lives can be entirely free from misfortune, telegraph wires must of necessity carry a certain burden of tragedy and calamity, but with the extension of the service to hundreds of different forms of social and business usage this class of message has come to constitute but a small fraction of the whole.

The telegram no longer bears the badge of emergency and the sight of a messenger approaching your home need no longer raise feelings of foreboding. There are hundreds of telegrams which bring tidings of joy, congratulation or good will, or convey social messages of infinite variety and there are still other thousands which deal with the myriad phases of business operations.

Thus the telegram delivered to you may contain a greeting from a loved one, a word of cheer in honor of your birthday, Mother's Day, Easter, St. Valentine's Day, Christmas or New Year. It may contain notice of an order for flowers to commemorate your wedding anniversary, or it may be a money order for funds you sorely need. More likely, however, it will have to do with business.

Two of the fundamental merits of the telegram are that it annihilates distance and commands immediate attention. These advantages make it readily adaptable to almost every phrase of social, industrial and commercial intercourse. If you are alive to the need of making every minute count in this modern, high speed age, you will often have occasion to avail yourself of the facilities of the highly organized institutions which have succeeded the old time operator bent over his telegraph key in the little dingy telegraph office of a few generations ago.

And whether you send one telegram a year or hundreds, you will wish to make use of these facilities in the most economical manner possible.

How to Save Words -- Naturally, there is a right way and a wrong way of wording telegrams. The right way is economical, the wrong way, wasteful. If the telegram is packed full of unnecessary words, words which might be omitted without impairing the sense of the message, the sender has been guilty of economic waste. Not only has he failed to add anything to his message, but he has slowed it up by increasing the time necessary to transmit it. He added to the volume of traffic from a personal and financial point of view, he has been wasteful because he has spent more for his telegram than was necessary. In the other extreme, he may have omitted words necessary to the sense, thus sacrificing clearness in his eagerness to save a few cents.

A man high in American business life has been quoted as remarking that elimination of the word "please" from all telegrams would save the American public millions of dollars annually. Despite this apparent endorsement of such procedure, however, it is unlikely that the public will lightly relinquish the use of this really valuable word. "Please" is to the language of social and business intercourse what art and music are to everyday, humdrum existence. Fortunes might be saved by discounting the manufacture of musical instruments and by closing the art galleries, but no one thinks of suggesting such a procedure. By all means let us retain the word "please" in our telegraphic correspondence.

But when you think of telegraphing someone to "reply at once," you may very well save the cost of an unnecessary word and write it, "reply immediately," or "reply quickly."

And if you are telegraphing the home folks that you expect to arrive on the 20th for that long planned visit, spell it out "twentieth." Two words are saved. The telegraph companies have nothing to sell but service. They undertake to transmit your message from point to point, speedily, accurately and secretly. The cheapest way of handling that message is invariably the safest way, and your cooperation is welcomed by the companies. When groups of figures are spelled out, the chance of an error in transmission is reduced to a minimum.

This apparently insignificant fact often is disregarded by users of the telegraph. Considered from the point of view of economy alone, the question of figures in telegrams is interesting. Any group of figures can be written out so that from two to three words are saved each time the group is used. Take for example the expression "one million." Written "one million" It counts two words. Written 1,000,000, the total count is seven words, and if the commas are to be sent also, the count is nine.

The suffixes "th," "rd," or "nd" appended to figures are counted as additional words. When the figures are spelled out, as in "fourth," "third," or "second," the count is automatically reduced.

How to Write Figures -- The following table illustrates the principles just set forth:

1st (two words) -- first (one word)

2nd (two words) -- second (one word)

3rd (two words) -- third (one word)

4th (two words) -- fourth (one word)

5th (two words) -- fifth (one word)

6th (two words) -- sixth (one word)

7th (two words) -- seventh (one word)

8th (two words) -- eighth (one word)

9th (two words) -- ninth (one word)

10th (three words) -- tenth (one word)

19th (three words) -- nineteenth (one word)

20th (three words) -- twentieth (one word)

30th (three words) -- thirtieth (one word)

31st (three words) -- thirty first (two words)

10 (two, words) -- ten (one word)

20 (two words) -- twenty (one word)

100 (three words) -- one hundred (two words)

1000 (four words) -- one thousand (two words)

1,0000 (five words) -- ten thousand (two words)

100000 (six words) -- one hundred thousand (three words)

1000000 (seven Words) -- one million (two words)

How Tolls Are Computed-- The basis for computing tolls on telegrams is the minimum charge for ten words. In the regular full rat telegram or the night message. It costs as much to send one word as it does to send ten words. Each additional word above ten is charged for at varying rates according to the original basic charge, which depends upon distance.

With the inauguration of the Night Letter and Day Letter services, however, the original method of computing tolls was somewhat modified. In these services, the ten word minimum is not observed, and fifty words is used as the basis of computation. Additional words are charged for in groups of ten.

Night Letters and Day Letters are known as deferred services. Full rate messages take precedence over them.

In the case of domestic telegrams the address and signature is transmitted free of charge, the only part of the message paid for being the body. In the case of cablegrams and radiograms, however, all words are charged for, including address and signature, with the exception that the name of the country of destination is transmitted free. In the interest of economy to the customer, cable companies permit the registering of a code address, so that it is unnecessary to transmit long addresses. Thus a message addressed "WUTRAVBURO LONDON," would be delivered to The Western Union Travelers' Bureau, 22 Great Winchester Street, London, England. There is a nominal annual charge for this registration privilege, the amount being so small as to be more than offset by the saving on a few cablegrams or radiograms.

Description Of a Telegram-- No doubt many persons have been mystified by the groups of letters and figures at the upper left-hand corner of every telegram. The letters are the office call of the station from which the message was received. Just as radio stations are designated by certain combinations of letters, so telegraph offices are assigned certain "call" letters, and these are indicated to permit tracing. The figures connected with the call indicate the serial number of the message. Numbering is necessary because many offices handle thousands of telegrams daily, and without the numbering system it would be extremely difficult to identify any given message.

If your telegram has been received by the well known dot and dash method invented by Professor Morse, it will bear in addition to the number and office call, another group of letters which are the personal "sign" of the operator who received it. If the message has been transmitted by the more modern automatic method and received on an automatic typewriter, no receiving operator's sign will be indicated.

In the same line with the number of the message and the office call is found the "check," or number of words contained in the body of the message. If this check stands alone, it indicates that your message is a full rate telegram. If the word "Blue" follows the number of words, you have received a Day Letter; if "NL" is indicated, a Night Letter; if "Nite," a night message.

Next comes the place of origin of the message, the time it was filed and the date. If no "call" letters appear before the name of the originating point, the message was filed by the sender in the main or principal office in that city or was dictated over the telephone. If a "call" letter or letters precede the name of the place of origin, your message was filed in a branch office carrying that designation.

It may happen that you will wish to reply to a telegram, but do not know the address of the sender. A reply sent "care of" (naming the office call letters indicated on your original telegram) will reach the party desired if he has left an address. If the call letters are not shown, the reply may be addressed "An Answer," followed by the date of the message to which it is an answer. Sometimes a notation will be found in the check or in the address, such as "repeat back," or "report delivery."

How Addresses Should Be Written -- The telegraph companies have clear, concise rules concerning what is and what is not properly a part of the full address and signature. Naturally, if abuses are to be avoided, there must be reasonable restriction in this respect.

Clear, complete addresses are desirable not only from the point of view of the sender, but also from that of the company, since difficulties of delivery are thus reduced to a minimum.

There are occasional evidences both of burdensome prolixity and of baffling inadequacy. ]Here is a good rule, calculated to assist the sender of a telegram in hitting the happy medium between these two extremes:

Include in the address of your message all matter that is necessary, but only such matter as is required and no more. to enable the company to identify and locate the addressee.

Special care should be taken to indicate cardinal points of the compass along with street numbers. A message addressed 370 Fourteenth Street may be taken to that number in East Fourteenth Street, only to be delivered after considerable delay, to the same number in West Fourteenth Street. The same applies to North .and South directions. This common omission in addressing telegrams is one of the most frequent sources of delay, especially in the case of messages addressed to the larger cities.

If you are telegraphing a person or firm you are positive is well known nationally or locally, a brief address is sufficient. If you have occasion, for example, to telegraph the President ,of the United States, a message addressed to:

The President, White House, Washington, D. C.

will reach the Chief Executive if filed at any telegraph office in the world. To write it:

His, Excellency, The President of the United States, The White House, Washington, D. C.

Is to be needlessly verbose. A telegram to a Member of Congress addressed:

Hon. John Doe, Member Congress, Washington, D. C.

will reach the addressee as surely and speedily as a message addressed to:

Hon. John Doe, Member of Congress from the State of Blank, Room 346 House Office Building, Washington, D. C.

Again, if you are telegraphing a business firm of national prominence, a motor manufacturing company in a large automobile center, a famous bank, or for that matter any bank, or any manufacturing concern of widespread repute, a street address is not needed. Imagine, or example, the absurdity o giving a street address in a telegram to the General Electric Company at Schenectady.

Another frequently encountered instance of prolixity in address has to do with the use of long drawn out titles of insignificant purport it is of small moment if the Grand Exalted Chief of the Noble Order of White Mice, Chapter 345, of the Grand Assembly, etc., should have at least a part of his title omitted in a telegram. You may very well accord him his full title in a letter, but the telegram stands for speed and the public is accustomed to telegraphic brevity,. and there is little likelihood that offense will be taken if you give just enough of the Chief's title to enable the telegraph company to identify him and deliver the message.

These are obvious examples of the misuse of the address. On the whole, however, it is perhaps better to risk being prolix, if there seems to be the slightest danger that the addressee cannot be located readily. William Jones may be very well known in Clay Center, Illinois, but if you wished to reach William during his visit to New York, it obviously would be expecting too much of the telegraph companies to find him there unless you gave his hotel or street address. In the case of individuals, a telephone number often will suffice.

Extra Words and Their Avoidance -- Words used in the address under certain conditions, and words added to the signature proper by way of description or identification of the sender or to indicate the status, capacity or authority of the sender, are not a part of the full signature and are charged for. If you are living in Chicago and telegraph a person in another cite, do not add the words, "Chicago, Ill." After your signature. They are unnecessary, since the telegram will be dated Chicago, and their addition merely means extra expense. Of course, if you happen to be traveling through San Francisco, for instance, and desire that the person to whom you address a telegram should know that your permanent address is Chicago, it would be perfectly proper for you to use the extra words in the signature.

If you wish a telegram sent to a large firm to have the particular attention of an individual in the firm, do not write:

Smith and Smith,

Attention Mr. Jenks.

The words "Attention Mr. Jenks" will be counted as extra and you will have to pay for them. An address such as:

A. M. Jenks,

Care Smith and Smith.

is a different matter, for there the words "Care Smith and Smith" are inserted for the purpose of telling the telegraph company where the message is to be delivered and are therefore a part of the necessary address.

Sometimes the "personal" notice is embodied within the message itself, as follows:

Smith and Smith, New York, N. Y.

"Personal attention Mr. Jenks. We will be pleased, etc."

This is placing the words, "Personal Attention, Mr. Jenks" where they rightly belong in the text for they are for the information of the addressees of the message.

The telegraph companies are lenient in their interpretation of the rule regarding extra wards in the signature of a telegram. The members of a family may, without extra charge sign a joint message:

Father, Mother, John and Susan,

Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Family.

Words added to the signature by way of identification of the sender, as for example, "John Brown, President and General Manager," are charged for.

How Unnecessary Words Creep In -- To paraphrase, "Brevity is the soul of telegraphy." Except perhaps in the case of a long Night Letter, the practice of adding such words as "Dear Madam." or "Dear Sir," at the beginning of the message, is obsolete. This likewise applies to such phrases as "Yours very truly," "Yours sincerely," etc., commonly used in closing a letter. These words are charged for, and so accustomed is the public to telegraphic brevity, that their use often produces amusement rather than the expression of formality which the sender desired.

When telegrams are received without the well known title of "Mr." do not censure the sender as lacking in respect. To insure accuracy in transmission the title is omitted lest through inadvertence it should be confused with "Mrs." or "Miss." "Esquire" also is dropped in transmission.

Punctuation Marks -- Marks of punctuation, such as the comma, period, dash, colon, etc., are not transmitted in telegrams unless the sender specifically requests it, and then they are counted and charged for, as one word each. Quotation marks and parentheses, although composed. of two distinct characters each, are counted as one word. The companies have been prompted to adopt this policy because it requires almost as much effort to transmit a mark of punctuation as to send a short word, and unless attention is specifically called to punctuation marks by counting them in the "check," there might be danger of their being overlooked. Messages in which the sender requests that marks of punctuation be transmitted are rare.

The accent mark used in the French, and some other foreign languages cannot be transmitted.

In the interest of great accuracy, it is desirable that the technical characters,

' for feet

"for inches

% for percent

@ for at

should be written "feet," "inches," "percent," "at," etc.

Since marks of punctuation ordinarily are used in written correspondence and their omission may affect the sense of your communication, care must be exercised in the construction of a message from which they are to be excluded.

If you do not intend to stipulate that marks of punctuation be transmitted, write your message without punctuation and read it carefully to make sure that it is not ambiguous. If it seems impossible to convey your meaning clearly without the use of punctuation, use may be made of the celebrated word "stop," which is known the world over as the official telegraphic or cable word for "period."

This word "stop" may have perplexed you the first time you encountered it in a message. Use of this word in telegraphic communications was greatly increased during the World War, when the Government employed it widely as a precaution against having messages garbled or misunderstood, as a result of the misplacement or emission of the tiny dot or period.

Officials felt that the vital orders of the Government must be definite and clear cut, and they therefore used not only the word "stop," to indicate a period, but also adopted the practice of spelling out "comma," "colon," and "semi-colon." The word "query" often was used to indicate a question mark. Of all these, however, "stop" has come into most widespread use, and vaudeville artists and columnists have employed it with humorous effect, certain that the public would understand the allusion in connection with telegrams. It is interesting to note, too, that although the word is obviously English it has come into general use In all languages that are used in telegraphing or cabling.

"Stop" is of course never necessary at the end of a message.

Eliminating Small Words -- At a slight sacrifice to smoothness, but with a saving in tolls which often more than compensates, small words may be eliminated from your telegram without impairing the sense.

The articles "a" and "the" are outstanding examples, followed closely by "we," ",I," and "that."

Let us take an ordinary, every-day message:

"We received your very fine letter and your telegram this morning stop on the morning after you left us there were so many things to be done that all we could do was to pack up and get a taxi in time for the train we are leaving now."

This would do quite well for a letter, but for telegraphic purposes it can be greatly simplified:

"Received your very fine letter and Telegram this morning so many things to be done morning after you left all we could do was pack and get taxi for train are leaving now."

The original message contained 49 words. 14 words are deleted in the second example without any sacrifice of clearness.

Of course it will not do for the ordinary, person to attempt the extreme condensation practiced for example by foreign correspondents of the larger newspapers who, because their cable tolls are high and words are precious, make use of a variety of ingenious combinations which are interesting merely as phenomena peculiar to the handling of cable dispatches for newspapers.

For example, a press correspondent might ,first write this dispatch:

"The enemy has not yet been met or even seen on account of the entanglements thrown up during the night," etc.

Revised for the cable, this dispatch might read:

"Enemy unmet unseen account entanglements upthrown night."

Needless to say, this form is unsuited to the ordinary business or social telegram.

Extra Words in "Check," and Their Meaning -- Now and then in the check of a message there will be found certain added words, such as "repeat back," "get answer," and in the address perhaps "report delivery."

"Repeat Back" -- The "repeat back" service requires that the operator receiving the message repeat it back to the sending operator, who checks each word as it is repeated. There is an additional charge for this service of one half the regular charge for the message. The service is used only when the sender for special reasons feels that an error would spell disaster. Nowadays, with error reduced to a minimum, this service is seldom called for, and in ordinary telegrams, it usually constitutes a useless waste of money.

"Get Answer" -- These words in the "check" and counted as two extra words, are sometimes included at the request of the sender when he is particularly anxious for a reply. The necessity for this procedure, however, has been obviated by the inauguration several years ago of the so called "XU" service. "XU" is the symbol adopted by the Western Union Telegraph Company to indicate that the sender of the message has authorized the company to ask for an answer. There is no charge for the extra service, and no charge for the transmission of the symbol. It merely means that employees of the company at the point of destination will affix a notice to the telegram that an answer is requested, and an effort will be made to obtain such an answer.

"Report Delivery" -- The words "Report Delivery" appearing in the address and counted as two extra words, mean that the manager of the telegraph office at the point of destination will telegraph back to the point of origin a report of the time of delivery. Since all undelivered messages are reported back in service messages without additional charge to the sender, the "Report Delivery" service generally is unnecessary and is resorted to only on those rare occasions when the sender finds it important to know the exact time of delivery. For the "Report Delivery" service, there. is a charge, in addition to the two extra words, of the tolls on a collect telegram reporting time of delivery.

Code Books -- Codes and cipher systems ,existed, of course, prior to the invention of the telegraph, and it was perhaps inevitable that they should have been adapted to use in telegrams from the very first. The primary use of code in telegrams is to effect a saving in words, though secrecy also is sometimes a consideration. In some instances, no doubt, secrecy is a paramount consideration, as in the case of war-time messages or important diplomatic correspondence sent by cable. However, codes or ciphers designed with the object of insuring secrecy usually are not of such a nature as to effect economy in telegraph tolls. For example, there are systems in which a single letter of the original message is rendered by an entire word in code, so that the transmission of a 10 letter word intended to be "covered up" would cost as much as ten ordinary code words.

The codes commonly in use for business communication are worked out, published in the form of code books and sold by concerns not connected with the telegraph companies, though such codes conform to telegraph rules, both domestic and international. So general has the use of code become as a measure of economy, that virtually every large industry has at least one code especially designed for it, and many individual firms have worked out their own private codes. To illustrate the theory of these codes, one may take an instance of a grain merchant making a sale of grain in the Chicago market. He sends a telegram to "sell 10,000 bushels of May wheat at $1.45 1/4" There are 14 words in the message quoted. Coded, the message might read, "Sell barney stoke," which reduces the check of the message to three words. In this instance, "barney" means 10,000 bushels of May wheat. "Stoke" means "1.45 1/4."

Because of the obvious danger of misreading code words, the sender should exercise the greatest care in making up his telegram. If the message is written with pen or pencil, it is well to print the characters of the code words, and if it is typewritten, the use of upper-case or all capital, is to be recommended.

If an employee of the telegraph company calls your attention to an obvious error, do not be offended. We often make mistakes in dates. Today may be the tenth, and yet you may telegraph a friend that you will arrive "tomorrow the tenth." It is the duty of the telegraph employee to call your attention courteously to this apparent discrepancy.

How to Distinguish Between Various Services -- Disappointments to the public frequently arise from a failure to appreciate distinctions between the full rate telegraph service and the various so called deferred services, namely the Day Letter, the Night Letter and the Night Message. If your business is really, urgent, the expedited full rate telegram always should be used. It bears the same relationship to other classes of telegraph traffic as the express train to the local train, and travels over the wires in preference to other traffic. Day Letters are subordinated only to full rate telegrams. The speed with which they are handled depends to a large extent upon the number of full rate telegrams having precedence. Every effort is made, however, to avoid unusual delay, and with the elaborate facilities of the telegraph companies, service on this class of traffic is much better than might be expected.

Night Letters and Night Messages are accepted for delivery the following morning. These services were originated to make use of the wire and plant facilities of the telegraph companies during the night Periods when the load of traffic naturally is lightest. The expense of upkeep or overhead obviously does not cease with the setting of the sun. It is constant. What these night services do is to put on the wires largely by means of an attractive rate, correspondence which otherwise would go by mail, with the result that from several hours to several days are saved by use of the telegraph.

Night letters have become very popular as a vehicle of social correspondence. Friends use them to tell each other of the doings of the day. Husbands and wives separated for a few days by business or social duties use them to supplement mail correspondence, Their more important use is by business firms who use them in constantly growing volume for lengthy communications for the sake of the obvious advantage of the time gained over the mails, and in business, time is money. The latitude allowed by the greater number of words permitted in a Night Letter enables them to go into the subject in greater detail, and the Night Letter has, besides, the attention compelling qualities which are the peculiar psychological attribute of the telegram.

Forwarded Telegrams -- Suppose you are traveling and on leaving New York have left instructions that all mail and telegrams be forwarded to a hotel address in Chicago. A friend or business correspondent telegraphs you at your New York address. The message ordinarily will be forwarded collect, that is, bearing charges from New York to Chicago. In view of the fact that the sender of the message did not know you had gone to Chicago, there is. no occasion for your taking offense because the forwarded telegram bears charges.

If you have left no forwarding order, the telegram received in New York will be reported undelivered. Should the sender know of your intention to proceed to Chicago from New York, he might give orders to have the message forwarded without collect charges, he paying the additional charges at his end. Delays and annoyances often may be avoided by leaving forwarding addresses.

Collect Cards and Their Uses -- To obviate any possibility of question arising as to the right to send messages collect, traveling representatives of business firms frequently are provided with Collect Cards issued by the telegraph companies and authorizing employees of the companies to accept collect telegrams offered by the person whose name appears on the card. These cards are issued without question upon request to the telegraph companies from responsible concerns. When it is remembered that if payment of a collect telegram is refused by the addressee the telegraph company employee must look to the sender for the charges, it will readily be seen that some precautions are necessary.

Domestic telegrams are accepted collect for almost any address, except when addressed to "Post Office, General Delivery," or to a post office box. The reason for these exceptions is obvious.

Handwriting in Telegrams -- There is a classic joke of the telegraph business which may not be out of place here. A lady, filing a message with the counter clerk for transmission, first enclosed it in an envelope. When the clerk tore open the envelope to prepare the telegram for sending, she reached for it indignantly with the exclamation: "The idea! That is my personal telegram and I don't want anyone else to see it."

It must be remembered that a telegram is transmitted letter by letter. Telegraph operators, like post office employees, are expert in reading handwriting, but even so, words cannot be guessed at. If you write the word "opportunity" very clearly as far as "oppo" and the rest of the word is a mere scribble, it cannot be transmitted in that fashion. It must be "opportunity" or nothing. If you sign your name "John" followed by a series of hen tracks, neither can that be transmitted. You may have intended the word for "Johnson," but you cannot reasonably expect the telegraph employee to be a mind reader as well as an operator.

Of course, with the almost universal use of the typewriter in the business world today, the bulk of telegrams accepted for transmission are typewritten. This is a distinct boon to the telegraph operator, and is directly conducive to speed and accuracy in transmission. Nevertheless, handwritten messages frequently are offered at hotels, railway stations and branch offices, where the sender usually in a hurry and entirely familiar his own handwriting, forgets that the telegraph clerk must be able to read the message. He is responsible ,for the correct deciphering of your message. That is why he scrutinizes the communication so closely and in case of doubt sometimes prints a word above one that you may have written indistinctly. It must be legible before it is sent to the operating room. Many users of the telegraph have adopted the sensible habit of printing the address and signature at least.

Messages for Persons on Trains -- A message addressed to a passenger on a train should show the name of the railroad, train number or name or time due, place where the message is to be delivered, and also the point for which the passenger is bound. If the train is run in 13 sections, the section should be specified if known. A sample address is: "John Smith, en route Los Angeles, Care Conductor, Southern Pacific, Train 103, El Paso, Texas." Even though when the train stop at El Paso and John Smith is paged, he may be pacing the Platform for fresh air and exercise, the conductor will strive hard to effect delivery. If you expect to have occasion to telegraph a friend setting out on a journey, it is a good idea to get from him his Pullman berth and car number, so that you will be able to indicate this on your telegram. Telegraph clerks generally will be found to be courteous in aiding you to determine the progress of the train and station where it most likely can be intercepted.

How to Send Money by Telegraph -- An amusing story is told of a countryman who wished to send a pair of boots to his son in a distant city. He brought the boots to the telegraph office and asked that they be sent by wire. He had heard of money and flowers being sent by telegraph, so why not boots? A wag on mischief bent, told the. father to tie the boots together and toss them over the telegraph wire. This the old man did. He remained until nightfall, watching to see the boots start on their long journey. Nothing happened and the father returned to his home. During the night, some one stole the boots. When the old man returned in the morning, he said: "Well, I guess the boy has the boots by now."

If the father had wanted to send money to his son by telegraph he probably would have been willing to tie his wallet to a telegraph wire. As a matter of fact, the speed and efficiency of the modern telegraph money order service is little short of marvelous, and amounts are paid more quickly than if the money actually flew through the air.

The procedure is simple. A person wishing to send a sum of money by wire merely calls at the telegraph office, fills out an application blank, and pays the clerk the amount to be sent and the fee for its transmittal. The telegraph companies have a secret code which they use in directing their agent in the distant city to make payment to the person designated. The payee is notified to call at the office for a sum of money, or a check is sent to the payee, as may be directed. It is optional with the sender of the money order, whether the payee shall be required to identify himself absolutely or whether identification shall be waived. The Western Union Telegraph Company alone handles more than $250,000,000 annually in telegraphic money orders.

Telegraphic Shopping Service -- In addition to the regular money order service, the telegraph companies maintain what is known as a telegraphic shopping service. As now organized, this service permits of the purchase by telegraph of any standardized article from a locomotive to a paper or pins. The person wishing to make the purchase has merely to call at the telegraph office, specify the article he wishes to have bought, and pay the cost, plus a small charge for the service. Directions will then be telegraphed to the point at which the purchase is to be made, and an employee will buy the article desired. It delivery is to be made in the city where the article is purchased, it will be forwarded by messenger. If delivery is to be made at a distant point, it will be sent by parcel post or express.

The service is utilized by the public in a variety of ways. For example on Mother's Day a person in San Francisco purchased an automobile drive for his mother who was in New York. The telegraph company in New York merely called up a taxi company and directed them to send a car to a certain address at a definite time and take the party specified for a three hour drive.

Through the cooperation of florists throughout the country, flowers may be ordered by telegraph and delivered in virtually any city or town in the United States. Flowers also maybe ordered by cable for delivery in the larger cities of Europe. Candies, books and cigars, etc., may be ordered in a similar manner, though the florists are somewhat more highly organized.

Railway tickets also may be ordered by telegraph. In this case the telegraph company official acts as agent, making the purchase of the ticket and delivering it to the person specified, who usually is a minor or an aged person.

Multiple Messages -- If you wish to send the same telegram to 20 different persons, or 200, or 2,000, it is not necessary to prepare 20, 200 or 2,000 separate telegrams at considerable cost of time and money. You need only to make one copy of your message and furnish a list of addresses. At no additional expense, the telegraph company will prepare the messages for separate handling, with as much speed and accuracy as, if only a single message were filed. Such "books" of telegrams, as they are called, often are sent by business concerns in offering some special proposition to customers, or in the collections of accounts. The largest number of copies ever filed at one time by a single concern is said to have been more than 200,000 telegrams. They were sent from New York City. Such an avalanche of messages would put considerable strain upon the facilities of the world's metropolis, but fortunately several hours notice had been given and operators were held for emergency duty.

Filing Time -- Telegraph companies operate on Standard time, without regard to daylight. A telegram handled by the Western Union Telegraph Company will only thje time the message was received at its destination, but also the time the message was filed at the point of origin, so that the addressee may see at a glance Just how long the message was en route. The filing time is indicated in the date line, while the received time follows the signature or is indicated by a time stamp. Since it Is understood that Night Letters and Night Messages are accepted or delivery the following morning, no filing time is indicated in these services.

In computing the time your message has been en route, consideration should be given to difference in time between Eastern, Middle Western and Far Western cities. It should not be imagined, for example, that a telegram filed in San Francisco at 9 a.m. and received in New York at fifteen minutes past noon has been three hours and fifteen minutes in transit. As a matter of fact, it has been only 15 minutes in transit, since there is three hours difference in time between the two cities.

Telephoning Your Telegram -- "Every telephone is a telegraph office," has become a slogan of the telegraph companies. This means that you can call the telegraph company from any telephone and dictate your telegram. If you are a regular subscriber to the telephone service, the cost of the telegram is almost everywhere added to your monthly telephone bill . Should it happen that you call from a public telephone, the cost of the telegram may be deposited in the coin box.

Of late years the volume of telegrams received by telephone has become very great, and the telegraph companies now maintain large forces of carefully trained telephone operators who are expert in taking dictation over the telephone. This work naturally is more difficult than carrying on an ordinary conversation by telephone, since it is essential that the message be received with absolute accuracy. The difficulty is increased by the fact that the public generally is unfamiliar with the best methods of telephone dictation.

The receiving operators, however, are always prepared to transcribe your message rapidly on a typewriter, and you may speak at almost the normal conversational speed if the words are enunciated clearly. Particular care should he taken in dealing with figures or proper names. When your message has been completed, the receiving operator will repeat it back to make sure no mistake has been made. For convenience and accuracy in dictating by telephone a code has been worked out and is now in general and successful use. Suppose, for example, you are dictating a telegram to a person whose initials are M. E. or M. B. That may sound to the receiving operator like N. E. or N. B. Instead of losing your temper, you have merely to say, "M for Mary," "E for Edward," or "M for Mary," "B for Boston," and the operator will readily understand.

The complete code, which may also be used as an aid in spelling a word, follows:

A for Adam

B for Boston

C for Chicago

D for Denver

E for Edward

F for Frank

G for George

H for Henry

I for Ida

J for John

K for King

L for Lincoln

M for Mary

N for New York

O for Ocean

P for Peter

Q for Queen

R for Roger

S for Sugar

T for Thomas

U for Union

W for William

X for X-Ray

Y for Young

Z for zero

For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

Neal McEwen,