TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: More on Western Union Rates

More on Western Union Rates
8 Mar 2006 10:44:04 -0800

In a prior discussion we were comparing long distance voice charges
against telegraph rates for the 1950s. We were curious as to when the
telephone became cheaper than the telegraph for sending messages.

It has been hard to find Western Union rates. In checking the New
York Times electronic index for the 1950s I found that:

1) Confirmation of a post that rates were indeed graduated by mileage
zone. Further, there were different rates for intra- and inter-state
messages. In state rates were controlled by the state's PUC,
interstate by the FCC.

2) Rates included various commercial services, such as press wires and
private line services. There were also money orders. Rates also had
sub parts, such as delivery charges waived in certain circumstances.

3) There were several steep rate increases reported in the 1950s, about
8-10%. At the same time Bell was lowering rates.

4) In 1974 the basic telegram went up from $1.30 to $3.00 in a rate
increase. I understand by then the Telegraph was obsolete. In 1974
AT&T offered dialed direct discounts on toll calls.

5) Almost all articles referred to the percentage of the increase only,
there was nowhere I could find any kind of rate table.

6) In August 1951 I found that:

a) The minium length of the basic telegram (rate not shown) was
increased from 15 words from 10 with about a 10% rate increase.

b) A "Day Letter", which I think was the intermediate grade and sent
on a delayed basis, was to cost from 65c to $2.10.

c) A "Night Letter" which was overnight service was to cost $0.40 to

d) I don't know what the basic Telegram cost, which is needed for
this comparison. Anybody have any ideas for that time frame (1951)?

7) There was another rate increase in 1956.

Given all this, it would seem that in 1956 a telegram was somewhat
cheaper than a long distance phone call. For business people, a
written record was helpful and more reliable. Further, business
people often called person to person which cost more and took some
time to set up.

The other question when the next AT&T long distance rate reduction
took place. I recall the mid 1960s charging $2.00 for a coast to
coast call during the day time; in the 1950s that was the night rate
for such a call.

I bet some business writer wrote an article "Telephone or Telegraph"
around 1960 discussing these changes in communication.

Hopefully I can find a library with _both_ old Western Union and AT&T
annual reports and check out message traffic statistics, if available.

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: "Help Needed : SS7 Continuity Check With NMS TX Boards"
Go to Previous message: USTelecom dailyLead: "AT&T-BellSouth Deal Could Prompt M&A Activity"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page