Creative Destruction of the Telegram
By Bryan Caplan
My grandpa sent me a telegram to congratulate me on my college graduation. Even then, I thought it was weird. Thirteen years later, the market has finally pulled the plug on telegrams:
Well, now nothing is worth a telegram. Western Union, as you may have read, ceased its telegram business on January 27 after 155 years of informing the world of everything from a baby’s birth (the now forgotten “Storkgrams”) to a ship’s death (Bruce Ismay’s dispatch to White Star Lines New York office: “DEEPLY REGRET ADVISE YOUR TITANIC SUNK THIS MORNING FIFTEENTH AFTER COLLISION ICEBERG…)
It was altogether fitting and proper that Western Union announced the telegram’s demise with a short paragraph on its web site, Westernunion.com. The message thanked the public for its “loyal patronage.” That patronage had shrunk decidedly from the telegram’s heyday. Only 20,000 telegrams were sent last year. There were 200 million sent in 1929.