When you use Western Union to send money anywhere in the world, you’re probably not thinking about how this company got started, or the path it took to become the internationally respected company that it is today. Of course, that’s understandable. Life is busy and stressful and we don’t always have time to think about things like that. Every day we take advantage of quality services from a number of companies without considering how they got there in the first place. We wanted to take a couple minutes today, though, to think about and pay homage to the incredible origins of Western Union, a company that has been around for over 160 years. So, here are some fun facts about a company that’s been around since before the American Civil War.
The Telegraph Company
Before the advent of modern communications in the form of radio transmissions and more recently satellite transmissions, the electrical telegraph was a primary means of sending messages quickly across long distances. Western Union started out as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company before changing its name in 1856. Under its new name, Western Union sent the very first signal transcontinental telegraph from the east coast of the United States all the way to the West Coast.
The relationship between money and communication goes back a long way, and in 1869 Western Union made a huge leap in this endeavor with the introduction of the first successfully manufactured stock ticker. Imagine Wall Street without the invention of this essential device!
First Money Transfer
Today, Western Union is known around the world as a safe, reliable, and fast way to transfer money to people across the country and world. This service was introduced by Western Union back in 1871. By 1896 they had spread this service and others throughout the world with operations in Europe, Northern Africa, North and South America, Australia, and Asia.
First Charge Card
Consumer culture today has been transformed by the existence of a variety of customer charge cards. The swipe and buy services of today would not be possible without Western Union’s introduction of the first customer charge card in 1914.
Today we enjoy the spread of popular music through a variety of radio, satellite, and other transmissions. Western Union conducted the first “singing telegram” way back in 1933.
Satellites were already in existence in 1974, but it was in that year that Western Union introduced the first commercial version of this transformative new technology.
1980 and Beyond
By 1980, Western Union’s money transfer revenues had exceeded the money brought in through their telegram service. While the company still conducts a number of ventures, today they are known for the money transfer services they serve customers with around the world.