Editor's note: This is the 193rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - From the city's earliest years, people in Huntington were able to send and receive Western Union telegrams. They were able to do so because the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway relied on the company for telegram service.
Western Union was formed in 1856 through the merger of two earlier telegram companies. It rapidly bought out hundreds of smaller companies, and soon its lines reached from the East Coast to the Mississippi River and from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River. In 1861, it opened the first transcontinental telegraph line.
By 1900, Western Union operated a million miles of telegraph lines and two international undersea cables. In cities large and small its uniformed messenger boys could be seen bicycling around town to deliver telegraphs to recipients. The company continued to grow. In 1914, it offered the first charge card for consumers, and singing telegrams followed in 1933.
During World War II, families dreaded the day a Western Union delivery boy might arrive at their door with a telegram containing the news that a son or husband had been killed or was missing in action,
The Huntington office of Western Union operated at various locations over the years. From the 1920s to the 1950s, it was located in the 400 block of 4th Avenue. It then moved a block south to 525 9th St. By that point, an office that once had 75 employees had only a handful.
In the early 1970s, Western Union began closing many of its smaller offices. In 1974, the Huntington office and all the company's other West Virginia offices except Charleston were closed.
In 2006, unable to complete with cell phones and email, Western Union bowed to the inevitable and discontinued its telegraph service. The company is still very much in business, providing money orders, widely available at convenience stores, drug stores and other retail outlets.
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"Lost Huntington: Volume 1" is a hardcover, full-color book of some of the city's lost landmarks. The book is likely to be of interest to anyone who enjoys history and loves Huntington.
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