Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Western Union Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

Western Union Corporation

List of Deals

Western Union's predecessor, the New York and Mississippi Telegraph Company, was established by a group of Rochester, New York, businessmen in 1851. The company changed its name to Western Union Telegraph Company five years later, signifying the union of "western" telegraph lines into one system, following the acquisition of a series of competing telegraph systems. The company completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861, providing fast communications during the Civil War. Five years later, Western Union introduced the first stock ticker, providing brokerage firms with New York Stock Exchange quotes.

In 1870 the company launched a time service, helping to standardize time nationally. Western Union held the distinction as "the Nation's Timekeeper" for nearly a century. Western Union Money Transfer service was introduced the following year and became the company's primary business. In 1884 Western Union was selected as one of the original eleven stocks tracked in the first Dow Jones Average.

The company introduced the first consumer charge card in 1914. Western Union introduced teletypewriters in 1923, which joined branches and individual companies. Ten years later, singing telegrams were introduced. In 1935 the first inter-city facsimile service was introduced, and in 1943 the first commercial inter-city microwave system was established by the company.

Western Union introduced Telex, a direct-dial consumer-to-consumer teleprinter service, in 1958. In 1964 Western Union inaugurated the use of a transcontinental microwave radio beam system, replacing poles and wires spanning the continent. In 1970 Western Union Mailgram messages offered next-day delivery via the postal service.

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