Origins and Consolidations of Western Union Telegraph

Exhibit by Philip Leber

This postal history exhibit explores the origins and consolidations of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which lead to the creation of the nation’s first industrial monopoly and a fierce rivalry with the U.S. Post Office Department. The journey is represented through a collection of postal and telegraph issues, franks, stationary, forms, cards, receipts and envelopes. Included are historical items of the Western Union Telegraph Company and many of its competitors, all of which were eventually acquired by consolidation, mergers and acquisitions. From the outset, the speed of delivery was the primary factor that propelled the telegraph into competition with postal mail’s lower cost, and led it to achieve communications dominance during the 19th Century.