Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sepia Saturday - Words, words, words

Usually the term 'spreading the word' has a different meaning, certainly if the noun in this phrase is written with a capital W. But that is not my interpretation of the theme picture of this week (see at the end of this post). As you can see the word 'tele....' is written on the wall. My guess is that the full text reads something like: "Telegraph a Cablegram". 
Most of the boys/men you see are Western Union messengers and thus involved in the physical distribution of words. In most countries that profession is extinct and overtaken by short message services (SMS), email and other internet applications. However, when my mum and dad married in 's-Gravenhage (The Hague) on November 18, 1942 they received seven congratulatory telegrams. 
In those days telegrams were handled solely by state owned Dutch Postal Authority, the P.T.T. This abbreviation stood for 'Post, Telefoon, Telegraaf'. (The translation of these words won't be a problem for you. Dutch and English seem to be very close here.)
At the time a number of forms were used to present the telegram to the recipient. Of course there was the form for all purposes.
And another form for day to day use.
In case you wonder what the senders of this cable had to pay for its delivery, the P.T.T. people have been kind enough to affix a decal on the back of one of these telegrams.
It reads: "Send a telegram, quick and cheap. In the interior 10 words 25 cents" That doesn't sound too bad but you have to appreciate the fact that the stamp for an ordinary postcard was 4 cents. In other words, the cost was 6 times as high for just a few words.
Next to the standard telegraph format, there were at least two congratulatory forms.

I have to say that I find the envelope of this one (left) a bit amateurish. And the telegram itself (below) doesn't make it any better. But I don't know whether the sender was given a choice which form was to be used at destination.
The second one looks more professional. There are all kinds of symbols depicting happiness: flowers, flying birds and a girl being congratulated with her tennis victory. Also a newly married couple and next to it their future as anticipated by the Postal Authority: the happy couple with a baby in a cradle.
Apparently the postmen also catered for jubilees at work. The three drawings on the right seem to point in that direction. Doing one's duty for say 25 years calls for a cablegram as well, they must have thought.
On one of the cables I found this text in red. Among others it said that you could have your own unique cable address. (If I remember well the address of my former employer KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was TRANSAERA.) The annual maintenance fee amounted to 12 Dutch guilders. Delivery of telegrams was possible on a deluxe form. Additional cost: 25 cents for domestic delivery and 50 cents abroad. Since we are talking 1942 here I wonder whether sending a telegram was possible to any country e.g. to "enemy countries". Probably not.
telegram condities
Apart from these telegrams I have another 35 congratulatory letters and postcards that mark this occasion that took place 2,5 years into WW2. Fortunately the happy couple did not know that the worst was yet to come.

On October 11, 1943 the service to send congratulatory telegrams was cancelled due to a shortage of paper. In 1944 forwarding this type of telegram was cancelled altogether. 

Sepia Saturday
The postman always rings twiceFor more postmen stories you can turn to the Sepia Saturday site. Alternatively he may call at your door. And if you didn't hear him, remember, the postman always rings twice!


Lovely's Blot said...

A very interesting collection of telegrams!

barbara and nancy said...

What a great post. I love that you chose the telegram itself, rather than the messenger. All of the different designs were quite interesting. But you really put some icing on the cake with that poster of the Postman!

Peter said...

@Lovely's Blot
Thank you!
This subject ringed a bell :)
BTW Your comment was # 1,000 since I started.
Thanks for for your visit.

Wendy said...

Having never received a telegram and having none in my family collection of "stuff," I never knew telegrams were ever decorative or occasion-specific. What a nice treasure to have your parents' congratulatory messages.

Boobook said...

Wow Peter! It's strange to think of telegrams being delivered even in a time of war. Thanks for a very interesting blog.


Oh, the postman these days often doesn't even bother ringing at your door and will just you a slip claiming you were absent and that you now have to go to the post office the next day to collect your parcel.

It must have been nice getting a telegram, perhaps more so than a sms...

barbara and nancy said...

What prize do I get for being the 1000th comment?
Maybe one of those telegrams?
A round trip ticket on KLM to Holland?

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

I can remember people in Canada sending telegrams on special occasions - in particular, weddings. I can't say I ever actually saw one - these are real treasures! Your parents were married the day after I was born.

Karen said...

I didn't realise the humble telegram could be so decorative. Thanks for an interesting post.

Postcardy said...

Nice collection of telegrams.I don't know whether the U.S. had decorative telegrams at that time. The only ones I have seen are very plain.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

It's a long way from telegrams to tweets...

Jackie van Bergen said...

After visiting the Netherlands last year, I was expecting a bike post from you! We even saw a 'wedding on a bike' in the rain.
But you came up with a great alternative - and what an interesting collection of telegrams.

Joan said...

Love the unexected. Telegrams in rural southern Oregon where I was raised were rare. (n fact the only telegram that I have ever heard of in my family was sent to my grandmother in 1924. She was in the mountains north of Calipatria when she was advised, by telegram, of the death of her parents in Wisconsin. He oldest son drove nearly 100 miles to deliver the telegram to his mother. Certainly not a guy on a bicylce, nor a fancy decorated telegram. Thanks for your great selection -- and different take on the theme.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

This was very interesting, Peter. I don't remember ever seeing a telegram in my family stuff, except when Cousin Danny died in WWII.

I loved the surprise movie poster at the very end. Thanks!

Kathy M.

Bob Scotney said...

Telegrams were delivered in England during the war but were not things to look forward to as they often brought bad news of loved ones.
A clever take on the theme, Peter. I certainly didn't anticipate you being able to come up with actual telegrams to illustrate it.

ScotSue said...

A fascinating interpretation of the them with lovely photographs. I liked your title and communications theme. I have some fine decorative telegrams my father sent to my mother in the 1930's, but I must admit it never occurred to me to feature them here with this week's theme.

Brett Payne said...

Another 35 items for that particular occasion - that's quite a hoard you have.

I remember well the first telegram I ever received. I was 13 and it was on the occasion of my younger sister's arrival in the world. I still have it ... somewhere.

Mike Brubaker said...

This wonderful collection shows how powerful and meaningful a few words can be. Today we are supposed to pay attention to twitters, instant messages, emails and rarely the handwritten letter. But these old telegrams had a special value for your family to save them, real relics of the carefully typed and delivered word.

Hazel said...

I always look out for the postman :) Oh, those letter-writing days. Thank you Peter, I enjoyed this post very much - all these telegrams. It made me miss my father. He worked in telecommunication before the internet took over.

The Pink Geranium or Jan's Place said...

I also like the history of the telegraph on this post.. glad I came by! What lovely possessions to still have as well!


tony said...

my parents didnt even Get A telephone Until the early 70's!So The arrival of a telegram usually spelt bad news of some form or other......I never knew they came in such ornate guises (unless this was done only by the Dutch?)

Alan Burnett said...

What fabulous telegram forms those are - why can't we have such things for e-Mails? I suppose we have in that we have illustrations within our Blog posts but rarely are they as decorative and intriguing as these examples. The kind of post that makes Sepia Saturday such a joy to be part of.

Kristin said...

I think the one you described as amaturish looks like it was drawn by someone specially for the occasion. I kind of like the look. I have several telegrams in my family stuff. None as fancy as yours but all for happy events. I never thought of using them for this prompt. Good thinking outside the box.

Karen S. said...

I also enjoyed the information and photos of your telegrams, and what a wonderful treasure to have your parent's as well. The not so proper designed ones make me curious. Possibly they requested handmade, telegrams by artists, because they do appear to be quite well done for free hand artist at work. I wonder if I can find any around here. I'm going to keep my eyes open for one! Your photos were great, especially the poster!

Sherri said...

This is a wonderful post. I never knew that telegrams were so diverse, or so common.

Peter said...

Well, I'll be happy to give you a voucher for 10 comments, free of charge :) Unfortunately I am no longer in a position to hand out free tickets...

Thank you all for your kind words and for stopping by!


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