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There was a time when the sight of a Western Union delivery boy coming up the walk filled Americans with a sense of excitement or trepidation. Between its invention in the mid-nineteenth century and its post-1960s relegation to money transfer and congratulations, the telegraph served as the primary medium for urgent messages. Telegram! collects the most poignant and revealing examples of this earliest form of instant communication.
Organized into categories such as "Parents and Children," "Hooray for Hollywood," and "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office," the telegrams range from such moving personal notes as W.C. Fields's wire to his dying friend John Barrymore, "You can't do this to me," to political advice, such as one voter's telegraphed suggestion to President Herbert Hoover: "Vote for Roosevelt and make it unanimous."
The communication compiled here also provides a novel and engaging perspective on modern history. Abraham Lincoln virtually conducted the Civil War over the telegraph wires, financial nabobs used them to discuss (and fail to predict) the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression, and Japanese diplomats in Washington sent a flurry of encoded telegrams to Tokyo in the weeks leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
This handsome volume blends history, sociology, wit, and creativity as captured and dispatched by the telegram in its golden age.
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Linda Rosenkrantz is co-author of the bestselling baby-naming guide Beyond Jason & Jennifer and has written numerous other fiction and nonfiction books. She lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles.
"Why tar helpless infant with my brush neutral tinted sponsor safe?" wired George Bernard Shaw when he was asked to become a godfather. And when John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize, he received this congratulatory telegram from John O'Hara: "Congratulations. I can think of only one other author I'd rather see get it." This eminently browsable and quotable collection gathers telegrams sent to mark events both large and small, personal and historical, from births and deaths to Oscars not won (Oscar Hammerstein, who won for best song in 1941, to Johnny Mercer, who lost: "Johnny. You was robbed") to the Civil War and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. An entire section, "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office," shows the president keeping abreast of battles, spurring his generals on and requesting that a deserter who was only 15 not be shot. Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and FDR are among the other luminaries whose carefully chosen words are included in this engaging collection.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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