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 Post subject: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:05 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 5814
Let's say that a railroad depot was built in 1897 (or thereabouts) and served the railroad until 1952 (or thereabouts). The structure was then a maintenance building for the railroad or was sold to the local grain elevator or to a farmer or became the town library or....whatever. Recently, a railroad museum or the town itself or a historical society or....whatever, decided to spend some bucks and restore the building as it once was. As part of that restoration, it's decided to display a Western Union sign, since telegrams for the public were once sent from the depot. There are some replicated Western Union signs out there, but which one would be appropriate for the era that the structure served as a railroad station? I've tried to find the answer on the internet, but what I get are a lot of W.U. signs for sale; either original, purported to be original or reproductions. Can't find anything that might have info about when those different signs were actually used by Western Union. Has there ever been an article published that might have had that information? Appreciate any replies. Thanks.

Les


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 Post subject: Re: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:01 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9597
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
As completely a casual aside, you MAY want to double-check that Western Union actually used the RR station office at a particular time period.

In researching something else entirely unrelated, I managed to find that somewhere in the early part of the 20th century, my home town had two separate telegraph offices--one in the railroad station that was NOT Western Union, and a separate office a block away from the station on the main street that was Western Union's. I was able to confirm both against a 1915 local anniversary festival souvenir booklet and a 1921 Sanborn map. Neither is telling me what telegraph service, if any, was being offered in the depot.

I'm still scratching my head about this, but further details and research will have to wait until tomorrow or another day.......


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 Post subject: Re: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 7:26 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 799
Location: New Franklin, OH
If you can’t find photographic evidence archived anywhere - local history books, historical societies, etc., you might try contacting WU directly about the signage used in your target era. Sometimes you get lucky if it lands with someone that takes an interest and you’ll get some help (especially if you’re going to stick their name on a building). Don’t be disappointed if you don’t even get the courtesy of a response, though. It seems my success rate runs about 20% in getting responses for historical info from companies.

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 Post subject: Re: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:32 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:56 pm
Posts: 118
You should also check and see what public telegraph company was available if the station offered one. In addition to Western Union there were also a number of other public telegraph companies such as Postal Telegraph in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also it could depend on what era of the stations use you are portraying. For instance, the Cumberland Valley RR switched from offering Western Union service to Postal Telegraph in the early 1900s.


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 Post subject: Re: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:24 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9597
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
I went and double-checked Sanborn Maps (a lot available online), and found that, indeed, it was Postal Telegraph in the particular station I was looking at in the era in question--which is what confused me, as not recognizing the name as a service name confused me. I was thinking it was listing "postal" service and "telegraph" service while Western Union was a block away and the Post Office a couple blocks further.

It all goes to show: Seek confirmation. Don't presume or assume your station had Western Union, REA, Bell Telephone, or whatever just because you see the signs everywhere years later.
(If we went by the number of America Online promotional floppies/CDs sent out in the 1990s, we'd assume everyone in the USA in that era used AOL, right?)


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 Post subject: Re: Western Union porcelain sign question
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2020 3:58 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1822
Location: Southern California
I once knew an short, older man who worked as a delivery messenger for Postal Telegraph in San Diego, Calif. during the second World War. He knew all the streets and all streetcar lines in town.

The mention REA (Railway Express Agency) reminds me that REA was a combination of the pre-WW1 express companies. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Express_Agency

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