In 1844, about the time Delphos was being settled, Samuel Morse’s famous message, “What hath God wrought” was being telegraphed from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, a distance of 40 miles. It was the official opening of the first telegraph line. Within a few years, the line had grown to include Philadelphia and New York City and by 1865, the telegraph had over 83,000 miles of wire in the United States, making it the greatest means of communication up to that time.
In Delphos, the first telegraph office was in Helmkamp’s Meat Market at 326 N Main Street. The meat market was established there in 1878, so Delphos was a little slow getting a telegraph line, maybe because the lines ran along railroad tracks and the canal was still Delphos’ main mode of transportation.
Telegrams cost a penny a word when they first came out, but were up to a nickel per word by World War II in the early 1940’s when many soldiers telegraphed home.
Western Union was located at 310 N Main Street in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the Lima Telephone and Telegraph and the Postal Telegraph were in the telephone building on the southwest corner of 3rd and Canal around the same time.
The sight of a Western Union messenger boy was familiar in small towns and big cities all over the country for many years. Locally, Mike Grone recalls using his bicycle to deliver Western Union telegrams that came to the Pioneer Drug Store during the late 1960’s. He noted that the worst telegrams were those informing families that their boys had been wounded in Viet Nam.
Today there are no messenger boys and very few telegrams. The era of the telegram is history.
The Canal Museum is open every Saturday & Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. and every Thursday from nine to noon. The final work on our elevator is in progress and we hope to be totally handicapped accessible by April.
Printed in the Delphos Herald March 10, 2012