Friday 6 January 2017

Connecting With All the Principal Cities and Towns

Do you remember what it was like the first time you got an email? Suddenly, you had the ability to send and receive messages from the other side of the world nearly instantaneously. Perhaps you would have felt the same if you were living in the 1840s and received a telegram for the first time. In a world where information only moved as fast as you could carry it, receiving a message from a distant place on the same day it was sent would have been mind-blowing.

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse and his partner Alfred Vail demonstrated their electric telegraph to their financial backer, who was anxious for results. The message they sent was "a patient waiter is no loser." Six years later, they sent the message "what hath God wrought" from Washington to Baltimore using their now-famous code. Within another few years, telegraph lines were being built all over the world. Railway companies were a natural fit to be in the telegraph business because they already had land cleared connecting major cities. By the late 1860s, cables successfully crossed the Atlantic to connect Eastern Canada and Great Britain.

Telegrams were a great way to send messages that needed to be delivered quickly. They were generally short, as payment was by the word. Here in the Archives, we have over 100 years' worth of examples.

Our earliest example is an 1856 message sent from Bishop Phelan of Kingston to Bishop de Charbonnel:

"I approve of the petition for Arrears in Question. Bishop Phelan"

April 5, 1856

C AB12.30
Bishop de Charbonnel Fonds

In 1864 Sir John A. Macdonald telegraphed Bishop Lynch from Quebec:
"Private - arrangements will be made to give Freeman seven hundred dollars tomorrow."

September 30, 1864

L AF02.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1874 Archbishop Lynch received a message imparting the apostolic blessing of Pope Pius IX: 

June 20, 1874

L AH19.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1885 Bishop Walsh of London congratulated Archbishop Lynch on the anniversary of his consecration as Coadjutor Bishop of Toronto:

"Accept my heartfelt congratulations for your feast & warmest wishes for your health & happiness"

November 20, 1885

L AD03.27
 Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1891 Archbishop Walsh received a transatlantic telegram from France with news of Bishop
de Charbonnel's death:

"Monseigneur de Charbonnel trépassé ce matin 10 heures"

March 29, 1891

W AB04.16
Archbishop Walsh Fonds

In 1903 Archbishop O'Connor received news of the death of Pope Leo XIII from the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa:

"With great sorrow I announce to you death of Holy Father. Notify suffragans."

July 20, 1903

O AB05.09
Archbishop O'Connor Fonds

This telegram arrived on the day of Archbishop McEvay's death in 1911 with the blessings of Pope Pius X:

"Beatissimus pater petitam apostolical benedictionen in articulo mortis ex toto corde impertitur"

May 10, 1911

ME AA02.39
Archbishop McEvay Fonds

In 1922 Archbishop McNeil received news of the death of Pope Benedict XV:

"It is my plainful duty announce you Holy Father died January twenty second six o'clock morning Rome time please order prayers repose of his soul."

January 22, 1922

MN DS24.01
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In 1937 Archbishop McGuigan was congratulated for his Cathedral renovations:

"Please accept my warmest congratulations on the completion of your latest effort for God's greater glory I should love to be with you tomorrow for the opening of your splendidly restored cathedral give my greetings to Bishop Kidd may God's providence continue to crown you[r] every work with success"

September 11, 1937

MG FA03.58
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1944 Archbishop McGuigan received a telegram from Cardinal Villeneuve in Quebec with the text of a statement that was issued to call for Rome to be spared from destruction:

March 3, 1944

SW GC01.123
Second World War Collection

In 1956 Cardinal McGuigan received a request for information about Catholic schools in Ontario from the Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand. A message from the other side of the world:

"At state educational enquiry here statement made 30-0/0 Catholics Ontario contract out of Catholic schools system prefer attend state scholls stop Grateful airmail comment urgent"

October 3 1956

MG DA42.27
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1963 Cardinal McGuigan sent word to Archbishop Pocock from Rome with news of the newly elected Pope's greetings to Toronto:

"First words Pope Paul Six to me I send great blessing to Toronto without distinction race colour creed"

June 21, 1963

PO VA04.15
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

And the latest example we could find was sent sometime between 1969 and 1971:

"As president I offered full CCC support for combined appeal for Pakistani relief launched by eight Canadian organizations to be announced at Montreal and Toronto news conferences Wednesday A.M. CCODP will act on behalf of Catholic Church. Details to follow"


PO DP01.379
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Next time you read a text message, think what it would have been like if that note had been hand-delivered to you by someone from the Montreal Telegraph Company. There's something romantic about it! Amazingly enough, there are still telegram services in existence. They work a bit differently, but the concept is still the same!

Bonus video: "A Telegram for America" -- a history of Western Union.

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