10 famous telegrams

Dr Crippen, an American-born homeopath, was one of the first criminals to be convicted with the help of the telegram. Following the murder of his wife Cora at their home in London in January 1910, Dr Crippen and his lover escaped on a ferry to Canada but were spotted by the ship’s captain, who sent a telegram to Scotland Yard just before the ship lost reception. A police officer took a faster ship to Canada, and arrested Dr Crippen on arrival. He was hanged at Pentonville Prison on November 23 1910.

Samuel Morse sent what is thought to be the first telegram, on May 24 1844. Morse sent a message from Washington to Baltimore saying: “What hath God wrought?”

When American author Mark Twain heard that his obituary had been published, he sent a telegram from London in 1897 saying: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

The shortest telegram in the English language was from the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. He was living in Paris and he cabled his publisher in Britain to see how his new book was doing. The message read: “?” The publisher cabled back: “!”

The first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was announced by telegram from North Carolina in 1903. “Successful four flights Thursday morning.”

Early on April 15 1912, the Titanic is believed to have sent its last wireless message. “SOS SOS CQD CQD Titanic. Wa are sinking fast. Passengers are being put into boats. Titanic.”

America was spurred to join the First World War after the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram. Berlin sent the telegram on January 17 1917 to Mexico, urging the Mexicans to join the war as Germany’s ally against the USA. President Wilson, who had previously wanted to keep America out of the war, then used the telegram to gain support for American intervention.

American journalist Robert Benchley sent a celebrated telegram to his editor at the New Yorker, Harold Ross, upon arriving in Venice for the first time. “Streets full of water. Please advise.”

Perhaps one of the most famous historical telegrams is one sent by the head of the Navy on September 3 1939. It read simply: “Winston is back.”

Physicist Edward Teller sent a telegram in 1952 to colleagues at Los Alamos about the first hydrogen bomb detonation, saying: “It’s a boy”.

John F. Kennedy used to joke during his 1960 presidential campaign that he had just received a telegram from his father. “Dear Jack: Don’t buy one more vote than necessary. I’ll be damned if I pay for a landslide.”



Published by avid reader

Words do not describe a person. I am many things and yet nothing. I am an avid reader, reading her way through the pages of life. Some stories warm the heart and yet others have let me dry. I am a result of my life, and yet my life is part a result of me. Don't try to figure me.

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