What is a Mailgram?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Once upon a time, a mailgram was a wonderful communication solution when there was a need to provide information in a printed manner, and there was not a lot of time to get the job done. Here is some information about the rise of the mailgram and how this technology was used for a number of years.

A mailgram is simply a message that was electronically communicated to a service, often either by telephone or by telegraphic hookup. The service in turn would communicate the message, along with pertinent contact information regarding the sender and the recipient, to the postal service. At that juncture, the electronic message would be converted into a hard copy document and scheduled for quick delivery, usually the next business day.

The idea behind mailgrams was to provide a delivery service that could allow mail to be received within twenty-four hours or less, even if the mail was being sent across the country. Mailgrams also had an advantage over the standard telegram, which was really meant to be a quick and concise means of communicating a brief message. Mailgrams, however, could be used for a number of larger documents that could never be sent as telegrams.


Western Union introduced mailgram services to the United States in 1970. The use of mailgrams quickly became popular with firms in major cities that did business across the country. Within the next two years, the use of the mailgram spread to smaller cities and towns as well. By 1973, Western Union was offering an enhanced mailgram service that was provided by satellite link, which cut down the delivery time even more.

A number of applications for the mailgram emerged during those first years. Legal firms found that mailgrams were an excellent way to deliver important agreements and documents, since delivery notification was part of the service. In like manner, mailgram often delivered business contracts. In the entertainment industry, television and movie executives relied on mailgram communications in the hiring and firing of performers, assigning new projects, receiving and commenting on new project ideas, and even arranging press conferences with local media. Over the years, the general public discovered the Mmilgram, and began to use it for such events as birth announcements and other important communications to family members who lived far away.

During the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, the use of fax machines began to cut into the business market for the mailgram. As long distance rates began to drop, faxing became an even more cost-effective means of communicating, and also had the advantage of real time delivery. The advent of the Internet, and its entry into the business community as an essential in just about every office, further cut into the mailgram business. With the development of electronic email that was available to everyone, it was only a matter of time before the mailgram became totally obsolete. In 2006, Western Union chose to cease providing mailgram messaging services. While now a memory of a bygone era, there are still plenty of people who remember the excitement of receiving a highly anticipated document through the service.


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