The History of Western Union

Western Union has been a global leader in money transfers and the company’s reputation for expediency means that if you need to send funds quickly and reliably, you likely turn to them.1 If you’ve ever had to send cash to a loved one abroad, or to pay your cable or internet bill, or buy a movie ticket for a family member, it is likely you’ve used western union at least once in the past.

The history of western union began with the helter-skelter ferment of antebellum capitalism and reached its zenith as the first corporation to monopolize an industry on a national scale after the Civil War. The battles over its monopoly telegraph empire – in Congress, the courts, and the press – illuminate the fierce tensions over corporate power that arose in the postbellum era and reshaped American political economy.

With the end of the Civil War and a reshaping of America’s financial system, the telegraph business grew. Western Union consolidated its position, eventually acquiring rival telegraph companies and establishing the nation’s first transcontinental telegraph lines. Its telegraph network stretched more than a million miles, and the company operated two international undersea cables by 1900. In the early 1870s, Western Union made a brief foray into telephone systems before settling a patent lawsuit with Bell and leaving the field entirely in 1879. The company’s prominence was highlighted in 1884 when it became one of the original 11 stocks included in the Dow Jones Railroad Average.

In the decades that followed, Western Union expanded into the world of money transfers by acquiring competing telegraph companies and developing innovative new services. It was instrumental in launching the first commercial telex and facsimile transmission technologies, and launched its first communications satellite in 1964. But the company’s knack for delivering revolutionary technology was not enough to counter declining profits and surging debt. By the 1980s, the company was operating under a severe strain.

Western Union entered a period of significant restructuring in the 1990s, reducing its domestic and international communications businesses to focus solely on money-transfer operations. By 2006, the company had completely phased out its telegraph businesses and was positioned as the world’s largest money-transfer business. Throughout this process, the company’s name was retained, but its identity as an iconic global brand was forged by its continued dedication to helping people connect to those they love and make an impact on their communities. The Company continues to operate in the global money transfer business, as a trusted brand that has been helping customers send and receive more than 30 billion dollars each year.

Similar Posts