The Western Union History

western union history

The company that we now know as western union began operations in 1851 as a telegraph business. It added money transfer services in 1871 and became a global leader in both areas. The company has been through many changes, including mergers and acquisitions. It is now a publicly-traded company with a strong presence in the international business of consumer-based money transfer financial services.

Hiram Sibley and Samuel Selden were two Rochester printers who organized the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company in April 1851. Five years later, the name of the business was changed to the Western Union Telegraph Company after a merger with several other companies. The original shareholders in the newly merged company included Ezra Cornell, the co-founder of Cornell University.

Western Union started out as an important link in the telegraph industry, connecting the East Coast with the West Coast and then across the nation. In the 1800s, it was an important part of society’s growing need to connect with friends, family and businesses.

As the company grew it expanded its network by acquiring and merging with other telegraph lines, and adding money transfer services. In addition, it innovated with a variety of new telegraph-related technologies, including stock ticker tape and commercial satellites. It also attempted to connect America with Europe, laying a line under the Arctic Ocean to Alaska and then across Siberia to Moscow, a project that was abandoned after the successful laying of the transatlantic cable in 1866.

The company was faced with increased competition from other telegraph conglomerates and the nascent telephony industry led by Bell Telephone Company. Western Union tried to launch a competitor telephony system but was forced out of the telephone industry after a patent dispute ended in a victory for Bell Telephone. Western Union continued to grow its business by acquiring other telegraph companies and establishing an international network of telegraph lines.

In the 1940s, Western Union consolidated its domestic and foreign money transfer networks to focus on global business. The company would later merge with Postal Telegraph Company in 1945, and become a public company in 1956. Western Union was able to survive the economic downturn of the Great Depression by turning to its lucrative money transfer business.

Western Union’s growth continued into the 1970s with expansion in a number of markets worldwide and by forming partnerships with other leading companies. It acquired European money transfer networks Angelo Costa and Finint S.r.l, and Travelex Global Business Payments in the 1990s. It also acquired a 15% stake in Saudi Arabia-based stc Bank, formerly Saudi Digital Payments Company. This helped to expand its cross-border business solutions for businesses. Western Union has made a number of additional acquisitions since then, including the purchase of Custom House in 2009. This is a collection of artifacts from the Western Union Telegraph Museum begun in 1912 by H.W. Drake, an electrical engineer at the company who collected old telegraph instruments and equipment.

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