The ability to send electrical signals along a wire revolutionised communication. The first commercial electrical telegraph was co-developed by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in May 1837. They system used a number of needles on a board that could be moved to point to letters of the alphabet. Messages sent by telegram were conveyed to their recipient by writing them down or later printing them for delivery.

In 1868, The Telegraph Act granted the Postmaster General the right to acquire inland telegraph companies in the United Kingdom. The Telegraph Act 1869 conferred on the Postmaster General a monopoly in telegraphic communication in the UK.

Electric telegraphs finally came under the power of Royal Mail on 4 February 1870 and nearly 10 million telegrams were sent. You could even post your message in a pillar box, with a stamp, for Royal Mail to send on. The cost for an inland telegram in 1880 was 1 shilling for the first 20 words and 5 old pence for every additional word afterwards.

By the 1930s, 65 million telegrams were being delivered per year, mostly by young men on bicycles or motorcycles – the telegram messenger boys carried special pouches.

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