Western Union


Western Union has a proud history of being one of the first innovators of communication and long distance commerce services in America. This company has expanded features that still link people across long distances, enabling them to complete transactions from one side of the world to the other. As the times have changed, the company has continued to be the first to offer new services to businesses and individuals.

Early Vision

The cost of a single telegraph could be up to $550 in the current market when the company first came into being in 1851 under the old company name of New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. There were dozens of companies that owned telegraph lines in the Eastern portion of America and lines were virtually non-existent in the Western portion of the Nation. The Pony Express was the only way to send a message in the West and often took 10 to 14 days.

The company began doing business under their new name, Western Union Telegraph Company, in 1856 when it expanded into the West. The company had started with a vision of buying the individual lines and unifying them so that communication could become fast and affordable and by 1861 it had replaced the Pony Express. This was a significant change in the way communications could be sent during the Civil War.

By 1865, Western Union entered the New York Stock Exchange. In fact, in 1884 when the first companies were tracked by the Dow-Jones average, the company had incorporated hundreds of telegraph lines and was placed among the first 11 stocks listed. As of 2006 the company has traded on the NYSE as an independent company.

Financial Services

Western Union started money transfer services in 1871. This service has become the core service of Western Union as email emerged in the 1980’s and has continued to expand as the world’s primary form of instant communication. Money transfers expanded in the 1980’s to countries around the world and launched the company into the global market. Bill payment services and prepaid money cards kept the company offering a variety of financial services to customers.

Communications Services

Western Union offered the first prepaid phone card which helped them stay at the top of communications for many years. A prepaid cell phone service was attempted, but did not work out. The company still holds a solid place in communications by owning five satellites.


Western Union’s tradition of offering new ideas and services to the world continues to this day. Several of their products and services were created by them as first time offerings. Satellite ownership and instant financial transfers will keep this company providing useful communications and finance services for many years to come.

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