The Telegraph Office

Western Union Credit Card

Issued to John F. Bell

General Agent, Frisco Railway Co.

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Copyright © 1998, Neal McEwen

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This card was issued to John F. Bell, a station agent and telegrapher for the Frisco railroad. Often times Western Union would have a small telegraph office inside a train depot. The railroad's telegraph operator would handle Western Union telegrams in addition to his regular duties as a telegraph operator. Western Union gave the railroad telegraph operator 10% of the cost of the telegram in exchange for his services.

Also in return for the service, Western Union issued credit cards to the operators. It is not really a credit card, but a frank. The holder could use telegram services as well as any of the services so stated on the back of the card without the need for payment. The numbers in the upper right corner suggest that the card was valid from 1969 through 1971.

The front side of the card states, "This Credit Card authorizes the acceptance without prepayment at Western Union offices of Telegrams, Cablegrams and Radiograms."Cablegrams are telegrams transmitted via under sea cable, usually between contintnents. Radiograms are telegrams transmitted via radiotelegraph, usually by a coastal station to ships at sea. The back side of the card states, "This credit card is good for all Western Union transmission services including: CANDYGRAMS, DOLLYGRAMS, FLOWERS-BY-WESTERN UNION, MELODYGRAMS, PERFUME-BY-WIRE, TELEGRAPHIC MONEY ORDERS. Good also for Messenger Errand Service."

Mr. Bell was the agent / operator for the Frisco in Sherman, Texas for many years. He went to work for the railroad at an early age as a telegrapher, was called to service in WWII as a radio operator and returned to work for the Frisco. Mr Bell recently visited me and saw my collection of telegraph instruments and related paper items. He suggested that I should have his Western Union credit card for my collection and a few days later, he mailed it to me. 

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Neal McEwen,