As the Marketing and PR Coordinator for The Filson, part of my job is coming up with new and interesting ways to market upcoming events to our members. This is one of my favorite parts of the job because it means I get to dive into a bit of history and more often than not, I learn something new in the process. Recently, I was tasked with designing an invitation for one of the events leading up to the opening of our upcoming World War I exhibits. I don’t remember much about WWI*, except for a memorable lecture in my 11th grade US History class where my teacher talked about how he accidentally made mustard gas in chemistry and almost died. But I wanted to come up with a design that was a nod to something you would see in that era. Posters were out because I didn’t want it to look too similar to our ads for the event. Eventually I landed on a telegram.
A tele-what? Telegrams aren’t very common anymore, at least in our neck of the woods, but they are still the most reliable way to get information to the correct person in much of the world. Emails can go to your junk folder and snail mail can be delivered to your neighbor (or not delivered at all), but a telegram will always be hand-delivered straight to you. Everyone recognizes that a telegram is important and they are still sent to VIP’s and government officials. When you think of telegrams, most people probably think of Western Union. However, Western Union closed its telegram service in January 2006. There are still many companies that can send a telegram for you, but the most reliable that I’ve found is International Telegram, which delivers to more than 200 countries.
Once I decided on the telegram style, I needed to find an example to model my invitation after. The Filson has a lot of telegrams in our collections, and Jennie Cole provided me with one that was already scanned for an upcoming article by James Prichard in the spring 2017 issue of The Filson. This telegram, seen below, was sent to the parents of Private Carl Fredrick Baude informing them that he had died on June 19, 1919 of wounds he received in action.
I’m really glad that I was able to branch out and learn a bit more about telegrams. I don’t know that I’ll be sending one anytime soon, but knowing I have the option is nice.
If you are interested in learning more about World War I, make sure you join us on Friday, April 7 for the FREE public opening of our new WWI exhibits, “Called to Arms: Kentuckians in the First World War” and “Selling the War: Posters from WWI.” “Selling the War” is sponsored by the YMCA of Greater Louisville. We will also be offering free guided tours of the exhibits every Thursday in April at 11:00 a.m. and opening the exhibits for viewing 30 minutes before and after every WWI themed program at The Filson Historical Society.
*If I had to pick a favorite war to study, it would be WWII. Yes, I know that’s a weird statement.