Former U.S. telegraph company and contemporary provider of electronic financial transactions. From its foundation in 1851 as a company formed to build a telegraph line from Buffalo, N.Y., to St. Louis, Mo., in 1856 the expanding business was reorganized as the Western Union Telegraph Co. By the end of 1861 Western Union had built the first transcontinental telegraph line. The company introduced singing telegrams in 1933. Western Union continued to grow, absorbing competitors such as Postal Telegraph Inc. in 1943. As telegraphy was superseded by other methods of telecommunication, Western Union diversified into teletypewriter services, money orders, and mailgrams. It launched the telecommunications satellite Westar 1 in 1974 and was operating five satellites by 1982. In 1988 the company was reorganized as Western Union Corp. to handle money transfers and related services. After declaring bankruptcy in 1993, it sold its financial services arm in 1994 to First Financial Management Corp., and in 1995 that company merged with First Data Corp. The renamed Western Union Financial Services, Inc., became a world leader in electronic (including Internet) transactions.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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