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Friday, 8 October 2010

Post, Telegraph, Telephone & Electricity: Communicating in 1901

More from our friend “Kron”, this time informing would-be tourists of the many and various ways Londoners got in touch with one another. How things have changed…

There is hardly any public official more popular and more welcome than the postman (officially called: letter-carrier). It is he who brings good, and sometimes also bad, news, going round from house to house, and dropping the letters and other correspondence into the letter box (“letters”) affixed to the front-door. He never forgets to give his double knock. In London, there are up to 11 collections and deliveries daily. Letters and post-cards are posted at the Post Offices [General Post Office (G. P. O.), District Offices, or Branch Offices], or at one of the numerous red pillar-boxes placed at the edge of the pavement. (the dark-coloured bins are for street refuse).

Before posting my letter, note (i.e. a short informal letter), or card, I must, of course, first write it. For this purpose I get a sheet of note paper, a pen, and some ink. White paper is the most appropriate. I first write the date (in the right hand top-corner). The openings My Dear Friend, (Dear) Sir, Madam (applying to all ladies), Gentlemen, &c., are followed by a comma. What I have to say to my correspondent, ends by a polite expression, e.g. Yours sincerely, Yours truly,
Yours faithfully, Respectfully yours, &c. The signature comes last.
When my letter is finished, I put it in(to) an envelope, and close it. Sometimes I also seal it with sealing wax, and put my crest on by means of a seal. Then I write the address (or direction), and stick a (postage) stamp on (2½d. every ½ oz. for abroad, 1d. for inland letters not exceeding 4 ozs. In weight).

There are various kinds of letters which may be classed under two heads, e.g. business (or commercial) letters, and private (or familiar) letters. Among the latter we may distinguish: letters of congratulation (upon birthday, New-Year, or any other joyful event), letters of condolence, letters of thanks, letters of apology, letters of introduction, petitions, applications, and many others.

In the address I may either put Mr. before the name, or Esq. (i.e. Esquire) after. When corresponding with my tailor, I write e.g.: Mr. Robert Taylor, 36, Chancery Lane, London, W.C. But in addressing a professional gentleman, I write for instance: Christopher Smith, Esq., 25 Piccadilly, London, W. The words Mr. and Esq. now have the same meaning, and must not be both used together in the same address. In writing to a Dr. (Doctor), Professor, Reverend, Captain, Major, Colonel, General &c. neither Esq. nor Mr. is put, but simply the title or rank, and the address. In the case of a clergyman, the Christian name must be added. A school-boy is addressed by the word Master (not Mr. or Esq.). a married lady by Mrs. (pronounced Missis), an unmarried lady by Miss (several young ladies as Misses).

A Victorian Postman
Other remarks on the envelope may be: Please forward, please send on, To be forwarded (or sent on) (in case the addressee is absent from home), care of (shortened: c/o = to be delivered to). When the letter is sent to the Poste Restante, the Post Office must be added to the name of the addressee, e.g. W.R., Esq., Charing Cross P.O., London (all Branch Offices receive such letters).

  If there is a possibility of my letter not reaching the addressee, I write in one corner, or on the back: from followed by my name and address, or I have my letter registered (fee 2d. in addition to the ordinary postage). Letters and other correspondence whose addressee cannot be found – so called “dead letters” – are sent to the Returned (or Dead) Letter Office (a department of the G. P. O.) where they are opened and disposed of (returned, if possible, to the sender, or destroyed).
  Besides letters (plain and illustrated) post-cards, books, newspapers and other printed matter covered with a wrapper, patterns, samples, and money orders are also forwarded by post.

Money may be sent by Money Orders, Postal Orders (inland only), or registered letters. Foreign Money Orders are only paid out at the Post Office. Foreign Money orders can only be sent to Germany.
Parcels not over 11lbs. in weight can be sent by Parcel Post (inland and foreign)

Telegrams may be sent to all parts of the United Kingdom (U.K.) at the rate of 6d. for the first twelve words, and one half-penny for each additional word; addresses are charged for. The minimum cost of foreign telegrams is 10d. Telegrams are transmitted by the telegraph (or by wire). The telegraph acts by means of electricity passing through copper wires.

The Telegraph Room
 Quite recently, a young Italian, W. Marconi (born 1877), has invented an electric apparatus by means of which messages can be sent without going through a wire. In 1901, Marconi succeeded in transmitting such a message from Lizard Point to the Isle of Wight, a distance of about 300 km. This wireless telegraphy gives promise of success.  

Cablegrams (i.e. messages by one of the trans-atlantic cables) may be sent from Europe to North America (fee: 1s. to 1/8 per word of 10 letters), and to other parts of the globe.

The telephone  is another apparatus by means of which messages can be sent quickly. Just as we can write by telegraph, we can speak by (or through) the telephone. There are a great number of public call rooms (or offices) in London; the fee is 3d. for each conversation of 3 minutes. A telephone between London and Paris was established in 1891; the fee is 8s. per conversation of 3 minutes. The usual phrases for speaking through the telephone are: (Give me) number…please (said in ringing up the attendant at the exchange [station]). Are you there? (said) to the correspondent) – Here Mr. …(My name). conversation is then carried on in the ordinary tone of voice, and when it is finished, each correspondent presses his bell as a signal for disconnecting.

Electricity is also applied to the working of the phonograph, electric bells, trams, cabs &c. One of the most marvelous inventions of the nineteenth century has, however, been its application to photography. In December 1895, a learned German University Professor, the physicist Dr. Rontgen, discovered an electric light capable of impressing a photographic plate after passing through opaque (or not transparent) substances, such as wood, human flesh, &c., wheras other things, as metals and bones, do not allow those rays – called Rontgen’s X Rays -  to pass through them. This “Photography of the invisible (or Unseen)” has caused an enormous sensation throughout the civilized world, and already rendered great services to medical science, especially to surgery. – Of other electricians and electrical engineers the most noted are the German Werner Siemens, and the American Thomas Edison, “The Sorcerer of Menlo Park” (near New York).


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