Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Md., in 1844, introducing the world to long-distance communication. Entrepreneurs rushed in to capitalize on this revolutionary technology, laying miles of telegraph lines to connect America's young cities. One of those fledgling telegraph companies was the New-York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company, founded in 1851. The company soon merged with competing telegraph networks and changed its name to Western Union [source: Western Union].
At the peak of popularity, Western Union sent out more than 200 million telegrams in 1929 [source: Frierman]. That business declined with the advent of cheaper long-distance phone service and was finished off by the Internet. Fortunately, the company has always had diverse interests. It started its wire money transfer business back in 1871 [source: Western Union].
The company also introduced a fax service in 1935, launched the first commercial communications satellite in 1974 and started one of the first commercial e-mail services, EasyLink, in 1982. Today, Western Union is the world's largest money transfer service with more than 515,000 agent locations in 200 countries [source: Western Union]. The company sent its last telegram in 2006 [source: AP].