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They're not alone

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Personal advertisements weren't the only way to communicate in short bursts. My sister points me to a fascinating article from the New York Times about the shorthand used in telegraph messages in the nineteenth century. Check it out here. The author makes the point that the 150 character limit on cheap telegraph messages is almost exactly the same as the 140 character limit in Twitter.

My ads (note how possessive I am!) are somewhat different - although some might be in code - like the two Rangs, no one as far as I can tell used any kind of shorthand. Of course, I haven't looked for it very hard, as doing so would take a monumental amount of effort that isn't worth the time, and isn't really necessary for my particular subject. The other difference, of course, is that people were using personal ads because (presumably) they couldn't send each other messages any other way and needed to stay anonymous and undetected. Telegraphs wouldn't do that.

In any event, it's an interesting reminder that before modern-day means of communication (phones, email, texting, etc, etc, etc) people always found ways to work around the limit of having to rely only on the regular mail.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Doogie August 6, 2009 at 7:40 AM  

Speaking of twitter, The Mass Historical society is twittering John Quincy Adams' diary/travelog which apparently works pretty well in that format. Twitter ID is JQAdams_MHS.

If that sort of thing interests you.

Pam August 6, 2009 at 9:00 AM  

All history interests me! Thanks for the tip.

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