Types of Telegrams

By Jodi Beuder

Updated January 09, 2018

Telegrams have been in use since the early 19th century.
i George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

A telegram is a telegraph – a method for communicating messages over long distances – that is taken from its electronic format and transformed into written format. Telegrams normally are hand-delivered and have been used throughout history since the early 19th century. Before the telephone was in wide use, telegrams were a popular form of long-distance communication. Many types of telegrams still are in use today: same-day or next-day hand-delivered telegrams, international telegrams, phone-in telegrams, singing telegrams and postal-delivered telegrams.

Hand-Delivered Telegrams

Hand-delivered telegrams can be produced by companies and delivered to the recipient the same day that the telegram is submitted, the next day or even via three-day delivery. The quicker delivery format that the sender chooses, the higher the cost. Telegram companies typically charge a delivery fee, plus a certain amount per word on the telegram message. Some telegram companies will allow customers to try sending telegrams to celebrities, VIPs and government officials. A telegram sender provides as much information as he or she can concerning the recipient of the message. Telegram companies do their best to find the recipient; if they are not able to locate or reach the recipient, they notify the sender.

International Telegrams

International telegrams are sent immediately to offices that receive telegrams in international locations. An international telegram is delivered according to the destination country's telegram delivery protocols. Per international contract, international telegrams are delivered as telegrams with priority.

Phone-In Telegrams

A sender can opt for a telegram to be read to the recipient via a phone call. If a recipient is not available at the time of the first phone call, the telegram company repeatedly attempts to call the recipient to convey the telegram message.

Singing Telegrams

Singing telegrams are a fun and creative way to convey a message to a recipient. Singing telegrams are commonly used for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations and more. A singer or group of singers goes to the recipient’s location and sings the recipient a personalized song, usually to a familiar, standardized tune. After finishing the song, the singer gives the recipient a typed telegram containing a message from the sender.

Postal-Delivered Telegrams

Postal-routed telegrams are the most inexpensive method of telegrams, and they normally take the longest to reach the recipient as they have neither instant nor priority status. Postal telegrams from senders in the United States are sent only to recipients within the U.S. and Canada.