Vintage Valentine’s Day cards at auction
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    Auction Finds

    Guess the current equivalents of these items from the past

    When I first saw the Western Union telegram, Jerry Butler started singing in my head:

    Oh, Western Union man, send a telegram to my baby
    Send a telegram, send a telegram, whoa
    Send a telegram to my baby
    This is what I want you to say.”

    It was his 1968 song titled “Hey, Western Union Man,” and this slip of paper and envelope in front of me at the auction house represented that song. The telegram had been sent on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1944, from John (with the Special Services Army Exchange) to his wife Mrs. John, telling her that he would be arriving the next day at 10 a.m.

    Telegrams had obviously been around a long time when Butler recorded his song. In fact, they’d been around since the 1850s, and became very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. They were first delivered by a courier (during World War II, a courier delivering a telegram usually signaled the death of a soldier). By the 1970s the courier service was discontinued due to decreasing long-distance rates and changes in how we communicated with each other.

    Western Union telegram

    Western Union telegram from John to his wife dated Sept. 12, 1944.

    No one sends telegrams anymore to announce their arrival, their apology for not attending an event or a profession of their love to another (just as John had done, too, in his telegram). Western Union stopped offering them in 2006.

    As I stood there reading the telegram and another seemingly from the wife, I got to thinking about some of the other items I had seen at auction that were extinct.

    What are we using today that would have served the same purpose 50 or more years ago? I’ve compiled photos of some of those items from the auction tables. Can you list their equivalents today, whether they are obsolete, or how they have been upgraded into something better and more efficient?

    Western Union telegram and envelope

    The Western Union telegram along with the envelope from John to his wife.


    Philco transistor radio

    Philco 7-transistor portable radio.


    Tabletop jukebos

    1940s Packard tabletop jukebox, with songs by Eddie Fisher, Patti Page, Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone.


    Antique ice box and an ice pick holder.

    Antique ice box and ice pick holder.


    A Mile-O-Graph for calculating the distance from one place to another, and a World War II Red Cross map of Paris.

    A Mile-O-Graph for calculating the distance from one place to another, and a World War II Red Cross map of Paris.


    Travel trunk

    A travel trunk.



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