Identity of the telegram collection
The OTE group Telecommunications Museum collection consists of telegrams that have been sent via OTE’s telegraph services, as well as those of other companies, such as Eastern Telegraph, Cable & Wireless, TTT, and Hellenic Telegraph. These 7,940 telegrams cover the period from 1859 to 1996 and have been divided into 7 thematic categories, the main ones being economy, shipping, refugee matters, politics, and private life. Geographically speaking, they represent almost the entirety of Greek territory, while there are samples of the most important telegraph offices and of all the telegraphy companies that were active in Greece in the 19th and 20th centuries. The timespan covered by the collection and the continuity that characterises it make it an ideal and privileged source for studying the history of telegraphy in Greece, as well as of private and financial life. Although this type of communication has now disappeared, telegrams, fragmented and abstract by nature, preserve the directness and intensity of the moment, as well as the mentality of the era that produced them.
The history of the Telegraph
Samuel Morse’s invention arrived in Greece in 1859 with the construction of the first overhead telegraph lines that connected Athens to Piraeus and the submersion of the first undersea cables that connected Piraeus to Ermoupolis on the island of Syros, Greece’s most important port in the 19th century. Ragkavis considered the project “the first major industrial enterprise” in Greece. The progress of telegraphy was initially slow, but the telegraphy network gradually became modernised, and in the early 20th century telegram traffic would explode to more than 1,000,000 telegrams. This rise would continue and reach its peak in 1925, with the operation of 1,638 telegraph offices throughout Greece.
With the major expansion of telephony in the 1970s and the 1980s and the total domination of the internet from the 1990s onwards, telegraphy would be wiped off the telecommunications map. OTE’s telegraphy service was finally terminated in 2019.
The Museum’s collection was gathered through consecutive acquisitions (donations and purchases). Michalis Tsipidis was an important donor, offering more than 300 telegrams from his collection, many of which originate from the 19th century Ottoman telegraph office of Thessaloniki. The majority of telegrams in the collection were purchased from Angelos Papaioannou and collector and friend of the Museum Giannis Lambrou, from 1999 to 2019.