Tonbridge telegram receipt, 1850.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In the 1840s, telegraphy worked in partnership with the railways, as railway companies relied on the telegraph to keep their trains running smoothly, while also making use of spare capacity by offering a public telegram service. However, the high cost of telegrams meant that they were used only in emergencies. This receipt shows that sending a short telegram in 1850 could cost as much as 65p - almost a week's wages for the average worker. The service became cheaper as busines expanded. In this payment receipt a Dr W E Caplin advises Mr George Scamell of the death of his father-in-law. George Scamell later became deputy chairman of the Electric Telegraph Company, which laid some of the first telegraph cables between England and France.