Telegraph code

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Telegram messengers
Hine, Lewis Wickes / Public domain

If you sent a communication by telegraph you had to pay by the length of the message, and the longer the message the more time it would take to deliver. Walter P. Phillips was a journalist, and he sent a lot of very long and very urgent telegrams. So, in 1879, he published a code book for newspapers: the Phillips Code. 

The Phillips Code abbreviated commonly used words so that the maximum amount of text could be packed into a single message. The code at the top of this page expands to the following:

The code could condense long messages to save money when sending them by cable.

The Phillips Code was so useful that the guide remained in print for the next forty-six years. Its influence stretched further: it was the origin of the abbreviations “POTUS” (“President of the United States”) and “SCOTUS” (“Supreme Court of the United States”), which are still used today.

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