A half-century before Rob Hale began selling phone lines to businesses, a then-108-year-old Western Union had transforme­d itself from a “onetime woebegone has-been” into a “top comer in the communicat­ions eld” with its own plan to tap the corporate world for fast growth: its private wire business, which generated $42 million a year ($430 million today) handling internal communicat­ions for customers such as United Airlines, the Pennsylvan­ia Railroad Company and the United States Air Force.

Resplenden­t in a silk shantung suit, Walter Peter Marshall, troublesho­oting president of Western Union, stood beside Brigadier General Bernard Woo on at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii one day last month, a wide grin spreading over his high-cheekboned face.

Flicking a switch, General Woo on formally put into service the Air Force’s spanking new communicat­ions network, linking Hickam with Fuchu, Japan, and the U.S.’ 250-station, 250,000-mile high speed electronic private wire system, all of it designed, built and installed by Western Union. —Forbes, August 1, 1959

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