Obituary: George Oslin

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George Oslin was the telephone executive who invented the singing telegram.

On 28 July 1933, he organ-ised a Western Union operator named Lucille Lipps to serenade the singer Rudy Vallee on the occasion of his birthday and thus created a durable and surprising form of communication that would over time develop into the strip- o-gram and other cheerful derivations.

Before his death, Oslin recalled that as public relations director for Western Union his idea was to persuade people that messages should be fun and to shake off the association of receiving a telegram with bereavement.

At the time, he was informed by his employers that he had made a laughing stock of the company but America embarked on what Oslin described as a "zany musical binge" and telephone operators became telegram-singers, learning to adapt messages to the popular tunes of the day.

Western Union made millions from the service but by 1974 the demand for singing telegrams had declined and were discontinued only to be resumed six years later offering one tune - "Happy Birthday" - which is still available today.

Edward Helmore

George P. Oslin, telephone company executive: born West Point, Georgia 1899; married (two daughters); died Delray Beach, Florida 24 October 1996.