And the Watchword Was “73”

Richard O’Brien’s name turned up in an article from the New York Times published in November, 1908. It describes a black tie benefit dinner at the Hotel Manhattan (which no longer exists) for the members of the United States Military Telegraph Corps. Richard was a key note speaker along with guest of honor Andrew Carnegie.

This is the first image I have seen of Richard. He is the gentleman on the left with the pointed beard and thick eyebrows. His younger brother, John Emmet, is on the right wearing glasses and a black bow tie. Andrew Carnegie sits in the front row directly in front of John.

The article details the plight of the members of the USMT. Throughout the Civil War the USMT remained a private organization. As a result none of it’s members were entitled to the kind of military benefits afforded to soldiers, even though they were often put in harms way. Their sacrifice was just as great. Carnegie has created a fund for surviving veterans and their families to assuage the hardships many faced after the war. Members would meet annually at this fundraising dinner.

The number “73” was a positive salutation code between telegraph operators meaning “God be with you”. It was a shorthand way of spelling out something like “sincerely” or “regards” at the end of a message. Similar to a smiley face emoticon in today’s text messages.

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