Via Louise Ramsey Moreau, W3WRE and Charles A. Wimer KC8EHA

The following is from Louise Ramsey Moreau, W3WRE: “The traditional expression “73” goes right back to the beginning of the landline telegraph days. It is found in some of the earliest editions of the numerical codes, each with a different definition, but each with the same idea in mind – it indicated that the end, or signature, was coming up. But there are no data to prove that any of these were used.

“The first authentic use of 73 is in the publication The National Telegraphic Review and Operators’ Guide, first published in April 1857. At that time, 73 meant “My love to you”! Succeeding issues of this publication continued to use this definition of the term. Curiously enough, some of the other numerals used then had the same definition as they have now, but within a short time, the use of 73 began to change. “In the National Telegraph Convention, the numeral was changed from the Valentine-type sentiment to a vague sign of fraternalism. Here, 73 was a greeting, a friendly “word” between operators and it was so used on all wires.

“In 1859, the Western Union Company set up the standard “92 Code.” A list of numerals from one to 92 was compiled to indicate a series of prepared phrases for use by the operators on the wires. Here, in the 92 Code, 73 changes from a fraternal sign to a very flowery “accept my compliments,”which was in keeping with the florid language of that era. “Over the years from 1859 to 1900, the many manuals of telegraphy show variations of this meaning. Dodge’s The Telegraph Instructor shows it merely as “compliments.” The Twentieth Century Manual of Railways and Commercial Telegraphy defines it two ways, one listing as “my compliments to you”; but in the glossary of abbreviations it is merely “compliments.”

Theodore A. Edison’s Telegraphy Self-Taught shows a return of “accept my compliments.” By 1908, however, a later edition of the Dodge Manual gives us today’s definition of “best regards” with a backward look at the older meaning in another part of the work where it also lists it as “compliments.”

Editor Note — Dodge’s “The Telegraph Instructor” can be found at URL: http://artifaxbooks.com/afxrare/dodge.htm

“Best regards” has remained ever since as the “put-it-down-in-black-and-white” meaning of 73 but it has acquired overtones of much warmer meaning. Today, amateurs use it more in the manner that James Reid had intended that it be used – a “friendly word between operators.” I hope that this helps you in some way….

73, Charles A. Wimer Amateur Radio Call: KC8EHA Assistant Emergency Coordinator, Trumbull County (OH) ARRL Official Emergency Station (OH)

Somebody wrote: Actually “73” was a term the old telegraph operators would use back in the old west days. It meant that they owned a Winchester 1873 rifle (their most prized possession) and that when they died they would give it to the other operator. Hense ’73’ meant I will will you my 73 rifle. ’73s’ meant you had more than one rifles that you would give to them (they were a really good friend.).

Hello, It’s a nice story, but it has no basis in fact. The actual source of “73” and “88” was the list of numerical abbreviations used by wire telegraphers. These abbreviations were used in a manner similar to Q signals today. Here’s a partial list of number abbreviations: 1 – Wait 2 – Important business 3 – What is the time? 6 – I am ready 7 – Are you ready? 12 – Do you understand? 13 – I understand 14 – What is the weather? 17 – Lightning here 19 – Form 19 train order (used by RR) 21 – Stop to eat 23 – All copy 24 – Repeat this back 30 – No more, end 31 – Form 31 train order (used by RR) 44 – Answer promptly by wire 73 – Best regards 88 – Love and kisses 92 – Deliver promptly 134 – Who is at the key?

Note that American Morse was used by landline telegraphers. The signal “30” in American Morse is “…_. ____” (zero is an extra long dash). This was corrupted into a single character, “…_._” which is usually thought of today as SK or VA, with the space between letters removed. 73 (never plural!) de Jim, N2EY

Via http://www.ac6v.com/73.htm#73


An amateur radio operator, military veteran, jack of all trades and master of none.

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