Australia: 1901-1988.

Concept and background.

The term "phonogram" is applied to a telegram which is telephoned to a Post Office instead of being handed in over the counter.

Telephones were introduced in NSW in 1880 and in other Colonies about the same time or soon after. They were used by subscribers to send and receive telegrams from 1900. Subscribers could call their local Telegraph Office to send a telegram. They could also have telegrams telephoned to them. Costs were either an annual fee of £5/5/- or 6d for a message not requiring more than three minutes of telephone use.

In 1929, publicity released by the Postmaster-General's Department described the phonogram service as follows:

"Attention is specially drawn to the sections covering the phonogram service ... it is pointed out that this service has recently been re-organised and its facilities extended for the greater convenience of the public. It enables telephonesubscribers in capital cities to send telegrams to and receive telegrams from the Chief Telegraph Offices by telephone, and in other than capital cities, to send telegrams to and receive from the local telegraph office by telephone.

If a person connected to a manual exchange desires to send a telegram, he simply asks for the telephonist and when the phonogram attendant responds, he dictates the message. If connected to an automatic exchange he dials the number for 'Telegrams' given in the departmental section of the telephone directory. For messages telephoned to the telegraph office, the telegraph charges and a phonogram fee of 2d per message will be included in the next telephone account.

Telegrams addressed to a telephone number will be telephoned immediately on receipt at the office of destinationwithout extra charge".


By the time the Commonwealth took over full responsibility for telegrams and telephones in 1917, regulations for the use of telephones in conjunction with telegraphs were still in their infancy. The 1922 regulations do not, for example, mention Phonograms but do cover the use of telephones for the initiation of telegraphic transmission as well as reception of telegrams under some circumstances.

The Phonogram forms.

In 1927, Brown introduced special forms (E.T. 30 and E.T. 31) for recording all details about a telephoned message. These new forms had a counterfoil which could be detached easily along a line of perforations and then sent to the relevant sections for accounting purposes and debiting the sender’s account. The rest of the form became the transmission form. Examples of these 1927 forms are now not available - which is as expected because these forms were not supposed to be available to the general public. They were instead for internal use and for confidential accounting purposes.

The early forms were redesigned in 1933 to enable carbon paper to be used with the counterfoil (T.G. 70) - and so increase the efficiency of their use. As is shown in the linked pages, the counterfoil was folded down behind the larger form and the carbon paper was inserted between the two parts. The message and details were then typed onto the front (larger) form and then the two halves were separated along the serrations. The smaller counterfoil would only record the details of the sender and type and length of the message so that the necessary charges could be recorded and debited.

Phonograms were used until the Telecom era. As they were internal documents, few used examples are known - and then only the counterfoil part and not the transmission part.

The Phonogram forms were printed for both ordinary rate telegrams and urgent rate telegrams.

The following links are provided:

Phonogram Regulations. Phonogram rates. Phonogram forms -
War years.
Phonogram forms - Australian Post Office years. Urgent rate Phonogram forms. Telecom form for charging to a telephone account. Phonogram advertisement on a telegram