The telegraph was our first form of immediate long-distance communication. The U.S. Mail, which of course was not immediate, took some time depending on the location and form of transportation being used to get the letter to its final destination. Then came the Pony Express, a bit faster, but limited geographically and, due to the invention of the telegraph, was very short lived. The telegraph made communication instantaneous, sort of. The message still needed to be translated and delivered. But then, along came the telephone, truly instantaneous communication.
There were telegraph companies and there were telephone companies and then there were telephone and telegraph companies. All of which produced stamps, franks or coupons for payment of services. The difference between a telegraph stamp and a telephone stamp is easy. One was used to send a telegraph and the other was used to make a phone call. Yes, there is a bit of gray area with a few companies during the transition from telegraph to telephone but not much, as they were two very different services. But bottom line, if the word telephone is on the stamp, it is considered a telephone stamp.
Scott Publishing Company, the leader in stamp cataloging, has cataloged telegraph stamps. But it has been a long time since they’ve updated their telegraph listings and new companies and stamps have surfaced. There are ten companies with over 40 different stamps that have not been cataloged. I have produced a set of telegraph stamp album pages which includes all cataloged telegraph issues and the 40+ newer issues, with information and details on each stamp. Available here: United States Telegraph Stamp Album Pages
Scott has never cataloged telephone stamps. The only real attempt to catalog United States telephone stamps was done by S. E. R. Hiscocks in 1982 when he put out a price guide and catalog for telegraph and telephone stamps of the world. His section on United States telephone stamps was slim but he broke the ground and for that time period, pre-computer, and living in the UK, I’d say it was impressive. But what really set me down this road was my want and need to make a set of telephone stamp album pages to house my personal collection. It didn’t happen and the telephone album pages ended up on hold as I started cataloging them. I quickly realized the need to do more research with museums and historical archives as well as reach out to other collectors and dealers. For the last four years, I have worked on this definitive catalog and price guide of telephone stamps. There were 58 companies which produced over 750 different stamps and still counting. New items keep turning up! The catalog not only covers stamps but all telephone-related philately, with sections on covers, postcards, perfins, passes, poster stamps and other miscellaneous items. Available here: United States Telephone Philatelic Catalog