Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Phone Numbers

A woman is a person who reaches for a chair when she answers the telephone. ~Milton Wright

Ever give your telephone number a thought? Its history is interesting.

On Valentines Day 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray showed up at the US Patent Office within 2 hours of each other, each in hope of obtaining a patent on the "telephone". US law states the first in the door wins, which explains why you've never heard of Elisha Gray.

Patent in hand, Bell began demonstrating a practical telephone in June. It's practicality was evident to most save for Mark Twain, an investor in an alternative design, who had an opportunity to invest in the telephone directly with Bell, but he rejected the opportunity. According to his writings, he was a big fan of new inventions, but since he had previously invested in several that had failed, he turned down a chance to invest in the telephone.

By the mid 1890's some 300,000 telephones were in service, by the end of WWI 10.5 million, and studies at AT&T showed that every unmarried woman in the United States needed to be hired as operators. Remember from old movies or Green Acres how telephones worked? Pick up, crank the handle, the operator answered and you asked Central to get...

Necessity was the mother of invention.Once upon a time, in Kansas City, lived an undertaker named Strowger. Strowger's fiercest competitor's wife was an overnight telephone operator. Strowger believed, in his heart of hearts, that when someone wanted an undertaker overnight, that call was directed to his competitor, so he struck back.Undertaker Strowger, along with his engineer brother and several other smart guys, invented the switching system that allowed for direct dialing, saving millions of women from the horrors of operating a telephone switchboard. It took a few years for the Strowger switch to become commonplace in telephone offices, but Strowger and his investors eventually died wealthy men.

On this date in 1983, the last hand cranked telephone system in the US serving 440 telephone customers in Bryant Pond, Maine were converted to direct dial.



Thistle Cove Farm said...

This was a fascinating post and I learned a lot. I still remember my first phone number - MI40273 - and that's been almost 50 years ago! Love your header photo; Dave and I are on holiday in Surfside Beach enjoying all it has to offer.
I'm a first time visitor and enjoying my visit, greatly. When you've an opportunity, please visit Thistle Cove Farm.

Anonymous said...

"I still remember my first phone number - MI40273 - and that's been almost 50 years ago!"

Me too, from 50 years ago, Evergreen95814. Nostalgia is so much fun to share, thanks!

"A woman is a person who reaches for a chair when she answers the telephone. ~Milton Wright"

Sorry Milton, but this woman doesn't answer the phone, a machine does. I loathe abhor despise the phone.

Suburban Princess said...

Canadian, Alexander Graham Bell.


Toad said...

Buzzy may remember this from his military days, but to obtain a security clearance of any standing once upon a time, one needed to provide EVERY telephone number they had ever had. Not that anyone ever checked. FLanders 1-3402

David said...

I love the way old phone numbers began with a name, I remember my grandmother saying DRexel 1 something.

Also, I was a long distance operator for Sprint during my time at KU. It was about the perfect college job. You could schedule yourself around classes and it paid better than anything in Lawrence. Of course the drawback was that your customers were people who couldn't make a phone call happen on their own.

old polo said...

Two longs and a short...first phone number I remember on the old hand cranked on a party line. Prior to my getting a security clearance my Mother called to ask why the FBI was calling her. She always has been a suspicious sort.

NCJack said...

My first GF was on a party line, had to be careful of what I said. I recall when we went from 4 to 7 digits in my little town, though I was too young to have dealt with "Central" for local calls. I do recall that long distance was a big deal, probably due to cost.

Chuck Hatt said...

When my grandmother's first husband died she got a job as an operator in Homestead Pa. but she had to lie and say that she was single, never married, and childless. Having that job meant the difference between farming all three of her children out to relatives or just my uncle, Jack.

Our phone in ElPaso, Illinois, in the mid-60's was on a party line. Gladys the town switchboard operator was a parishioner in my father's church. We could never figure out how he new about our plans for mayhem and rebellion before they could be executed. Glady's intelligence probably gave me an additional two or three years of untested intentions toward intimacy with the ladies.