Photo Exhibit: One Bell System. It works. “One hundred Years of Telephony in America” 1876 – 1976.
Mr. Bell in his workshop in 1875 when he was 29. Mr. Watson saying “Mr. Bell, I heard every word you said-distinctly!”
Mr. Bell in his workshop in 1875 when he was 29. Picture is in booklet ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL, 1958 edition, and the caption shows Mr. Watson saying “Mr. Bell, I heard every word you said-distinctly!”
The telephone carried its ﬁrst complete sentence when Bell, about to test the transmitter shown on the table, inadvertently spilled sane acid and called to his assistant, “Mr. Watson, come here I want you. Thomas A. Watson, thinking it a test message, rushed in saying “Mr. Bell, I heard “every word you said—distinct1y.”
Bell’s Centennial model, 1876. “My word! It talks!” exclaimed Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil on June 25, 1876, when he listened to the receiver of this early telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. One of the judges, Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) called Bell’s invention “the most wonderful thing in America.”
An artist captures the historic moment at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new invention to Dom Pedro, Emperor of Brazil. The Emperor said, “My God! It talks.”
1876 Liquid Telephone. “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you!” These historic words, the first articulate sentence ever spoken over an electric telephone, were uttered by A.G. Bell when he spilled on his clothes some sulphuric acid which was part of transmission apparatus. It was the night of March 10, 1876.
In 1877 Bell designed the first set with a combined receiver an transmitter that could be held in on hand. It was made of wood and resembled a dairy butterstamp, hence its name. It was in service when the world’s first commercial switchboard opened in New Haven in 1878. The pushbutton was used to signal the operator.
1878 Wall Telephone – People often became confused switching a single transmitter-receiver constantly between mouth and ear, so a second one was added. You could use either to talk while listening through the other. The crank was turned to signal the operator.
1879 – Central Office – Boy operators were used in the first telephone exchanges, following the pattern of the telegraph industry which had always used men and boys as operators, Girls later proved to be much more capable in this occupation and by the late 1880’s, girls were operating practically all Bell System switchboards during the daytime. However, the use of boys and young men as night operators was fairly common until as late as 1903 or 1904, for it was not until the present century was well underway that it was considered safe or proper for a girl to take a job that involved being away from home after dark.
Street Scene – Broadway from Maiden Lane, New York City in 1880’s Before wires were placed in cables and beneath the surface – Some poles were ninety feet high and carried as many as 50 crossarms.
The Blake transmitter greatly improved telephone service. This invention by Francis Blake, Jr. in 1878, employed carbon-technique developed by Thomas Edison -and transmitted the voice with increased clarity.
1882 Magneto Wall Set was the first telephone built for the Bell System by Western Electric. It was in service for many years and was one of the first sidewinder models on which you turned the crank to signal the operator.
The search for better ways of transmitting the voice led to the development of the 1886 Distance Transmitter which used a platinum diaphragm.
Placing poles in Troy, New York.
Male operator at Gilliland switchboard.
The home of the Western Electric Company from 1872 to 1884 at 220 East Kinzie Street, Chicago, Ill.
The first Tremont office at 485 Tremont Street, Boston, Mass. 1883.
Plant Construction Lineman at Brockville, Ontario. 1881.
Operators and pyramid switchboard, 1881.
Traffic operators shown in central office in New York City around 1888.
Out of the Blizzard of 1888 came one of the best known of telephone pictures, “‘Ihe Spirit of Service.” Among scores of Bell System lineman who did patrol duty» during the historic storm was Angus M MacDonald who, wearing snow shoes guarded a section of New York – Boston, Maine line. In June of that year he posed for the photograph on which the famous drawing was based.
1897 Desk Set began to assume the shape in which it was to become familiar to Americans for the next three orfour decades. It was made of cast brass.
This shows one of our earliest telephone booths. It had double wall, dome roof and swing doors and was 50″ to 60″ square. In those days it was considered proper to have rugs, lace curtains and fancy cabinet woodwork to fittingly impress the public with the wonders of the telephone.
The first Los Angeles telephone pay station established in 1899 at 228 South Spring Street following the opening of the first line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Plant Central Office in Los Angeles in 1894 -rear view of multiple type single line Magneto Board.
Auditor’s Office of the New York Telephone Company at 18 Cortlandt Street, New York City, in 1890.
A safety-man’s nightmare! This rugged plant crew of the 1890’s celebrate the ,, completion of a pole line by having their picture snapped -atop the biggest pole.
Maze of wires in Pratt, Kansas.
Common battery – The effort to make telephoning more convenient is perpetual. The early telephones were voice-powered. Then a wet battery was used which, though an improvement, sometimes resulted in aceid on the carpet. Dry batteries came next. The fourth stage was the common battery, with the power supply at the exchange.
Plant Construction – Pole setting
1907 Magneto Wall Set is a more modern version of the telephone with a built-in generator mechanism to provide current for signalling the operator
1902-No. 20B Desk Stand with Baird Triplet Pay Station (Former No. 22).
Traffic Operator -Year 1909 -Long Lines Office in Bushnell, Illinois.
Before -Plant installers had their troubles on street cars when they carried their gear.
After-The compact carrying case was designed.
The final pole of the first transcontinental telephone line is put into service at Wendover, Utah.
Traffic Operators in the Chinatown Exchange in San Francisco.
The highest pole line on West Street, N.Y., N.Y.
Plant – Motor Vehicles – Construction
1913 Wall Set is becoming more compact. Instruments like these were in general service and were also forerunners of today’s Home I nterphone System. They were advertised by Western Electric as the “greatest little step-savers that ever helped a housewife.”
Long Lines Test Board, Morrell Park, Illinois, 1915.
1915 -Construction Engineer’s force at the Fulton Building in Pittsburgh, Penna.
Wisconsin Traffic Operators Preparedness Parade -World War I.
1911 -Eight-horse Wagon Team hauling cable reel.
1910 Desk Set. This somewhat streamlined pedestal desk telephone first appeared in black finish.
Western Electric introduces a Home Interphone.
1912-Plant Department-Motor Vehicles. Pittsburgh, Penna.
1917-Traffic Operators in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
1913 -A Western Electric’s three-horse truck at Pittsburgh, Penna., with a load of distributing wire.
Minneapolis city deliveries are made in 1916 style.
Splicing submarine cable across the Golden Gate Straits, San Francisco, Calif.
Outside house Installation-year 1917.
Alexander Graham Bell in later live, around 1915.
1919 Dial Telephone. The first dial telephone exchange is credited to Almon B. Strowger who introduced it in LaPorte, Indiana, in 1892. It was many years, however, before switching equipment was sufficiently developed to permit dial installation in larger cities.
Plant Motor Vehicle, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Construction Crew; Wisconsin Telephone Company.
Mobile radio telephone. -1924
America got a new look in telephones in 1927 when the combined receiver and transmitter idea, used since 1878 by telephone linemen, was sufficiently improved to be adapted for general service. It was popularly known as the “French phone” because it resembled continental instruments.
Manning a public telephone mounted on a utility pole, traffic operators make sure communications were not interrupted following a 1926 fire.
Bell Telephone Laboratories’ Medical Department at, 140 West St., New York, N.Y.
Plant Motor Vehicles in Akron, Ohio.
Plant Central Office-Burlington, North Carolina.
Assignment clerk’s department showing exchange records maps and cable record card files. Dallas, Texas.
Central Information Bureau, St. Louis, Missouri.
Plant Truck, 1929.
“300” Type Desk Set. An innovation in desk set design was the placing of the bell in the base of this model.
This telephone, like the 1928 set, came with or without dial and resembled its predecessor except that, instead of a round base, it had an elliptical or oval base.
1930s-3 – 1930 Public Telephone Booth. [after a little research we found that the newspaper on top of the display case is the Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa from Wednesday, February 12, 1930]
Bell Telephone Laboratories’ Scientists.
Western Electric cable plant. Women inspection of lead-covered cable.
An aerial lineman gassing aerial cable.
Western Electric 6-button 400 series keyset
“We are the Unseen” -Long Lines.
Monitoring telephone teletypewriter messages. Long Lines Office, Los Angeles, Calif.
Microwave Relay Towers.
Western Electric 500 series telephone
Western Electric 500 series telephone
The Wall Set is most often used in the kitchen where counter and table space is at a premium. It is also popular in such areas as basements, garages, and covered patios.
Princess Telephone. “It’s little, it’s lovely, it lights…” The PRINCESS telephone comes in white, beige, pink, blue and turquoise.
Step-by-step Switching Equipment.
Plant Construction-Pole Hole Digging.
Main Exchange, Rockford, Illinois.
Cable Laying. Tulsa, Oklahoma linemen guide a 1,111-pair video cable into a manhole.
Two miles off Beach Haven, N.J. a tugboat hauls the shore end of transatlantic telephone cable No. 4 landward from the anchored C. S. Long Lines. The $50 million cable system stretches 3,575 nautical miles to St. Hilaire-de-Reiz, France. [CS Long Lines was launched 24 September 1961. Delivered June 1963 Ed.]
Aerial Lineman. The barrel-like object which the lineman placed on the aerial cable performs an operation known as a cable lashing.
Information Traffic Operators.
This painting by Norman Rockwell was reproduced in a Bell System advertisement appearing March 1959, in the nation’s leading magazines. The artist found the model John Toolan of Lenox, Mass., working atop a mountain near North Adams.
. President Johnson led nationwide ceremonies May 11, 1967 marking the installation of the country’s 100 millionth telephone.
Directory Assistance is quickly and cheerfully furnished a customer with a telephone listing.
No. 1 ESS Switching Office, Morris, Illinois.
The Bell System 1964 World’s Fair Exhibit.
Historical photos from the AT&T Photo Center.
This collection of 100 photos was put together by the AT&T Photo Center in New York to commemorate “One hundred Years of Telephony in America” 1876 – 1976.
We have added the original captions that came with the collection of photos. We look forward to your comments, additions and corrections.
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