New York City – Early Days Of The Telephone

We are indebted to Mr. James D. Ellsworth, of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, for the following brief history of that wonderful epoch-making invention, the telephone.

In 1879 there were only 17 residence telephones in New York and 5 in Brooklyn. The names of the owners were :

Barney, A. H. 101 E. 38th Street. Barricklo, A. 52 Sedgwick St., Bklyn. Borden, Wm. 411 W. 23rd Street. Boncicault, D. 6 E. 15th Street. Brown, Robert 280 Carlton Ave., Bklyn. Buss, Geo. 54 W. 39th Street. Byrne, C. A. 829 Seventh Ave. Cheseborough, R.17 E. 45th Street. Dean, John H. 53 W. 54th Street. Dickenson, E. N.64 E. 34th Street. Duryea, Miss A. 188 Washington St., Bklyn. Duryea, S. B. 46 Remsen St., Bklyn. Earle, F. P. 48 E. 53rd Street. Elkins, S. B. 46 W. 58th Street. Gorden, A. D. 210 E. 41st Street. Hallgarten, Mrs.5 W. 49th Street. Hays, A. N. 144 W. 47th Street. How, R. W. 134 Columbia Heights, Bklyn. Parke, T. W. Buckingham Hotel. Post, L. W. 247 W. 25th Street. Sargent, H. J. 665 Bway (Tremont House).

The company was known as Bell Telephone Company of New York, Theodore Vail, President ; Henry W. Pope, General Superintendent; George L. Wylie, Asst. General Superintendent. The executive offices of the company were at 923 Broadway, cor. 21st Street. The company afterwards was absorbed by the Metropolitan Telephone and Telegraph Company.

1877.-New York’s first telephone company was organized. Hilborne L. Roosevelt was President and Charles A. Cheever General Manager.

Boys operated the first switchboards. They were succeeded by girls in the eighties.

1877.-The first telephone subscriber in New York City was Mr. J. H. Haigh, 81 John Street.

His line, five miles in length, was laid across the then half-finished Brooklyn Bridge to his steel plant in South Brooklyn. Mr. Haigh had the distinction of being the first paid line in New York City.

1877.-Four other telephones were in working or-der:

1. From Cheever’s Office to the Champion Burglar Alarm Co., 704 Broadway.

2. From Cheever’s Office to the Law Telegraph Office, 140 Fulton Street.

3. From Cheever’s Office to the shop of S. J. Burrell on Broad Street, maker of telegraph sup-plies.

4. From Cheever’s Office to the office of Dicker-son and Beaman, Lawyers, “Staats Zeitung” Building.

1878.-The first New York City Telephone Directory was published. It contained 252 names. It was nothing more than a piece of cardboard that would fit in a vest pocket. There were only 17 resident ‘phones in Manhattan and five in Brooklyn.

The first switchboard was at 198 Broadway, twelfth floor.

The method of calling was by tapping the diaphragm with a pencil.

1885.-The first pay station booth was opened; it was made by Thomas B. Doolittle in Fulton Exchange.

1887.-Brooklyn Central Office was at 397 Fulton Street. The company was known at this time as the New York and New Jersey Telephone Company, and there were five central offices in Brooklyn, as follows : Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, Greenpoint, Bedford and East New York (Agency operated).

The longest line in 1884 was New York to Boston, 235 miles.

The longest line in 1895 was New York to Chicago, 900 miles.

The longest line in 1911 was New York to Denver, 2,100 miles.

The longest line in 1915 was New York to San Francisco, 3,400 miles.