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The History of the Telephone by Herbert N. Casson

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is no exception to this rule. Its Man, still
fairly hale and busy after forty years of
leadership, is Enos M. Barton. His career is the
typical American story of self-help. He was a
telegraph messenger boy in New York during
the Civil War, then a telegraph operator in
Cleveland. In 1869 his salary was cut down
from one hundred dollars a month to ninety dollars;
whereupon he walked out and founded the
Western Electric in a shabby little machine-shop.
Later he moved to Chicago, took in Elisha Gray
as his partner, and built up a trade in the making
of telegraphic materials.

When the telephone was invented, Barton was
one of the sceptics. "I well remember my disgust,"
he said, "when some one told me it was
possible to send conversation along a wire."
Several months later he saw a telephone and at
once became one of its apostles. By 1882 his
plant had become the official workshop of the
Bell Companies. It was the headquarters of
invention and manufacturing. Here was gathered
a notable group of young men, brilliant and
adventurous, who dared to stake their futures
on the success of the telephone. And always
at their head was Barton, as a sort of human
switchboard, who linked them all together and
kept them busy.

In appearance, Enos M. Barton closely resembles
ex-President Eliot, of Harvard. He is
slow in speech, simple in manner, and with a
rare sagacity in business affairs. He was not an
organizer, in the modern sense. His policy was
to pick out a man, put him in a responsible place,
and judge him by results. Engineers could become
bookkeepers, and bookkeepers could become
engineers. Such a plan worked well in
the earlier days, when the art of telephony was
in the making, and when there was no source of
authority on telephonic problems. Barton is
the bishop emeritus of the Western Electric
to-day; and the big industry is now being run
by a group of young hustlers, with H. B. Thayer
at the head of the table. Thayer is a Vermonter
who has climbed the ladder of experience from
its lower rungs to the top. He is a typical
Yankee--lean, shrewd, tireless, and with a cold-
blooded sense of justice that fits him for the
leadership of twenty-six thousand people.

So, as we have seen, the telephone as Bell invented
it, was merely a brilliant beginning in
the development of the art of telephony. It was
an elfin birth--an elusive and delicate sprite
that had to be nurtured into maturity. It was
like a soul, for which a body had to be created;
and no one knew how to make such a body.
Had it been born in some less energetic country,
it might have remained feeble and undeveloped;
but not in the United States. Here in one year
it had become famous, and in three years it had
become rich. Bell's invincible patent was soon
buttressed by hundreds of others. An open-
door policy was adopted for invention. Change
followed change to such a degree that the experts
of 1880 would be lost to-day in the mazes of
a telephone exchange.

The art of the telephone engineer has in thirty
years grown from the most crude and clumsy
of experiments into an exact and comprehensive
profession. As Carty has aptly said, "At first
we invariably approached every problem from
the wrong end. If we had been told to load a
herd of cattle on a steamer, our method would
have been to hire a Hagenbeck to train the cattle
for a couple of years, so that they would know
enough to walk aboard of the ship when he gave
the signal; but to-day, if we had to ship cattle,
we would know enough to make a greased chute
and slide them on board in a jiffy."

The telephone world has now its own standards
and ideals. It has a language of its own, a telephonese
that is quite unintelligible to outsiders.
It has as many separate branches of study as
medicine or law. There are few men, half a
dozen at most, who can now be said to have a
general knowledge of telephony. And no matter
how wise a telephone expert may be, he can
never reach perfection, because of the amazing
variety of things that touch or concern his

"No one man knows all the details now," said
Theodore Vail. "Several days ago I was walking
through a telephone exchange and I saw
something new. I asked Mr. Carty to explain
it. He is our chief engineer; but he did not
understand it. We called the manager. He
did n't know, and called his assistant. He did n't
know, and called the local engineer, who was able
to tell us what it was."

To sum up this development of the art of tele-
phony--to present a bird's-eye view--it may be
divided into four periods:

1. Experiment. 1876 to 1886. This was the
period of invention, in which there were no experts
and no authorities. Telephonic apparatus
consisted of makeshifts and adaptations. It was
the period of iron wire, imperfect transmitters,
grounded circuits, boy operators, peg switchboards,
local batteries, and overhead lines.

2. Development. 1886 to 1896. In this
period amateurs became engineers. The proper
type of apparatus was discovered, and was
improved to a high point of efficiency. In this
period came the multiple switchboard, copper
wire, girl operators, underground cables, metallic
circuit, common battery, and the long-distance

3. Expansion. 1896 to 1906. This was the
era of big business. It was an autumn period,
in which the telephone men and the public began
to reap the fruits of twenty years of investment
and hard work. It was the period of the message
rate, the pay station, the farm line, and the
private branch exchange.

4. Organization. 1906--. With the success
of the Pupin coil, there came a larger life
for the telephone. It became less local and more
national. It began to link together its scattered
parts. It discouraged the waste and anarchy
of duplication. It taught its older, but smaller
brother, the telegraph, to cooperate. It put
itself more closely in touch with the will of the
public. And it is now pushing ahead, along the
two roads of standardization and efficiency,
toward its ideal of one universal telephone
system for the whole nation. The key-word of
the telephone development of to-day is this--



The telephone business did not really begin
to grow big and overspread the earth until
1896, but the keynote of expansion was first
sounded by Theodore Vail in the earliest days,
when as yet the telephone was a babe in arms.
In 1879 Vail said, in a letter written to one of his

"Tell our agents that we have a proposition
on foot to connect the different cities for the purpose
of personal communication, and in other
ways to organize a GRAND TELEPHONIC SYSTEM."

This was brave talk at that time, when there
were not in the whole world as many telephones
as there are to-day in Cincinnati. It was brave
talk in those days of iron wire, peg switchboards,
and noisy diaphragms. Most telephone men
regarded it as nothing more than talk. They did
not see any business future for the telephone ex-
cept in short-distance service. But Vail was in
earnest. His previous experience as the head of
the railway mail service had lifted him up to a
higher point of view. He knew the need of a
national system of communication that would be
quicker and more direct than either the telegraph
or the post office.

"I saw that if the telephone could talk one
mile to-day," he said, "it would be talking a
hundred miles to-morrow." And he persisted, in
spite of a considerable deal of ridicule, in
maintaining that the telephone was destined to
connect cities and nations as well as individuals.

Four months after he had prophesied the
"grand telephonic system," he encouraged
Charles J. Glidden, of world-tour fame, to build
a telephone line between Boston and Lowell.
This was the first inter-city line. It was well
placed, as the owners of the Lowell mills lived in
Boston, and it made a small profit from the
start. This success cheered Vail on to a master-
effort. He resolved to build a line from Boston
to Providence, and was so stubbornly bent upon
doing this that when the Bell Company refused
to act, he picked up the risk and set off with it
alone. He organized a company of well-
known Rhode Islanders--nicknamed the
"Governors' Company"--and built the line. It was
a failure at first, and went by the name of "Vail's
Folly." But Engineer Carty, by a happy
thought, DOUBLED THE WIRE, and thus in a moment
established two new factors in the telephone
business--the Metallic Circuit and the Long
Distance line.

At once the Bell Company came over to Vail's
point of view, bought his new line, and launched
out upon what seemed to be the foolhardy enterprise
of stringing a double wire from Boston to
New York. This was to be not only the longest
of all telephone lines, strung on ten thousand
poles; it was to be a line de luxe, built of glistening
red copper, not iron. Its cost was to be
seventy thousand dollars, which was an enormous
sum in those hardscrabble days. There
was much opposition to such extravagance, and
much ridicule. "I would n't take that line as
a gift," said one of the Bell Company's officials.

But when the last coil of wire was stretched
into place, and the first "Hello" leaped from
Boston to New York, the new line was a victorious
success. It carried messages from the
first day; and more, it raised the whole telephone
business to a higher level. It swept away the
prejudice that telephone service could become
nothing more than a neighborhood affair. "It
was the salvation of the business," said Edward
J. Hill. It marked a turning-point in the history
of the telephone, when the day of small
things was ended and the day of great things was
begun. No one man, no hundred men, had
created it. It was the final result of ten years of
invention and improvement.

While this epoch-making line was being
strung, Vail was pushing his "grand telephonic
system" policy by organizing The American
Telephone and Telegraph Company. This, too,
was a master-stroke. It was the introduction of
the staff-and-line method of organization into
business. It was doing for the forty or fifty
Bell Companies what Von Moltke did for the
German army prior to the Franco-Prussian
War. It was the creation of a central company
that should link all local companies together,
and itself own and operate the means by which
these companies are united. This central company
was to grapple with all national problems,
to own all telephones and long-distance lines, to
protect all patents, and to be the headquarters of
invention, information, capital, and legal protection
for the entire federation of Bell Companies.

Seldom has a company been started with so
small a capital and so vast a purpose. It had
no more than $100,000 of capital stock, in 1885;
but its declared object was nothing less than to
establish a system of wire communication for
the human race. Here are, in its own words,
the marching orders of this Company: "To
connect one or more points in each and every
city, town, or place an the State of New York,
with one or more points in each and every other
city, town, or place in said State, and in each
and every other of the United States, and in
Canada, and Mexico; and each and every of said
cities, towns, and places is to be connected with
each and every other city, town, or place in said
States and countries, and also by cable and other
appropriate means with the rest of the known

So ran Vail's dream, and for nine years he
worked mightily to make it come true. He remained
until the various parts of the business had
grown together, and until his plan for a "grand
telephonic system" was under way and fairly
well understood. Then he went out, into a
series of picturesque enterprises, until he had
built up a four-square fortune; and recently, in
1907, he came back to be the head of the telephone
business, and to complete the work of organization
that he started thirty years before.

When Vail said auf wiedersehen to the telephone
business, it had passed from infancy to
childhood. It was well shaped but not fully
grown. Its pioneering days were over. It was
self-supporting and had a little money in the
bank. But it could not then have carried the
load of traffic that it carries to-day. It had still
too many problems to solve and too much general
inertia to overcome. It needed to be conserved,
drilled, educated, popularized. And the man
who was finally chosen to replace Vail was in
many respects the appropriate leader for such a
preparatory period.

Hudson--John Elbridge Hudson--was the
name of the new head of the telephone people.
He was a man of middle age, born in Lynn and
bred in Boston; a long-pedigreed New Englander,
whose ancestors had smelted iron ore in
Lynn when Charles the First was King. He
was a lawyer by profession and a university professor
by temperament. His specialty, as a man
of affairs, had been marine law; and his hobby
was the collection of rare books and old English
engravings. He was a master of the Greek language,
and very fond of using it. On all possible
occasions he used the language of Pericles in
his conversation; and even carried this preference
so far as to write his business memoranda in
Greek. He was above all else a scholar, then a
lawyer, and somewhat incidentally the central
figure in the telephone world.

But it was of tremendous value to the telephone
business at that time to have at its head a
man of Hudson's intellectual and moral calibre.

He gave it tone and prestige. He built up its
credit. He kept it clean and clear above all
suspicion of wrong-doing. He held fast whatever
had been gained. And he prepared the way
for the period of expansion by borrowing fifty
millions for improvements, and by adding greatly
to the strength and influence of the American
Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Hudson remained at the head of the telephone
table until his death, in 1900, and thus lived to
see the dawn of the era of big business. Under
his regime great things were done in the development
of the art. The business was pushed ahead
at every point by its captains. Every man in
his place, trying to give a little better service
than yesterday--that was the keynote of the
Hudson period. There was no one preeminent
genius. Each important step forward was the
result of the cooperation of many minds, and the
prodding necessities of a growing traffic.

By 1896, when the Common Battery system
created a new era, the telephone engineer had
pretty well mastered his simpler troubles. He
was able to handle his wires, no matter how many.
By this time, too, the public was ready for the
telephone. A new generation had grown up,
without the prejudices of its fathers. People
had grown away from the telegraphic habit of
thought, which was that wire communications
were expensive luxuries for the few. The telephone
was, in fact, a new social nerve, so new and
so novel that very nearly twenty years went by
before it had fully grown into place, and before
the social body developed the instinct of using it.

Not that the difficulties of the telephone
engineers were over, for they were not. They
have seemed to grow more numerous and complex
every year. But by 1896 enough had been
done to warrant a forward movement. For the
next ten-year period the keynote of telephone
history was EXPANSION. Under the prevailing
flat-rate plan of payment, all customers paid the
same yearly price and then used their telephones
as often as they pleased. This was a simple
method, and the most satisfactory for small towns
and farming regions. But in a great city such
a plan grew to be suicidal. In New York, for
instance, the price had to be raised to $240,
which lifted the telephone as high above the mass
of the citizens as though it were a piano or a
diamond sunburst. Such a plan was strangling
the business. It was shutting out the small
users. It was clogging the wires with deadhead
calls. It was giving some people too little
service and others too much. It was a very
unsatisfactory situation.

How to extend the service and at the same time
cheapen it to small users--that was the Gordian
knot; and the man who unquestionably did most
to untie it was Edward J. Hall. Mr. Hall
founded the telephone business in Buffalo in
1878, and seven years afterwards became the
chief of the long-distance traffic. He was then,
and is to-day, one of the statesmen of the telephone.
For more than thirty years he has been
the "candid friend" of the business, incessantly
suggesting, probing, and criticising. Keen and
dispassionate, with a genius for mercilessly cutting
to the marrow of a proposition, Hall has
at the same time been a zealot for the improvement
and extension of telephone service. It was
he who set the agents free from the ball-and-
chain of royalties, allowing them to pay instead a
percentage of gross receipts. And it was he
who "broke the jam," as a lumberman would
say, by suggesting the MESSAGE RATE system.

By this plan, which U. N. Bethell developed
to its highest point in New York, a user of the
telephone pays a fixed minimum price for a
certain number of messages per year, and extra
for all messages over this number. The large
user pays more, and the little user pays less. It
opened up the way to such an expansion of telephone
business as Bell, in his rosiest dreams, had
never imagined. In three years, after 1896,
there were twice as many users; in six years there
were four times as many; in ten years there were
eight to one. What with the message rate and
the pay station, the telephone was now on its way
to be universal. It was adapted to all kinds and
conditions of men. A great corporation, nerved
at every point with telephone wires, may now pay
fifty thousand dollars to the Bell Company, while
at the same time a young Irish immigrant boy,
just arrived in New York City, may offer five
coppers and find at his disposal a fifty million
dollar telephone system.

When the message rate was fairly well established,
Hudson died--fell suddenly to the
ground as he was about to step into a railway
carriage. In his place came Frederick P. Fish,
also a lawyer and a Bostonian. Fish was a popular,
optimistic man, with a "full-speed-ahead"
temperament. He pushed the policy of expansion
until he broke all the records. He borrowed
money in stupendous amounts--$150,000,000 at
one time--and flung it into a campaign of red-
hot development. More business he demanded,
and more, and more, until his captains, like a
thirty-horse team of galloping horses, became
very nearly uncontrollable.

It was a fast and furious period. The whole
country was ablaze with a passion of prosperity.
After generations of conflict, the men with large
ideas had at last put to rout the men of small
ideas. The waste and folly of competition had
everywhere driven men to the policy of cooperation.
Mills were linked to mills and factories to
factories, in a vast mutualism of industry such
as no other age, perhaps, has ever known. And
as the telephone is essentially the instrument of
co-working and interdependent people, it found
itself suddenly welcomed as the most popular and
indispensable of all the agencies that put men in
touch with each other.

To describe this growth in a single sentence,
we might say that the Bell telephone secured its
first million of capital in 1879; its first million of
earnings in 1882; its first million of dividends in
1884; its first million of surplus in 1885. It had
paid out its first million for legal expenses by
1886; began first to send a million messages a
day in 1888; had strung its first million miles of
wire in 1900; and had installed its first million
telephones in 1898. By 1897 it had spun as
many cobwebs of wire as the mighty Western
Union itself; by 1900 it had twice as many miles
of wire as the Western Union, and in 1905 FIVE
TIMES as many. Such was the plunging progress
of the Bell Companies in this period of expansion,
that by 1905 they had swept past all
European countries combined, not only in the
quality of the service but in the actual number of
telephones in use. This, too, without a cent of
public money, or the protection of a tariff, or the
prestige of a governmental bureau.

By 1892 Boston and New York were talking
to Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburg, and Washington.
One-half of the people of the United
States were within talking distance of each other.
The THOUSAND-MILE TALK had ceased to be a fairy
tale. Several years later the western end of the
line was pushed over the plains to Nebraska,
enabling the spoken word in Boston to be heard
in Omaha. Slowly and with much effort the
public were taught to substitute the telephone for
travel. A special long-distance salon was fitted
up in New York City to entice people into the
habit of talking to other cities. Cabs were sent
for customers; and when one arrived, he was
escorted over Oriental rugs to a gilded booth,
draped with silken curtains. This was the
famous "Room Nine." By such and many other
allurements a larger idea of telephone service was
given to the public mind; until in 1909 at least
eighteen thousand New York-Chicago conversa-
tions were held, and the revenue from strictly
long-distance messages was twenty-two thousand
dollars a day.

By 1906 even the Rocky Mountain Bell Company
had grown to be a ten-million-dollar enterprise.
It began at Salt Lake City with a
hundred telephones, in 1880. Then it reached
out to master an area of four hundred and
thirteen thousand square miles--a great Lone
Land of undeveloped resources. Its linemen
groped through dense forests where their poles
looked like toothpicks beside the towering pines
and cedars. They girdled the mountains and
basted the prairies with wire, until the lonely
places were brought together and made sociable.
They drove off the Indians, who wanted the
bright wire for ear-rings and bracelets; and the
bears, which mistook the humming of the wires
for the buzzing of bees, and persisted in gnawing
the poles down. With the most heroic
optimism, this Rocky Mountain Company persevered
until, in 1906, it had created a seventy-
thousand-mile nerve-system for the far West.

Chicago, in this year, had two hundred thou-
sand telephones in use, in her two hundred
square miles of area. The business had been
built up by General Anson Stager, who was
himself wealthy, and able to attract the support
of such men as John Crerar, H. H. Porter, and
Robert T. Lincoln. Since 1882 it has paid
dividends, and in one glorious year its stock
soared to four hundred dollars a share. The old-
timers--the men who clambered over roof-tops
in 1878 and tacked iron wires wherever they could
without being chased off--are still for the most
part in control of the Chicago company.

But as might have been expected, it was New
York City that was the record-breaker when the
era of telephone expansion arrived. Here the
flood of big business struck with the force of a
tidal wave. The number of users leaped from
56,000 in 1900 up to 810,000 in 1908. In a
single year of sweating and breathless activity,
65,000 new telephones were put on desks or hung
on walls--an average of one new user for every
two minutes of the business day.

Literally tons, and hundreds of tons, of
telephones were hauled in drays from the factory
and put in place in New York's homes and
offices. More and more were demanded, until
to-day there are more telephones in New York
than there are in the four countries, France,
Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland combined.
As a user of telephones New York has risen to be
unapproachable. Mass together all the telephones
of London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester,
Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffleld, Bristol,
and Belfast, and there will even then be barely as
many as are carrying the conversations of this
one American city.

In 1879 the New York telephone directory was
a small card, showing two hundred and fifty-two
names; but now it has grown to be an eight-hundred-page
quarterly, with a circulation of half a
million, and requiring twenty drays, forty horses,
and four hundred men to do the work of distribution.
There was one shabby little exchange
thirty years ago; but now there are fifty-two
exchanges, as the nerve-centres of a vast fifty-
million-dollar system. Incredible as it may seem
to foreigners, it is literally true that in a single
building in New York, the Hudson Terminal,
there are more telephones than in Odessa or
Madrid, more than in the two kingdoms of
Greece and Bulgaria combined.

Merely to operate this system requires an army
of more than five thousand girls. Merely to keep
their records requires two hundred and thirty-five
million sheets of paper a year. Merely to do the
writing of these records wears away five hundred
and sixty thousand lead pencils. And merely to
give these girls a cup of tea or coffee at noon,
compels the Bell Company to buy yearly six
thousand pounds of tea, seventeen thousand
pounds of coffee, forty-eight thousand cans of
condensed milk, and one hundred and forty
barrels of sugar.

The myriad wires of this New York system
are tingling with talk every minute of the day
and night. They are most at rest between three
and four o'clock in the morning, although even
then there are usually ten calls a minute. Between
five and six o'clock, two thousand New
Yorkers are awake and at the telephone. Half
an hour later there are twice as many. Between
seven and eight twenty-five thousand people
have called up twenty-five thousand other people,
so that there are as many people talking by
wire as there were in the whole city of New York
in the Revolutionary period. Even this is only
the dawn of the day's business. By half-past
eight it is doubled; by nine it is trebled; by ten it
is multiplied sixfold; and by eleven the roar has
become an incredible babel of one hundred and
eighty thousand conversations an hour, with
fifty new voices clamoring at the exchanges every

This is "the peak of the load." It is the topmost
pinnacle of talk. It is the utmost degree of
service that the telephone has been required to
give in any city. And it is as much a world's
wonder, to men and women of imagination, as
the steel mills of Homestead or the turbine
leviathans that curve across the Atlantic Ocean
in four and a half days.

As to the men who built it up: Charles F.
Cutler died in 1907, but most of the others are
still alive and busy. Union N. Bethell, now in
Cutler's place at the head of the New York
Company, has been the operating chief for
eighteen years. He is a man of shrewdness and
sympathy, with a rare sagacity in solving knotty
problems, a president of the new type, who
regards his work as a sort of obligation he owes to
the public. And just as foreigners go to Pittsburg
to see the steel business at its best; just as
they go to Iowa and Kansas to see the New
Farmer, so they make pilgrimages to Bethell's
office to learn the profession of telephony.

This unparalleled telephone system of New
York grew up without having at any time the
rivalry of competition. But in many other cities
and especially in the Middle West, there sprang
up in 1895 a medley of independent companies.
The time of the original patents had expired, and
the Bell Companies found themselves freed from
the expense of litigation only to be snarled up in
a tangle of duplication. In a few years there
were six thousand of these little Robinson Crusoe
companies. And by 1901 they had put in use
more than a million telephones and were professing
to have a capital of a hundred millions.

Most of these companies were necessary and
did much to expand the telephone business into
new territory. They were in fact small mutual
associations of a dozen or a hundred farmers,
whose aim was to get telephone service at cost.
But there were other companies, probably a thousand
or more, which were organized by promoters
who built their hopes on the fact that the Bell
Companies were unpopular, and on the myth that
they were fabulously rich. Instead of legitimately
extending telephone lines into communities
that had none, these promoters proceeded to
inflict the messy snarl of an overlapping system
upon whatever cities would give them permission
to do so.

In this way, masked as competition, the
nuisance and waste of duplication began in most
American cities. The telephone business was
still so young, it was so little appreciated even by
the telephone officials and engineers, that the
public regarded a second or a third telephone
system in one city as quite a possible and desirable
innovation. "We have two ears," said one
promoter; "why not therefore have two telephones?"

This duplication went merrily on for years
before it was generally discovered that the telephone
is not an ear, but a nerve system; and that
such an experiment as a duplicate nerve system
has never been attempted by Nature, even in her
most frivolous moods. Most people fancied that
a telephone system was practically the same as a
gas or electric light system, which can often be
duplicated with the result of cheaper rates and
better service. They did not for years discover
that two telephone companies in one city means
either half service or double cost, just as two fire
departments or two post offices would.

Some of these duplicate companies built up a
complete plant, and gave good local service,
while others proved to be mere stock bubbles.
Most of them were over-capitalized, depending
upon public sympathy to atone for deficiencies in
equipment. One which had printed fifty million
dollars of stock for sale was sold at auction in
1909 for four hundred thousand dollars. All
told, there were twenty-three of these bubbles
that burst in 1905, twenty-one in 1906, and twelve
in 1907. So high has been the death-rate among
these isolated companies that at a recent conven-
tion of telephone agents, the chairman's gavel
was made of thirty-five pieces of wood, taken
from thirty-five switchboards of thirty-five
extinct companies.

A study of twelve single-system cities and
twenty-seven double-system cities shows that
there are about eleven per cent more telephones
under the double-system, and that where the
second system is put in, every fifth user is
obliged to pay for two telephones. The rates
are alike, whether a city has one or two systems.
Duplicating companies raised their rates in
sixteen cities out of the twenty-seven, and
reduced them in one city. Taking the United
States as a whole, there are to-day fully two
hundred and fifty thousand people who are paying
for two telephones instead of one, an
economic waste of at least ten million dollars a

A fair-minded survey of the entire independent
telephone movement would probably show that
it was at first a stimulant, followed, as stimulants
usually are, by a reaction. It was unquestionably
for several years a spur to the Bell Com-
panies. But it did not fulfil its promises of
cheap rates, better service, and high dividends;
it did little or nothing to improve telephonic
apparatus, producing nothing new except the
automatic switchboard--a brilliant invention,
which is now in its experimental period. In the
main, perhaps, it has been a reactionary and
troublesome movement in the cities, and a progressive
movement among the farmers.

By 1907 it was a wave that had spent its force.
It was no longer rolling along easily on the broad
ocean of hope, but broken and turned aside by the
rocks of actual conditions. One by one the telephone
promoters learned the limitations of an
isolated company, and asked to be included as
members of the Bell family. In 1907 four
hundred and fifty-eight thousand independent
telephones were linked by wire to the nearest Bell
Company; and in 1908 these were followed by
three hundred and fifty thousand more. After
this landslide to the policy of consolidation, there
still remained a fairly large assortment of
independent companies; but they had lost their
dreams and their illusions.

As might have been expected, the independent
movement produced a number of competent local
leaders, but none of national importance. The
Bell Companies, on the other hand, were officered
by men who had for a quarter of a century been
surveying telephone problems from a national
point of view. At their head, from 1907 onwards,
was Theodore N. Vail, who had returned
dramatically, at the precise moment when he
was needed, to finish the work that he had begun
in 1878. He had been absent for twenty years,
developing water-power and building street-
railways in South America. In the first act of
the telephone drama, it was he who put the enterprise
upon a business basis, and laid down the
first principles of its policy. In the second and
third acts he had no place; but when the curtain
rose upon the fourth act, Vail was once more the
central figure, standing white-haired among his
captains, and pushing forward the completion
of the "grand telephonic system" that he had
dreamed of when the telephone was three
years old.

Thus it came about that the telephone business
was created by Vail, conserved by Hudson,
expanded by Fish, and is now in process of being
consolidated by Vail. It is being knit together
into a stupendous Bell System--a federation of
self-governing companies, united by a central
company that is the busiest of them all. It is no
longer protected by any patent monopoly.
Whoever is rich enough and rash enough may
enter the field. But it has all the immeasurable
advantages that come from long experience,
immense bulk, the most highly skilled specialists,
and an abundance of capital. "The Bell System
is strong," says Vail, "because we are all tied
up together; and the success of one is therefore
the concern of all."

The Bell System! Here we have the motif
of American telephone development. Here is
the most comprehensive idea that has entered any
telephone engineer's brain. Already this Bell
System has grown to be so vast, so nearly akin
to a national nerve system, that there is nothing
else to which we can compare it. It is so wide-
spread that few are aware of its greatness. It
is strung out over fifty thousand cities and

If it were all gathered together into one place,
this Bell System, it would make a city of
Telephonia as large as Baltimore. It would
contain half of the telephone property of the
world. Its actual wealth would be fully $760,000,000,
and its revenue would be greater than
the revenue of the city of New York.

Part of the property of the city of Telephonia
consists of ten million poles, as many as would
make a fence from New York to California, or
put a stockade around Texas. If the Telephonians
wished to use these poles at home, they might
drive them in as piles along their water-front,
and have a twenty-five thousand-acre dock; or if
their city were a hundred square miles in extent,
they might set up a seven-ply wall around it with
these poles.

Wire, too! Eleven million miles of it! This
city of Telephonia would be the capital of an
empire of wire. Not all the men in New York
State could shoulder this burden of wire and
carry it. Throw all the people of Illinois in
one end of the scale, and put on the other side the
wire-wealth of Telephonia, and long before the
last coil was in place, the Illinoisans would be in
the air.

What would this city do for a living? It
would make two-thirds of the telephones, cables,
and switchboards of all countries. Nearly one-
quarter of its citizens would work in factories,
while the others would be busy in six thousand
exchanges, making it possible for the people of
the United States to talk to one another at the

The pay-envelope army that moves to work
every morning in Telephonia would be a host of
one hundred and ten thousand men and girls,
mostly girls,--as many girls as would fill Vassar
College a hundred times and more, or double the
population of Nevada. Put these men and girls
in line, march them ten abreast, and six hours
would pass before the last company would arrive
at the reviewing stand. In single file this throng
of Telephonians would make a living wall from
New York to New Haven.

Such is the extraordinary city of which Alexander
Graham Bell was the only resident in 1875.
It has been built up without the backing of any
great bank or multi-millionaire. There have
been no Vanderbilts in it, no Astors, Rockefellers,
Rothschilds, Harrimans. There are even
now only four men who own as many as ten
thousand shares of the stock of the central company.
This Bell System stands as the life-work
of unprivileged men, who are for the most part
still alive and busy. With very few and trivial
exceptions, every part of it was made in the
United States. No other industrial organism of
equal size owes foreign countries so little. Alike
in its origin, its development, and its highest
point of efficiency and expansion, the telephone is
as essentially American as the Declaration of
Independence or the monument on Bunker Hill.



What we might call the telephonization of
city life, for lack of a simpler word, has
remarkably altered our manner of living from
what it was in the days of Abraham Lincoln. It
has enabled us to be more social and cooperative.
It has literally abolished the isolation of separate
families, and has made us members of one great
family. It has become so truly an organ of the
social body that by telephone we now enter into
contracts, give evidence, try lawsuits, make
speeches, propose marriage, confer degrees,
appeal to voters, and do almost everything else
that is a matter of speech.

In stores and hotels this wire traffic has grown
to an almost bewildering extent, as these are the
places where many interests meet. The hundred
largest hotels in New York City have twenty-one
thousand telephones--nearly as many as the
continent of Africa and more than the kingdom
of Spain. In an average year they send six
million messages. The Waldorf-Astoria alone
tops all residential buildings with eleven hundred
and twenty telephones and five hundred thousand
calls a year; while merely the Christmas
Eve orders that flash into Marshall Field's store,
or John Wanamaker's, have risen as high as the
three thousand mark.

Whether the telephone does most to concentrate
population, or to scatter it, is a question
that has not yet been examined. It is certainly
true that it has made the skyscraper possible,
and thus helped to create an absolutely new type
of city, such as was never imagined even in the
fairy tales of ancient nations. The skyscraper
is ten years younger than the telephone. It is
now generally seen to be the ideal building for
business offices. It is one of the few types of
architecture that may fairly be called American.
And its efficiency is largely, if not mainly, due to
the fact that its inhabitants may run errands by
telephone as well as by elevator.

There seems to be no sort of activity which is
not being made more convenient by the telephone.
It is used to call the duck-shooters in
Western Canada when a flock of birds has
arrived; and to direct the movements of the
Dragon in Wagner's grand opera "Siegfried."
At the last Yale-Harvard football game, it conveyed
almost instantaneous news to fifty thousand
people in various parts of New England.
At the Vanderbilt Cup Race its wires girdled the
track and reported every gain or mishap of the
racing autos. And at such expensive pageants
as that of the Quebec Tercentenary in 1908,
where four thousand actors came and went upon
a ten-acre stage, every order was given by

Public officials, even in the United States, have
been slow to change from the old-fashioned and
more dignified use of written documents and uniformed
messengers; but in the last ten years there
has been a sweeping revolution in this respect.
Government by telephone! This is a new idea
that has already arrived in the more efficient
departments of the Federal service. And as for
the present Congress, that body has gone so far
as to plan for a special system of its own, in both
Houses, so that all official announcements may
be heard by wire.

Garfield was the first among American Presidents
to possess a telephone. An exhibition
instrument was placed in his house, without cost,
in 1878, while he was still a member of Congress.
Neither Cleveland nor Harrison, for temperamental
reasons, used the magic wire very often.
Under their regime, there was one lonely idle
telephone in the White House, used by the
servants several times a week. But with McKinley
came a new order of things. To him a
telephone was more than a necessity. It was a
pastime, an exhilarating sport. He was the one
President who really revelled in the comforts of
telephony. In 1895 he sat in his Canton home
and heard the cheers of the Chicago Convention.
Later he sat there and ran the first presidential
telephone campaign; talked to his managers in
thirty-eight States. Thus he came to regard the
telephone with a higher degree of appreciation
than any of his predecessors had done, and
eulogized it on many public occasions. "It is
bringing us all closer together," was his favorite

To Roosevelt the telephone was mainly for
emergencies. He used it to the full during the
Chicago Convention of 1907 and the Peace
Conference at Portsmouth. But with Taft the
telephone became again the common avenue of
conversation. He has introduced at least one
new telephonic custom a long-distance talk
with his family every evening, when he is away
from home. Instead of the solitary telephone of
Cleveland-Harrison days, the White House has
now a branch exchange of its own--Main 6--
with a sheaf of wires that branch out into every
room as well as to the nearest central.

Next to public officials, bankers were perhaps
the last to accept the facilities of the telephone.
They were slow to abandon the fallacy that no
business can be done without a written record.
James Stillman, of New York, was first among
bankers to foresee the telephone era. As early
as 1875, while Bell was teaching his infant
telephone to talk, Stillman risked two thousand
dollars in a scheme to establish a crude dial
system of wire communication, which later grew
into New York's first telephone exchange. At
the present time, the banker who works closest to
his telephone is probably George W. Perkins, of
the J. P. Morgan group of bankers. "He is the
only man," says Morgan, "who can raise twenty
millions in twenty minutes." The Perkins plan
of rapid transit telephony is to prepare a list of
names, from ten to thirty, and to flash from one
to another as fast as the operator can ring them
up. Recently one of the other members of the
Morgan bank proposed to enlarge its telephone
equipment. "What will we gain by more wires?"
asked the operator. "If we were to put in a six-
hundred pair cable, Mr. Perkins would keep it

The most brilliant feat of the telephone in the
financial world was done during the panic of
1907. At the height of the storm, on a Saturday
evening, the New York bankers met in an almost
desperate conference. They decided, as an
emergency measure of self-protection, not to ship
cash to Western banks. At midnight they telephoned
this decision to the bankers of Chicago
and St. Louis. These men, in turn, conferred by
telephone, and on Sunday afternoon called up the
bankers of neighboring States. And so the news
went from 'phone to 'phone, until by Monday
morning all bankers and chief depositors were
aware of the situation, and prepared for the
team-play that prevented any general disaster.

As for stockbrokers of the Wall Street species,
they transact practically all their business by
telephone. In their stock exchange stand six
hundred and forty one booths, each one the terminus
of a private wire. A firm of brokers will
count it an ordinary year's talking to send fifty
thousand messages; and there is one firm which
last year sent twice as many. Of all brokers,
the one who finally accomplished most by telephony
was unquestionably E. H. Harriman. In
the mansion that he built at Arden, there were
a hundred telephones, sixty of them linked to
the long-distance lines. What the brush is to
the artist, what the chisel is to the sculptor, the
telephone was to Harriman. He built his fortune
with it. It was in his library, his bathroom,
his private car, his camp in the Oregon wilder-
ness. No transaction was too large or too involved
to be settled over its wires. He saved
the credit of the Erie by telephone--lent it five
million dollars as he lay at home on a sickbed.
"He is a slave to the telephone," wrote a magazine
writer. "Nonsense," replied Harriman,
"it is a slave to me."

The telephone arrived in time to prevent big
corporations from being unwieldy and aristocratic.
The foreman of a Pittsburg coal company
may now stand in his subterranean office
and talk to the president of the Steel Trust, who
sits on the twenty-first floor of a New York
skyscraper. The long-distance talks, especially,
have grown to be indispensable to the corporations
whose plants are scattered and geographically
misplaced--to the mills of New England,
for instance, that use the cotton of the South and
sell so much of their product to the Middle West.
To the companies that sell perishable commodities,
an instantaneous conversation with a
buyer in a distant city has often saved a carload
or a cargo. Such caterers as the meat-packers,
who were among the first to realize what Bell had
made possible, have greatly accelerated the
wheels of their business by inter-city conversations.
For ten years or longer the Cudahys have
talked every business morning between Omaha
and Boston, via fifteen hundred and seventy
miles of wire.

In the refining of oil, the Standard Oil
Company alone, at its New York office, sends
two hundred and thirty thousand messages
a year. In the making of steel, a chemical
analysis is made of each caldron of molten
pig-iron, when it starts on its way to be refined,
and this analysis is sent by telephone
to the steelmaker, so that he will know exactly
how each potful is to be handled. In the floating
of logs down rivers, instead of having relays of
shouters to prevent the logs from jamming, there
is now a wire along the bank, with a telephone
linked on at every point of danger. In the rearing
of skyscrapers, it is now usual to have a
temporary wire strung vertically, so that the
architect may stand on the ground and confer
with a foreman who sits astride of a naked girder
three hundred feet up in the air. And in the
electric light business, the current is distributed
wholly by telephoned orders. To give New
York the seven million electric lights that have
abolished night in that city requires twelve
private exchanges and five hundred and twelve
telephones. All the power that creates this artificial
daylight is generated at a single station, and
let flow to twenty-five storage centres. Minute
by minute, its flow is guided by an expert, who
sits at a telephone exchange as though he were a
pilot at the wheel of an ocean liner.

The first steamship line to take notice of the
telephone was the Clyde, which had a wire from
dock to office in 1877; and the first railway was
the Pennsylvania, which two years later was
persuaded by Professor Bell himself to give it a
trial in Altoona. Since then, this railroad has
become the chief beneficiary of the art of telephony.
It has one hundred and seventy-five exchanges,
four hundred operators, thirteen thousand
telephones, and twenty thousand miles of
wire--a more ample system than the city of
New York had in 1896.

To-day the telephone goes to sea in the pas-
senger steamer and the warship. Its wires
are waiting at the dock and the depot, so that a
tourist may sit in his stateroom and talk with
a friend in some distant office. It is one of the
most incredible miracles of telephony that a
passenger at New York, who is about to start for
Chicago on a fast express, may telephone to
Chicago from the drawing-room of a Pullman.
He himself, on the swiftest of all trains, will not
arrive in Chicago for eighteen hours; but the
flying words can make the journey, and RETURN,
while his train is waiting for the signal to start.

In the operation of trains, the railroads have
waited thirty years before they dared to trust the
telephone, just as they waited fifteen years before
they dared to trust the telegraph. In 1883 a few
railways used the telephone in a small way, but
in 1907, when a law was passed that made telegraphers
highly expensive, there was a general
swing to the telephone. Several dozen roads
have now put it in use, some employing it as an
associate of the Morse method and others as a
complete substitute. It has already been found
to be the quickest way of despatching trains. It
will do in five minutes what the telegraph did in
ten. And it has enabled railroads to hire more
suitable men for the smaller offices.

In news-gathering, too, much more than in
railroading, the day of the telephone has arrived.
The Boston Globe was the first paper to receive
news by telephone. Later came The Washington
Star, which had a wire strung to the Capitol,
and thereby gained an hour over its competitors.
To-day the evening papers receive most of their
news over the wire a la Bell instead of a la Morse.
This has resulted in a specialization of reporters
--one man runs for the news and another man
writes it. Some of the runners never come to
the office. They receive their assignments by
telephone, and their salaries by mail. There
are even a few who are allowed to telephone
their news directly to a swift linotype operator,
who clicks it into type on his machine, without
the scratch of a pencil. This, of course, is the
ideal method of news-gathering, which is rarely

A paper of the first class, such as The New
York World, has now an outfit of twenty trunk
lines and eighty telephones. Its outgoing calls
are two hundred thousand a year and its incoming
calls three hundred thousand, which means
that for every morning, evening, or Sunday
edition, there has been an average of seven hundred
and fifty messages. The ordinary newspaper
in a small town cannot afford such a service,
but recently the United Press has originated
a cooperative method. It telephones the news
over one wire to ten or twelve newspapers at one
time. In ten minutes a thousand words can in
this way be flung out to a dozen towns, as quickly
as by telegraph and much cheaper.

But it is in a dangerous crisis, when safety
seems to hang upon a second, that the telephone
is at its best. It is the instrument of emergencies,
a sort of ubiquitous watchman. When
the girl operator in the exchange hears a cry for
help--"Quick! The hospital!" "The fire department!"
"The police!" she seldom waits to
hear the number. She knows it. She is trained
to save half-seconds. And it is at such moments,
if ever, that the users of a telephone can appreciate
its insurance value. No doubt, if a King
Richard III were worsted on a modern battlefield,
his instinctive cry would be, "My Kingdom
for a telephone!"

When instant action is needed in the city of
New York, a General Alarm can in five minutes
be sent by the police wires over its whole vast
area of three hundred square miles. When,
recently, a gas main broke in Brooklyn, sixty girls
were at once called to the centrals in that part
of the city to warn the ten thousand families who
had been placed in danger. When the ill-fated
General Slocum caught fire, a mechanic in a
factory on the water-front saw the blaze, and had
the presence of mind to telephone the newspapers,
the hospitals, and the police. When a
small child is lost, or a convict has escaped from
prison, or the forest is on fire, or some menace
from the weather is at hand, the telephone bells
clang out the news, just as the nerves jangle the
bells of pain when the body is in danger. In one
tragic case, the operator in Folsom, New Mexico,
refused to quit her post until she had warned her
people of a flood that had broken loose in the
hills above the village. Because of her courage,
nearly all were saved, though she herself was
drowned at the switchboard. Her name--Mrs.
S. J. Rooke--deserves to be remembered.

If a disaster cannot be prevented, it is the
telephone, usually, that brings first aid to the
injured. After the destruction of San Francisco,
Governor Guild, of Massachusetts, sent an
appeal for the stricken city to the three hundred
and fifty-four mayors of his State; and by the
courtesy of the Bell Company, which carried the
messages free, they were delivered to the last
and furthermost mayors in less than five hours.
After the destruction of Messina, an order for
enough lumber to build ten thousand new houses
was cabled to New York and telephoned to
Western lumbermen. So quickly was this order
filled that on the twelfth day after the arrival
of the cablegram, the ships were on their way
to Messina with the lumber. After the Kansas
City flood of 1903, when the drenched city was
without railways or street-cars or electric lights,
it was the telephone that held the city together
and brought help to the danger-spots. And
after the Baltimore fire, the telephone exchange
was the last force to quit and the first to recover.
Its girls sat on their stools at the switchboard
until the window-panes were broken by the heat.
Then they pulled the covers over the board and
walked out. Two hours later the building was
in ashes. Three hours later another building
was rented on the unburned rim of the city, and
the wire chiefs were at work. In one day there
was a system of wires for the use of the city
officials. In two days these were linked to long-
distance wires; and in eleven days a two-thousand-
line switchboard was in full working trim.
This feat still stands as the record in rebuilding.

In the supreme emergency of war, the telephone
is as indispensable, very nearly, as the
cannon. This, at least, is the belief of the
Japanese, who handled their armies by telephone
when they drove back the Russians. Each body
of Japanese troops moved forward like a silkworm,
leaving behind it a glistening strand of
red copper wire. At the decisive battle of
Mukden, the silk-worm army, with a million
legs, crept against the Russian hosts in a vast
crescent, a hundred miles from end to end. By
means of this glistening red wire, the various
batteries and regiments were organized into
fifteen divisions. Each group of three divisions
was wired to a general, and the five generals
were wired to the great Oyama himself, who
sat ten miles back of the firing-line and sent
his orders. Whenever a regiment lunged forward,
one of the soldiers carried a telephone set.
If they held their position, two other soldiers ran
forward with a spool of wire. In this way and
under fire of the Russian cannon, one hundred
and fifty miles of wire were strung across the
battlefield. As the Japanese said, it was this
"flying telephone" that enabled Oyama to manipulate
his forces as handily as though he were
playing a game of chess. It was in this war, too,
that the Mikado's soldiers strung the costliest of
all telephone lines, at 203 Metre Hill. When
the wire had been basted up this hill to the summit,
the fortress of Port Arthur lay at their
mercy. But the climb had cost them twenty-
four thousand lives.

Of the seven million telephones in the United
States, about two million are now in farmhouses.
Every fourth American farmer is in telephone
touch with his neighbors and the market. Iowa
leads, among the farming States. In Iowa, not
to have a telephone is to belong to what a Londoner
would call the "submerged tenth" of the
population. Second in line comes Illinois, with
Kansas, Nebraska, and Indiana following closely
behind; and at the foot of the list, in the matter of
farm telephones, are Connecticut and Louisiana.

The first farmer who discovered the value of
the telephone was the market gardener. Next
came the bonanza farmer of the Red River
Valley--such a man, for instance, as Oliver
Dalrymple, of North Dakota, who found that by
the aid of the telephone he could plant and
harvest thirty thousand acres of wheat in a single
season. Then, not more than half a dozen years
ago, there arose a veritable Telephone Crusade
among the farmers of the Middle West. Cheap
telephones, yet fairly good, had by this time been
made possible by the improvements of the Bell
engineers; and stories of what could be done by
telephone became the favorite gossip of the day.
One farmer had kept his barn from being burned
down by telephoning for his neighbors; another
had cleared five hundred dollars extra profit on
the sale of his cattle, by telephoning to the best
market; a third had rescued a flock of sheep by
sending quick news of an approaching blizzard;
a fourth had saved his son's life by getting an
instantaneous message to the doctor; and so on.

How the telephone saved a three million dollar
fruit crop in Colorado, in 1909, is the story that
is oftenest told in the West. Until that year, the
frosts in the Spring nipped the buds. No farmer
could be sure of his harvest. But in 1909, the
fruit-growers bought smudge-pots--three hundred
thousand or more. These were placed in
the orchards, ready to be lit at a moment's notice.
Next, an alliance was made with the United
States Weather Bureau so that whenever the
Frost King came down from the north, a warning
could be telephoned to the farmers. Just
when Colorado was pink with apple blossoms, the
first warning came. "Get ready to light up your
smudge-pots in half an hour." Then the farmers
telephoned to the nearest towns: "Frost is
coming; come and help us in the orchards."
Hundreds of men rushed out into the country on
horseback and in wagons. In half an hour the
last warning came: "Light up; the thermometer
registers twenty-nine." The smudge-pot artillery
was set ablaze, and kept blazing until the
news came that the icy forces had retreated.
And in this way every Colorado farmer who
had a telephone saved his fruit.

In some farming States, the enthusiasm for the
telephone is running so high that mass meetings
are held, with lavish oratory on the general theme
of "Good Roads and Telephones." And as a
result of this Telephone Crusade, there are now
nearly twenty thousand groups of farmers, each
one with a mutual telephone system, and one-half
of them with sufficient enterprise to link their
little webs of wires to the vast Bell system, so that
at least a million farmers have been brought as
close to the great cities as they are to their own

What telephones have done to bring in the
present era of big crops, is an interesting story
in itself. To compress it into a sentence, we
might say that the telephone has completed
the labor-saving movement which started with
the McCormick reaper in 1831. It has lifted the
farmer above the wastefulness of being his own
errand-boy. The average length of haul from
barn to market in the United States is nine and a
half miles, so that every trip saved means an
extra day's work for a man and team. Instead
of travelling back and forth, often to no purpose,
the farmer may now stay at home and attend to
his stock and his crops.

As yet, few farmers have learned to appreciate
the value of quality in telephone service, as they
have in other lines. The same man who will pay
six prices for the best seed-corn, and who will
allow nothing but high-grade cattle in his barn,
will at the same time be content with the shabbiest
and flimsiest telephone service, without offering
any other excuse than that it is cheap. But
this is a transient phase of farm telephony. The
cost of an efficient farm system is now so little--
not more than two dollars a month, that the
present trashy lines are certain sooner or later to
go to the junk-heap with the sickle and the flail
and all the other cheap and unprofitable things.



The larger significance of the telephone is
that it completes the work of eliminating
the hermit and gypsy elements of civilization.
In an almost ideal way, it has made
intercommunication possible without travel. It has
enabled a man to settle permanently in one place,
and yet keep in personal touch with his fellows.

Until the last few centuries, much of the world
was probably what Morocco is to-day--a region
without wheeled vehicles or even roads of any
sort. There is a mythical story of a wonderful
speaking-trumpet possessed by Alexander the
Great, by which he could call a soldier who was
ten miles distant; but there was probably no
substitute for the human voice except flags and
beacon-fires, or any faster method of travel than
the gait of a horse or a camel across ungraded
plains. The first sensation of rapid transit
doubtless came with the sailing vessel; but it was
the play-toy of the winds, and unreliable. When
Columbus dared to set out on his famous voyage,
he was five weeks in crossing from Spain to the
West Indies, his best day's record two hundred
miles. The swift steamship travel of to-day
did not begin until 1838, when the Great
Western raced over the Atlantic in fifteen days.

As for organized systems of intercommunication,
they were unknown even under the rule of
a Pericles or a Caesar. There was no post office
in Great Britain until 1656--a generation after
America had begun to be colonized. There was
no English mail-coach until 1784; and when Benjamin
Franklin was Postmaster General at Philadelphia,
an answer by mail from Boston, when
all went well, required not less than three weeks.
There was not even a hard-surface road in the
thirteen United States until 1794; nor even a
postage stamp until 1847, the year in which
Alexander Graham Bell was born. In this same
year Henry Clay delivered his memorable speech
on the Mexican War, at Lexington, Kentucky,
and it was telegraphed to The New York Herald
at a cost of five hundred dollars, thus breaking
all previous records for news-gathering enterprise.
Eleven years later the first cable established
an instantaneous sign-language between
Americans and Europeans; and in 1876 there
came the perfect distance-talking of the telephone.

No invention has been more timely than the
telephone. It arrived at the exact period when
it was needed for the organization of great cities
and the unification of nations. The new ideas
and energies of science, commerce, and cooperation
were beginning to win victories in all parts
of the earth. The first railroad had just arrived
in China; the first parliament in Japan; the first
constitution in Spain. Stanley was moving like
a tiny point of light through the heart of the
Dark Continent. The Universal Postal Union
had been organized in a little hall in Berne. The
Red Cross movement was twelve years old. An
International Congress of Hygiene was being
held at Brussells, and an International Congress
of Medicine at Philadelphia. De Lesseps had
finished the Suez Canal and was examining
Panama. Italy and Germany had recently been
built into nations; France had finally swept aside
the Empire and the Commune and established the
Republic. And what with the new agencies of
railroads, steamships, cheap newspapers, cables,
and telegraphs, the civilized races of mankind had
begun to be knit together into a practical consolidation.

To the United States, especially, the telephone
came as a friend in need. After a hundred years
of growth, the Republic was still a loose confederation
of separate States, rather than one great
united nation. It had recently fallen apart for
four years, with a wide gulf of blood between;
and with two flags, two Presidents, and two
armies. In 1876 it was hesitating halfway
between doubt and confidence, between the old
political issues of North and South, and the new
industrial issues of foreign trade and the development
of material resources. The West was
being thrown open. The Indians and buffaloes
were being driven back. There was a line of
railway from ocean to ocean. The population
was gaining at the rate of a million a year. Col-
orado had just been baptized as a new State.
And it was still an unsolved problem whether or
not the United States could be kept united,
whether or not it could be built into an organic
nation without losing the spirit of self-help and

It is not easy for us to realize to-day how
young and primitive was the United States of
1876. Yet the fact is that we have twice the
population that we had when the telephone was
invented. We have twice the wheat crop and
twice as much money in circulation. We have
three times the railways, banks, libraries,
newspapers, exports, farm values, and national
wealth. We have ten million farmers who make
four times as much money as seven million
farmers made in 1876. We spend four times as
much on our public schools, and we put four
times as much in the savings bank. We have
five times as many students in the colleges.
And we have so revolutionized our methods of
production that we now produce seven times as
much coal, fourteen times as much oil and pig-
iron, twenty-two times as much copper, and
forty-three times as much steel.

There were no skyscrapers in 1876, no
trolleys, no electric lights, no gasoline engines,
no self-binders, no bicycles, no automobiles.
There was no Oklahoma, and the combined
population of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and
Arizona was about equal to that of Des Moines.
It was in this year that General Custer was killed
by the Sioux; that the flimsy iron railway bridge
fell at Ashtabula; that the "Molly Maguires"
terrorized Pennsylvania; that the first wire of
the Brooklyn Bridge was strung; and that Boss
Tweed and Hell Gate were both put out of the
way in New York.

The Great Elm, under which the Revolutionary
patriots had met, was still standing on
Boston Common. Daniel Drew, the New York
financier, who was born before the American
Constitution was adopted, was still alive; so
were Commodore Vanderbilt, Joseph Henry, A.
T. Stewart, Thurlow Weed, Peter Cooper,
Cyrus McCormick, Lucretia Mott, Bryant,
Longfellow, and Emerson. Most old people
could remember the running of the first railway
train; people of middle age could remember the
sending of the first telegraph message; and
the children in the high schools remembered the
laying of the first Atlantic Cable.

The grandfathers of 1876 were fond of telling
how Webster opposed taking Texas and Oregon
into the Union; how George Washington
advised against including the Mississippi River;
and how Monroe warned Congress that a
country that reached from the Atlantic to the
Middle West was "too extensive to be governed
but by a despotic monarchy." They told how
Abraham Lincoln, when he was postmaster of
New Salem, used to carry the letters in his coon-
skin cap and deliver them at sight; how in 1822
the mails were carried on horseback and not in
stages, so as to have the quickest possible service;
and how the news of Madison's election was three
weeks in reaching the people of Kentucky.
When the telegraph was mentioned, they told
how in Revolutionary days the patriots used a
system of signalling called "Washington's Tele-
graph," consisting of a pole, a flag, a basket, and
a barrel.

So, the young Republic was still within
hearing distance of its childhood, in 1876. Both
in sentiment and in methods of work it was
living close to the log-cabin period. Many of
the old slow ways survived, the ways that were
fast enough in the days of the stage-coach and
the tinder-box. There were seventy-seven thousand
miles of railway, but poorly built and in
short lengths. There were manufacturing industries
that employed two million, four hundred
thousand people, but every trade was
broken up into a chaos of small competitive
units, each at war with all the others. There
were energy and enterprise in the highest degree,
but not efficiency or organization. Little as we
knew it, in 1876 we were mainly gathering together
the plans and the raw materials for the
building up of the modern business world, with
its quick, tense life and its national structure of
immense coordinated industries.

In 1876 the age of specialization and community
of interest was in its dawn. The cobbler
had given place to the elaborate factory, in which
seventy men cooperated to make one shoe. The
merchant who had hitherto lived over his store
now ventured to have a home in the suburbs.
No man was any longer a self-sufficient Robinson
Crusoe. He was a fraction, a single part of
a social mechanism, who must necessarily keep
in the closest touch with many others.

A new interdependent form of civilization was
about to be developed, and the telephone arrived
in the nick of time to make this new civilization
workable and convenient. It was the unfolding
of a new organ. Just as the eye had become the
telescope, and the hand had become machinery,
and the feet had become railways, so the voice
became the telephone. It was a new ideal
method of communication that had been made
indispensable by new conditions. The prophecy
of Carlyle had come true, when he said that "men
cannot now be bound to men by brass collars;
you will have to bind them by other far nobler
and cunninger methods."

Railways and steamships had begun this work
of binding man to man by "nobler and cunninger
methods." The telegraph and cable had gone
still farther and put all civilized people within
sight of each other, so that they could communicate
by a sort of deaf and dumb alphabet. And
then came the telephone, giving direct instantaneous
communication and putting the people
of each nation within hearing distance of each
other. It was the completion of a long series of
inventions. It was the keystone of the arch. It
was the one last improvement that enabled
interdependent nations to handle themselves and to
hold together.

To make railways and steamboats carry letters
was much, in the evolution of the means of
communication. To make the electric wire carry
signals was more, because of the instantaneous
transmission of important news. But to make
the electric wire carry speech was MOST, because
it put all fellow-citizens face to face, and
made both message and answer instantaneous.
The invention of the telephone taught the Genie
of Electricity to do better than to carry mes-
sages in the sign language of the dumb. It
taught him to speak. As Emerson has finely

"We had letters to send. Couriers could not go fast
enough, nor far enough; broke their wagons, foundered
their horses; bad roads in Spring, snowdrifts in Winter,
heat in Summer--could not get their horses out of a
walk. But we found that the air and the earth were
full of electricity, and always going our way, just the
way we wanted to send. WOULD HE TAKE A MESSAGE,
Just as lief as not; had nothing else to do; would carry
it in no time."

As to the exact value of the telephone to the
United States in dollars and cents, no one can
tell. One statistician has given us a total of
three million dollars a day as the amount saved
by using telephones. This sum may be far too
high, or too low. It can be no more than a
guess. The only adequate way to arrive at the
value of the telephone is to consider the nation as
a whole, to take it all in all as a going concern,
and to note that such a nation would be absolutely
impossible without its telephone service.
Some sort of a slower and lower grade republic
we might have, with small industrial units, long
hours of labor, lower wages, and clumsier ways.
The money loss would be enormous, but more
serious still would be the loss in the QUALITY OF
THE NATIONAL LIFE. Inevitably, an untelephoned
nation is less social, less unified, less progressive,
and less efficient. It belongs to an inferior

How to make a civilization that is organized
and quick, instead of a barbarism that was
chaotic and slow--that is the universal human
problem, not wholly solved to-day. And how to
develop a science of intercommunication, which
commenced when the wild animals began to
travel in herds and to protect themselves from
their enemies by a language of danger-signals,
and to democratize this science until the entire
nation becomes self-conscious and able to act as
one living being--that is the part of this universal
problem which finally necessitated the invention
of the telephone.

With the use of the telephone has come a new
habit of mind. The slow and sluggish mood has
been sloughed off. The old to-morrow habit has
been superseded by "Do It To-day"; and life
has become more tense, alert, vivid. The brain
has been relieved of the suspense of waiting for
an answer, which is a psychological gain of great
importance. It receives its reply at once and is
set free to consider other matters. There is less
burden upon the memory and the WHOLE MIND can
be given to each new proposition.

A new instinct of speed has been developed,
much more fully in the United States than
elsewhere. "No American goes slow," said Ian
Maclaren, "if he has the chance of going fast;
he does not stop to talk if he can talk walking;
and he does not walk if he can ride." He is as
pleased as a child with a new toy when some
speed record is broken, when a pair of shoes is
made in eleven minutes, when a man lays twelve
hundred bricks in an hour, or when a ship crosses
the Atlantic in four and a half days. Even seconds
are now counted and split up into fractions.
The average time, for instance, taken to reply
to a telephone call by a New York operator, is
now three and two-fifth seconds; and even this
tiny atom of time is being strenuously worn

As a witty Frenchman has said, one of our
most lively regrets is that while we are at the
telephone we cannot do business with our feet.
We regard it as a victory over the hostility of
nature when we do an hour's work in a minute
or a minute's work in a second. Instead of saying,
as the Spanish do, "Life is too short; what
can one person do?" an American is more apt to
say, "Life is too short; therefore I must do to-
day's work to-day." To pack a lifetime with
energy--that is the American plan, and so to
economize that energy as to get the largest results.
To get a question asked and answered in
five minutes by means of an electric wire, instead
of in two hours by the slow trudging of a messenger
boy--that is the method that best suits
our passion for instantaneous service.

It is one of the few social laws of which we are
fairly sure, that a nation organizes in proportion
to its velocity. We know that a four-mile-an-
hour nation must remain a huge inert mass of
peasants and villagers; or if, after centuries of
slow toil, it should pile up a great city, the city
will sooner or later fall to pieces of its own
weight. In such a way Babylon rose and fell,
and Nineveh, and Thebes, and Carthage, and
Rome. Mere bulk, unorganized, becomes its
own destroyer. It dies of clogging and
congestion. But when Stephenson's Rocket ran
twenty-nine miles an hour, and Morse's telegraph
clicked its signals from Washington to
Baltimore, and Bell's telephone flashed the
vibrations of speech between Boston and Salem,
a new era began. In came the era of speed and
the finely organized nations. In came cities of
unprecedented bulk, but held together so closely
by a web-work of steel rails and copper wires
that they have become more alert and cooperative
than any tiny hamlet of mud huts on the
banks of the Congo.

That the telephone is now doing most of all,
in this binding together of all manner of men,
is perhaps not too much to claim, when we remember
that there are now in the United States
seventy thousand holders of Bell telephone stock
and ten million users of telephone service.
There are two hundred and sixty-four wires
crossing the Mississippi, in the Bell system; and
five hundred and forty-four crossing Mason and
Dixon's Line. It is the telephone which does
most to link together cottage and skyscraper
and mansion and factory and farm. It is not
limited to experts or college graduates. It
reaches the man with a nickel as well as the man
with a million. It speaks all languages and
serves all trades. It helps to prevent sectionalism
and race feuds. It gives a common meeting
place to capitalists and wage-workers. It
is so essentially the instrument of all the people,
in fact, that we might almost point to it as a
national emblem, as the trade-mark of democracy
and the American spirit.

In a country like ours, where there are eighty
nationalities in the public schools, the telephone
has a peculiar value as a part of the national
digestive apparatus. It prevents the growth of
dialects and helps on the process of assimilation.
Such is the push of American life, that the humble
immigrants from Southern Europe, before
they have been here half a dozen years, have
acquired the telephone habit and have linked on
their small shops to the great wire network of
intercommunication. In the one community of
Brownsville, for example, settled several years
ago by an overflow of Russian Jews from the
East Side of New York, there are now as many
telephones as in the kingdom of Greece. And
in the swarming East Side itself, there is a single
exchange in Orchard Street which has more
wires than there are in all the exchanges of

There can be few higher ideals of practical
democracy than that which comes to us from the
telephone engineer. His purpose is much more
comprehensive than the supplying of telephones
to those who want them. It is rather to make
the telephone as universal as the water faucet,
to bring within speaking distance every economic
unit, to connect to the social organism every person
who may at any time be needed. Just as the
click of the reaper means bread, and the purr
of the sewing-machine means clothes, and the
roar of the Bessemer converter means steel, and
the rattle of the press means education, so the
ring of the telephone bell has come to mean unity
and organization.

Already, by cable, telegraph, and telephone,
no two towns in the civilized world are more
than one hour apart. We have even girdled the
earth with a cablegram in twelve minutes. We
have made it possible for any man in New York
City to enter into conversation with any other
New Yorker in twenty-one seconds. We have
not been satisfied with establishing such a system
of transportation that we can start any day for
anywhere from anywhere else; neither have we
been satisfied with establishing such a system
of communication that news and gossip are the
common property of all nations. We have gone
farther. We have established in every large
region of population a system of voice-nerves
that puts every man at every other man's ear,
and which so magically eliminates the factor of
distance that the United States becomes three
thousand miles of neighbors, side by side.

This effort to conquer Time and Space is
above all else the instinct of material progress.
To shrivel up the miles and to stretch out the
minutes--this has been one of the master passions
of the human race. And thus the larger
truth about the telephone is that it is vastly more
than a mere convenience. It is not to be classed
with safety razors and piano players and fountain
pens. It is nothing less than the high-speed
tool of civilization, gearing up the whole mechanism
to more effective social service. It is the
symbol of national efficiency and coperation.

All this the telephone is doing, at a total cost
to the nation of probably $200,000,000 a year--
no more than American farmers earn in ten days.
We pay the same price for it as we do for the
potatoes, or for one-third of the hay crop, or for
one-eighth of the corn. Out of every nickel
spent for electrical service, one cent goes to the
telephone. We could settle our telephone bill,
and have several millions left over, if we cut off
every fourth glass of liquor and smoke of tobacco.
Whoever rents a typewriting machine,
or uses a street car twice a day, or has his shoes
polished once a day, may for the same expense
have a very good telephone service. Merely to
shovel away the snow of a single storm in 1910
cost the city government of New York as much
as it will pay for five or six years of telephoning.

This almost incredible cheapness of telephony
is still far from being generally perceived, mainly
for psychological reasons. A telephone is not
impressive. It has no bulk. It is not like the
Singer Building or the Lusitania. Its wires and
switchboards and batteries are scattered and
hidden, and few have sufficient imagination to
picture them in all their complexity. If only it
were possible to assemble the hundred or more
telephone buildings of New York in one vast
plaza, and if the two thousand clerks and three
thousand maintenance men and six thousand
girl operators were to march to work each morning
with bands and banners, then, perhaps, there
might be the necessary quality of impressiveness
by which any large idea must always be imparted
to the public mind.

For lack of a seven and one-half cent coin,
there is now five-cent telephony even in the
largest American cities. For five cents whoever
wishes has an entire wire-system at his service,
a system that is kept waiting by day and night,
so that it will be ready the instant he needs it.
This system may have cost from twenty to fifty
millions, yet it may be hired for one-eighth the
cost of renting an automobile. Even in long-
distance telephony, the expense of a message
dwindles when it is compared with the price of a
return railway ticket. A talk from New York
to Philadelphia, for instance, costs seventy-five
cents, while the railway fare would be four dollars.
From New York to Chicago a talk costs
five dollars as against seventy dollars by rail.
As Harriman once said, "I can't get from my
home to the depot for the price of a talk to

To say what the net profits have been, to the
entire body of people who have invested money
in the telephone, will always be more or less of
a guess. The general belief that immense fortunes
were made by the lucky holders of Bell
stock, is an exaggeration that has been kept alive
by the promoters of wildcat companies. No
such fortunes were made. "I do not believe,"
says Theodore Vail, "that any one man ever
made a clear million out of the telephone."
There are not apt to be any get-rich-quick for-
tunes made in corporations that issue no watered
stock and do not capitalize their franchises. On
the contrary, up to 1897, the holders of stock in
the Bell Companies had paid in four million,
seven hundred thousand dollars more than the
par value; and in the recent consolidation of
Eastern companies, under the presidency of
Union N. Bethell, the new stock was actually
eight millions less than the stock that was retired.

Few telephone companies paid any profits at
first. They had undervalued the cost of building
and maintenance. Denver expected the cost to
be two thousand, five hundred dollars and spent
sixty thousand dollars. Buffalo expected to pay
three thousand dollars and had to pay one hundred
and fifty thousand dollars. Also, they made
the unwelcome discovery that an exchange of
two hundred costs more than twice as much as
an exchange of one hundred, because of the
greater amount of traffic. Usually a dollar that
is paid to a telephone company is divided as follows:

Rent ............ 4c
Taxes ........... 4c
Interest ........ 6c
Surplus ......... 8c
Maintenance .... 16c
Dividends ...... 18c
Labor .......... 44c

Most of the rate troubles (and their name has
been legion) have arisen because the telephone
business was not understood. In fact, until recently,
it did not understand itself. It persisted
in holding to a local and individualistic view of
its business. It was slow to put telephones in
unprofitable places. It expected every instrument
to pay its way. In many States, both the
telephone men and the public overlooked the
most vital fact in the case, which is that the
members of a telephone system are above all else

One telephone by itself has no value. It is
as useless as a reed cut out of an organ or a
finger that is severed from a hand. It is not
even ornamental or adaptable to any other pur-
pose. It is not at all like a piano or a talking-
machine, which has a separate existence. It is
useful only in proportion to the number of other
telephones it reaches. AND EVERY TELEPHONE ANYWHERE
SAME SYSTEM OF WIRES. That, in a sentence, is

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