- - First public demonstration of Morse's electric telegraph,
Baltimore to Washington.
1847 - - Alexander Graham Bell born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
1854 - - Thomas A. Watson born.
1858 - - First Atlantic telegraph cable completed but failed after 26 days due to the voltage being too high.
1861 - - Beginning of coast to coast telegraph communication in the United States.
1866 - - Permanent communication is established by wire from the United States to Europe with the completion of the second Atlantic telegraph cable.
1869 - - The partnership of Shawk and Barton is formed to take over an electric shop which Western Union Telegraph Company has abandoned. This partnership ultimately becomes Western Electric Company. George Shawk eventually sells his interest in the firm to Elisa Gray. The firm becomes Gray and Barton and remains that way for two years. Gray devoted himself totally to electric research and was working on a harmonic telegraph at the same time as Bell. The idea of transmitting sounds occurred to him and he filed a caveat ( a confidential report of an invention which is not fully perfected) in the U.S. Patent Office. His caveat indicates that he was on the same track as Bell but had not worked out his transmitter as fully. On the same day, a few hours earlier, Bell filed a patent application for his telephone. Gray when on to invent the telautograph which transmits facsimile handwriting and drawings. Gray died in 1901.
1870 - - Alexander Graham Bell moves to Canada with his parents after the death of this two brothers of tuberculosis.
1872 - - The firm of Gray and Barton becomes Western Electric Manufacturing Company, of Chicago. - - Bell takes up permanent residence in the United States at 35 Newton Street, Boston where he conducts normal classes for teachers of the deaf.
1873 - - Erection of the Western Union Telegraph Building begins at Broadway and Dey Street in New York - the site eventually becomes AT&T Company headquarters. - - Bell begins his experiments on a harmonic telegraph which led to his invention of the telephone.
1874 - - Bells takes out his first papers for Citizenship in the United States. (He is admitted to citizenship on second papers, November 10, 1882.)
1875 - - First "gallows type" telephone tested by Bell and Thomas Watson in an attic room at 109 Court Street, Boston. It transmitted recognizable speech sounds but not intelligible speech.
1876 - - Bell files his patent application. First telephone patent (U.S. No. 174,465) allowed and issued to Bell on March 7th. - - March 10th, Bell speaks the first complete sentence transmitted by variable resistance transmitter ... "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" - - Bell lectures on and exhibits telephone apparatus at the Society of Arts, Boston; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. - - The world's first long distance telephone call (one-way) was received at Paris, Ontario by Bell from his father and uncle at Brantford, Ontario over "borrowed" telegraph lines. - - Gardiner Greene Hubbard, one of Bell's financial backers and sharer in Bell's patents, offers to sell the telephone invention to Western Union Telegraph Company for $100,000. Western Union refuses the offer. - - The world's first two way long distance telephone conversation over an outdoor wire (borrowed telegraph line) takes place between Cambridgeport and Boston, Massachusetts between Bell and Watson.
1877 - - First telephones rented for business use, on a private line between Boston and Somerville, Massachusetts. - - First service rental paid for telephones (private use) in Charlestown, Massachusetts ($20 for 2 Telephones for 1 Year). - - The telephone business is formally organized with the drawing up of papers to form the Bell Telephone Company. - - First Bell Stock Issue of 5,000 shares to seven original stockholders. Alexander Graham Bell (10), Mabel G. Bell (1497), Gardiner G. Hubbard (1387), Gertrude McC. Hubbard (100), Thomas Sanders (1497), Thomas A. Watson (499) and Charles Eustis Hubbard (10).
1878 - - The first commercial telephone exchange is the world is opened at New Haven, Connecticut with 21 subscribers on January 28th. - - The first exchange in California is opened at San Francisco on February 17th. - - The first telephone directory is published by the New Haven District Telephone Co. (21 Listings) on February 21st. - - The first exchange in New York State is opened at Albany on March 18th. - - Competition develops in the telephone industry as Western Union Telegraph Company establishes subsidiaries including the American Speaking Telephone Company and Gold & Stock Telephone Company using transmitters by Thomas A. Edison and receivers by Elisha Gray. - - The first exchange in Massachusetts opens in Lowell on April 19th. - - The first telephone exchange outside of the United States is opened in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on July 15th. - - The Bell Telephone company files suite against Peter A. Dowd, head of the American Speaking Telephone Company (Western Union Subsidiary) to protect the Bell patents against Edison and Gray infringements. (September 12th.) - - First five telephones connected with a central office switchboard in Washington D.C. takes place on December 1st. The White House is No. 1; Capitol No. 2; Associated Press No. 3; Treasury Dept. No. 4; and the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb (later Gallaudet College) No. 5. The central office was a 24 wire peg switch.
1879 - - (February 17th) National Bell Telephone Company formed. The purpose of this organization was to combine the first New England Telephone Company and the Bell Telephone Company into a nationwide licensing company in order to speed the establishment of telephone service to cities throughout the country. (Dissolved by decree of court, December 8, 1903).-- Telephone Numbers. The latter part of 1879 and the early part of 1880 saw the first use of telephone numbers at Lowell, Massachusetts. This story is that during an epidemic of measles, Dr. Moses Greeley Parker feared that Lowell's four operators might succumb and bring about a paralysis of telephone service. He recommended the use of numbers for calling Lowell's more than 200 subscribers so that substitute operators might be more easily trained in the event of such an emergency. The telephone management at Lowell feared that the public would take the assignment of numbers as an indignity but the telephone users saw the practical value of the change immediately and it went into effect with no stir whatsoever. (Although attempts had been made, the implementation of dial telephone systems had yet to occur.)
1880 - - the first telephone pay stations (not coin boxes but attended telephones) are opened in certain districts of New York.
1881 - - The first commercially successful long distance line, 45 miles between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, is opened for business on January 12th. - - Western Electric Manufacturing Company becomes simply Western Electric and acquires the only existing licenses to make Bell equipment through purchase and expirations of existing contracts. (November 26th).
1882 - - Agreement between American Bell (formerly National Bell Telephone Company) and Western Electric whereby the latter becomes sole suppliers of Bell telephones and telephone equipment. - - Alexander Graham Bell admitted to citizenship in the United States by the Supreme Court, District of Columbia (November 10th)
1883 - - Bell Laboratories continues its evolution...formed as the Electrical and Patent Department of American Bell Telephone Company in 1883 and changed to Mechanical Department in 1884.
1884 - - The New York to Boston line is opened for commercial service on September 4th. (Rates: $2.00 daytime; $1.00 at night)
1885 - - The certificate of incorporation for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company is filed in New York City. Its broad claim...to establish telephone communication to cities on the American continent and elsewhere around the world by wire, cable and "other appropriate means".
1886 - - AT&T begins to offer private line service.
1887 - - November 1st marks the first differentiation between day and night long distance rates coming into effect, with night rates in most, but not all, instances lower than day rates.
1888 - - The first pay telephone which required the deposit of a coin to gain access to the telephone instrument was brought out by William Gray. (Important to note that the pay telephone was not the first coin operated device. These devices were long in use before Bell invented the telephone.)
1889 - - The first public coin telephone was installed at Hartford, Conn. Most AT&T long distance calls at this time originate at company pay stations or at special "direct loop" stations installed for subscribers. - - The Blue Bell is approved by AT&T for use in advertising long distance stations.
1890 - - The Bell system begins to exchange its wire plant from single wire to two-wire circuits. The process will take most of the next ten years.
1891 - - The Strowger machine-switching system was patented. Almon B. Strowger, using a collar box and handy bits of metal, devised a central office switching system wherein the telephone user should not be dependent on the operators. His central office could serve only 99 subscribers. Once certain drawbacks were ironed out over the next few years, the Strowger switch came to be known as the step-by-step office.
1892 - - First commercial step-by-step machine switching exchange opens in La Porte, Indiana on November 3rd. The system is provided by the Automatic Electric Company under Strowger patents.
1893 - - Expiration of the first Bell patent makes it possible for anyone who so desired to make telephone equipment and sell telephone service. A combination of circumstances brought a great many independent exchanges and systems in being. In many cities, companies opened in competition with Bell exchanges and the public found it necessary to subscribe to both Bell and the competing service.
1895 - - A letter from J. W. Thompson, City Manager for the Chicago Telephone Company, to Miss Mesick, Chief Operator, Main, says "In answering calls the query 'Number Please?' spoken in a pleasant tone of voice and with rising inflection must be invariably employed.". This is the first official instruction we have found for this phrase. Earlier responses of telephone operators appears to have been "What do you want?" or sometimes "Hello?".
1896 - - Dial telephones - the first machine switching telephones with finger wheels resembling those of today - were placed in service at the city hall of Milwaukee, Wisconsin by the Automatic Electric Company. Earlier version of the dial telephones by AEC actually used push buttons.
1899 - - AT&T takes over the business and property of the American Bell Telephone Company becoming parent company of the Bell system while continuing as the long lines operating company.
< Back to the History Timeline >