Sunday, January 25, 2015

First Transcontinental Telephone Call -- January 25, 2015

100 years ago today, on 25-January-1915, Alexander Graham Bell, who is often called the inventor of the telephone, made the first transcontinental telephone call from Manhattan to San Francisco.  Bell's old associate Thomas Watson answered the call in San Francisco.  This was done to promote the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which would open in San Francisco on 02-March-1915.  From the Bennington Evening Banner, 27-January-1915. 

Direct Telephone Line Open Across the Continent
Bell Telephone Engineers Extend Long Distance Line to the Pacific Coast --- Science and Inyentive Genius Finally Overcome Great Obstacles

Distance -- 3503 miles.
Twelve States Covered.
Miles of Copper Wire -- 14,020.
Weight of Wire Over 3000 tons. 
Poles on Line -- Over 140,000.
Speed -- One-fifteenth of second.

Crossing the continent from Boston to San Francisco in one-fifteenth of a second is an actual accomplishment.  Direct conversation between the two cities so far apart was established for the first time, the other day, over the longest telephone line in the world more than 3500 miles.  The successful consummation of this great work is an epoch in history -- the acme of telephone attainment.  It is an achievement made possible only by the scientific study and persistent effort of the engineers of the great Bell system.

As an event, it is on a parity with the opening of the Panama canal. It is another connecting link that physically binds the far east and the far west of America into one complete union.

Four Thousand Miles Instantly

One-fifteenth of a second! Like a flash of lightning goes the spoken word through storm and sunshine over thousands of miles. It starts in Boston at 4 p. m. and, paradoxically, reaches San Francisco three hours earlier. The time schedule has been turned topsy turvy. While you wink, your speech has been carried nearly half way around the world.

Imagine a giant with lungs powerful enough to carry his voice 3500 miles through the air. Picture him standing on the dome of the Massachusetts State house and yelling "Hello" as loud as he could. Four hours later it would-be faintly heard at the Panama-Pacific exposition.  Blow up a million pounds of dynamite in Boston common and the sound would travel but a few miles. And yet the telephone Wizards with a tiny wire have outdistanced nature, Surely brains and energy have won a great victory

In 1849 "Pike's peak or bust" was the slogan that dominated those tardy pioneers and urged them forward. In 1909, to paraphrase this, the slogan of the telephone engineers was "the Golden Gate or bust." That was the goal upon which they set their eyes more than five years ago. The long distance lines had already been extended as far west as Omaha. Two years ago Denver became a reality by
telephone, and now, in one long jump of over 1500 miles, the Pacific coast has been reached.

Think for a moment what the open line of the Boston-8an Francisco direct line means. It has made Massachusetts and California neighbors. It will carry the business message from the Atlantic to the Pacific quicker than a man can write a letter and it gives him an answer at once. It has annihilated distance, its commercial value is priceless.

Boston Men Built the Line

Across twelve .states! Do you realize what that means? Have you ever traveled to the farwest? On the fastest trains it takes five days and five nights -- 120 hours -- to go from Boston to San Francisco. And yet it will only be a little while before the business man can sit comfortably in his office and travel instantly by telephone between the two cities over tons of copper wire.

The opening of this line has a peculiar significance to the people of Boston and New England, for it was in Boston that Professor Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, less than forty years ago. A little later the longest toll line in the world stretched from Boston to Lowell and the service was poor and intermittent. How marvelous has been the progress.

And the men who were associated with Bell in those telephone pioneer days and developed his great idea until one in every eight persons in the United States is connected by telephone, are Boston men. Many of them are living today.

Theodore N. Vail, president of the American Telephone and Telegraph company, has been in the telephone business almost from the beginning.  Today he is perhaps the greatest constructive business man in the world.

John J. Carty, chief engineer of the company, the master mind in scientific telephony, was a Cambridge boy who worked as an operator in the early days for $5 a week.

Thomas D. Lockwood, general patent attorney of the company, a telephone expert for nearly forty
years, lives in Melrose.

Thomas A. Watson, the youthful mechanic who assisted Bell in his early experiments and who was the first person in the world to hear the human voice over a wire, lives in Braintree and in Boston. 

Some Facts and Figures

At the present time there are two complete physical circuits. each 3505 miles long, between the two cities.  Then, by means of a wonderful development of' electrical study, in the transposition of the two circuits according to a certain scientific formula, a third circuit, called a "phantom" circuit is created, making it possible for six people to talk at one time -- three at each end -- over these two pair of wires.

There are 14,020 miles of hard drawn copper wire in both of these circuits. Each circuit mile of wire
weighs 870 pounds, so that the entire weight of both circuits -- four wires -- is over 3000 tons. This tremendous weight is supported by 140,000 poles.
Telephoning over such a great distance would have been absolutely impossible without another wonderful invention -- the repeating, or loading coils. Without any technical description, it is sufficient to say that these loading coils are placed at various points along the line and give the
electrical waves additional force and power.

The line from Boston to San Francisco runs direct to Buffalo, 465 miles; thence to Chicago; 605 miles, to Omaha 500 miles, to Denver. 685 miles, to Salt Lake City 680, miles and to San Francisco 770 miles, a total of 3505 miles.

A spur line runs from Chicago to Pittsburg, 545 miles, and thence to New York, 310 miles. Another spur connects Buffalo and New York, 350 miles.

On the same day the line between Boston and San Francisco was opened telephone conversation was established between New York and San Francisco. Professor Bell talked from the New York end and his early associate, Thomas A. Watson, from San Francisco.

An interesting fact in connection with the opening of this line is that Professor Bell used at the New York end an exact reproduction of his first crude instrument. At first it could be used only a few feet. That that Instrument could be used in talking between New York and San Francisco is due to the skill and inventions of those engineers who followed Bell after his retirement from the telephone business, in the perfection of the telephone and of switchboards, cables and the hundreds of other accessors
to successful telephone transmission.

Looking Backward to the Beginning

On the evening of Oct. 9, 1876, the first long conversation over the telephone was made by Bell and Watson.  They talked for three hours over a telegraph line between Boston and Cambridge. It was the wonder of the day. In May, 1877, a Charlestown man leased two telephones -- the first money ever paid for telephone service. The same month the first tiny and crude telephone exchange was born with five telephones connected.

By August there were 778 telephones in use -- all in Boston and four men had an absolute monopoly of the telephone business. A little later Theodore N. Vail was prevailed upon to resign from the government mail service and become general manager of a little telephone company that was hardly organized and had no money. Month after month the little Bell company lived from hand to mouth. No salaries were paid in full. Often for weeks, they were not paid at all. In 1880 John J. Carty timidly asked for a job as operator in the Boston exchange. He showed such an aptitude for the work that he was soon made one of the captains.

In 1893 Boston and New York were talking to Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburg and Washington, and one-half 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. line was pushed over the plains to Omaha, and subsequently nearly 600 miles were added, enabling, the spoken word in Boston to be heard in Denver.

The Boston-San Francisco line will probably not be offered for general commercial use until the early summer. 

Telephone engineers have dreamed of the time when the wires would span the continent. That time has come. For the; moment it seems as though there is no other great thing for which to strive. And yet progress in telephony in the United States is making such tremendous strides that no man can prophesy the wonderful things that may be done in the future.


Today is the start of Catholic Schools Week.

I'm grateful that my parents put me in Catholic schools for 12 years.  I'm also grateful to my teachers. 

Good Shepherd in Pacifica gave our daughter a great education and continues to do the same for many other children. They are having an open house today from 11am to 2pm.  The school is worth considering if you live in or near Pacifica:

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